Your Leader Sets The Tone For Your Team

Reading time ~ 2 minutes

Recently I quite openly and permanently expressed my deep frustration with another senior manager. What bugged me was the finger pointing, “Over the Wall” behavior when it was clear there was a mutual screw-up.

My response caused a lot of upset and whilst inflammatory and not entirely justified, it did galvanise the groups into just getting on with things.

I’ll reflect on a quote from a recent predecessor.

“It’s up to us to be the grown-ups here”.

I wasn’t, and I should have been but it was hopefully a one-off. (Maybe it was the supermoon),  perhaps necessary this time – who knows. The fact that it still bothers me says I was probably wrong – I continue to learn from my mistakes…

I have quote from a leadership coach I learned from in a former life.

“A leader sets the tone for their organization”.

Her point was that my behavior goes way beyond a single team! I’ve seen this in every large company I’ve worked with so far. At some point a conflict forms between leaders for an unknown and often political reason. Once that rift is in place it becomes a defining part of the organization’s entire culture. The “us & them” barrier is erected and the rock hurling begins.

Teams downstream see this behaviour and believe it’s socially acceptable. They follow suit and perpetuate the problem.  When one or other problematic personality eventually moves on, do you really think that embedded culture will just naturally unwind itself?

It’s up to you at whatever level you’re at to cross the organizational chasm and drive out that attitude, one phone call, face to face conversation or collaborative relationship at a time. (more email is not the answer!)

Furthermore, we are all responsible to teach our leaders to demonstrate a positive role model to their teams. Call out bad behavior and get the parties to address their conflict. If not for the greater good of the company, at least for the personal and social well-being of the teams.

Work to understand and express the perspectives and motivations on either side of the rift. What’s driving the behaviour, is there any misalignment on priorities and goals? If so, who can help solve them and how? What impact will that alignment have and how soon can we fix it?

Just as with trust, good organizational culture takes years to build and moments to destroy.