Four Keys to Cultivating a Healthy Culture

Whether leading a business, non-profit organization, school, church, or any other organization, leaders are responsible for the quality of the work environment. They can either create an environment that is healthy—one where people trust one another and work together to achieve a common goal. Or, they can allow the environment to become toxic—full of mistrust, lack of cooperation, competing agendas, and very low morale. In toxic environments, people are diminished, discouraged, and often driven away from the organization because of the unhealthy atmosphere that exists.

Author Patrick Lencioni talks about the concept of organizational health in his book The Advantage, and he asserts that when organizations of all types embrace the idea of becoming a healthy organization, they flourish and find true success. I couldn’t agree more. Yet, as Lencioni suggests, too many leaders allow their organizations to become characterized by unhealthy work environments and, unfortunately, they do not take action to correct this problem.

Great leaders are intentional about the type of environment they create within their organization or team, choosing to cultivate healthy cultures that bring out the best in people and build them up. So, exactly how do leaders foster organizational health? There are four key components that they focus on developing: trust, transparency, accountability, and unity.

Trust: team members and leaders at all levels must learn to trust one another, knowing that each person cares for one another and has the best interests of others at heart.

Transparency: honesty and vulnerability are essential because they safeguard against the possibility that any hidden agendas will emerge, often causing friction and dissension.

Accountability: people must have a sense of personal responsibility for their actions and hold themselves and others accountable to the standards and values of the organization.

Unity: ultimately, everyone needs to be moving in the same direction toward the same overall goals and vision. As a result, there is a true sense of cooperation, and every team member works for the betterment of the organization as a whole and does not seek to advance their personal ambitions.

If you are in a position of leadership, take some time today to evaluate your organization or team on these four components and identify any potential cracks that may exist. Toxicity in an organization has a way of spreading quickly, so it is essential that you as the leader confront any potential issues and ensure that they are properly dealt with and resolved. Doing so will help you create a healthy organizational culture that makes a positive difference and serves as an example for others to emulate.

Is Your Organization Healthy?

Organizational health is characterized by the level of trust, accountability, transparency, and unity that exists within an organization. There is not much middle ground; you either have a healthy organization or an unhealthy one. The question is, if you’re leading an unhealthy organization, are you content with that reality? In this short video I share some thoughts on organizational health and why I believe it is so important for any organization.

Thoughts on Organizational Health

I think one of the defining issues facing leaders today is organizational health. Most leaders would agree that things like trust, transparency, accountability, and unity are all important, but they are not often willing to exhibit the courage necessary to confront the challenges that exist within their organization. As a result, the health of the organization suffers, confusion reigns, frustration festers, and good people leave to go elsewhere.

In a recent video interview, I discussed the concept of organizational health and explained why it’s a vital issue for leaders to address. You can watch it here:

Organizational Health Part III: Low Turnover of Key Employees

The last few weeks we have been discussing the concept of organizational health, why it is important, what it looks like, and how you can achieve it. A quick review…

Healthy organizations have minimal politics & confusion, as well as high levels of productivity and morale. These characteristics lead to the last part: low turnover of key employees.

Remember this quote from Erika Anderson in her 2012 Forbes article“Top talent leaves an organization when they are badly managed and the organization is confusing and uninspiring.”

This observation is so true, and it is a direct result of being in an unhealthy organization. Who wants to be badly managed, confused, and uninspired? Not me! Hopefully not you. Yet, if you polled a number of employees, I bet you would find that many of them feel this way. People stay in jobs and environments that they dislike, and they do so for a variety of reasons. Most often they stay out of necessity because they lack a better option elsewhere.

What about you? Are you experiencing any of these emotions at work? If so, then I would submit to you that you work in an organization that is unhealthy at some level.

The good news: this can be fixed with assertive leadership.

The bad news: if you do not have an assertive leader willing to confront the challenges in your organization, it will not get fixed. It’s that simple—this problem will not fix itself.

Let’s face it, some turnover is good. Some people are not a good fit and need to leave the organization. On the other hand, great people that are a cultural fit for the organization are not always easy to come by, and when you find them you need to retain them.

I am convinced that organizational health is the key to success, and it is also the key to keeping your best people. If you are a leader at any level in an organization, it is your duty to minimize politics, minimize confusion, promote high productivity, and foster high levels of morale. Doing these things will lead to low turnover of your key people.

However, high levels of politics and confusion coupled with low productivity and morale will most definitely drive away your best people…right out the door to another organization. Probably the competition.

Achieving organizational health is not easy, but the formula is simple. Anyone can attain it if you put forth the required effort, make some tough decisions, maybe let some people go (good turnover) and surround yourself with a team of liked-minded leaders and managers who know why the organization exists and where you are headed.

Just like we want our own bodies to be healthy, we should desire the same for the organizations we lead. It will require discipline though. Are you up for the challenge?

Organizational Health Part II: Morale & Productivity

Are you a leader of an organization, a department, or a small team? Are you a pastor? A non-profit manager? A Org Health Teambusiness owner? Are you in charge of leading a volunteer team? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you should be concerned about the topic of organizational health.

And remember, an organization can be any size. I think sometimes we don’t think of our small enterprise or department as an “organization,” but that’s exactly what it is, and we need to treat it that way. We need to take ownership of our “organization.”

Why is organizational health important? Frankly, unhealthy organizations are not fun places to work. Think of the term “unhealthy”… does that conjure up positive feelings? Probably not. Unhealthy organizations may appear successful on the outside, but on the inside they could be dying, and eventually they will probably meet their demise.

In my last post I talked about minimizing politics and confusion—the first step in becoming a healthy organization. The next part is achieving high productivity and high morale.

Picture an organization that is full of productive team members who are motivated and excited about being part of the organization, of being able to contribute to its success.  This is the kind of organization that attracts the best and spits out the lazy.

It’s the kind of organization that does not tolerate petty politics. It’s the kind of organization where confusion does not exist because communication is consistent and clear.

Simply put—it is a healthy organization.

If your organization is experiencing low productivity and low morale, then back up to part one. Is there a high level of internal politics? Is there a great deal of confusion? If you answered yes to either or both, then you have an organizational health problem, and you need to deal with these two issues first.

My last post recommended three key things to help: assertive leadership, consistent communication, and team development. Focus on these areas before moving on to productivity and morale. Address politics and confusion and watch productivity and morale jump overnight.

Join me in pursuing organizational health. This is a worthy cause that will impact people, communities, and the world for the better. Sound idealistic? Probably, but that’s okay. We need more idealism in this world that is often so negative and cynical.

My next post will focus on the final component of organizational health—low turnover of key employees. I look forward to it!