At the risk of sounding terribly trite, I feel compelled to say what you permit, you promote. This begs the question: What are you permitting that could be biting your culture-enhancing goals in the rear?
I’m frequently dumbfounded to see some of the behaviors that are permitted within organizations, especially among managers. I naively expect senior leaders to hold managers accountable for their behaviors and that managers, in turn, will hold frontline staff accountable. I am, too often, disappointed.
One such example occurred while working with a newly formed service excellence team that was comprised of managers and a senior level executive. I was consulting with the hospital to help drive culture transformation and improve the patient experience. I was told that this group of managers was comprised of the hospital’s top performers. Twice in our day-long workshop, two team members made comments that were openly defiant of administration or disrespectful to me.
In one instance, a manager said, “I personally refuse to make rounds. I’m too busy.” When these mini outbursts occurred, I paused, expecting that the hospital’s senior leader would correct, or at least re-direct, the behavior of his staff member. When that did not occur, it left me to ask the group, “So it sounds like the culture here is one where managers don’t really have to do what administration asks. Am I correct about that?” Again, no response from the senior leader but head nods all around the table. By notdisagreeing or intervening, the senior leader was sending the message that the response and the attitude were acceptable and the norm in the organization. It’s not uncommon to get pushback. But the real differentiator between the organizations that rise to the top and those that stay stuck are in how their leaders manage resistance.
There is a parenting technique that encourages parents to ignore undesirable behavior among toddlers and focus on reinforcing the positive. This may work in curtailing tantrums with 2-year-olds, but it’s not useful in leadership. Ignoring (especially in a public forum) is endorsing the behavior. If you sit silently during disrespectful, divisive, or resistant behavior, you are silently offering your approval and modeling evasiveness. What are you modeling?