One study surveyed 2,000 people in the UK and determined that 80% would turn down jobs with sizable pay increases if it meant that they would have to work in an unfavorable environment. Another study showed that 28% of U.S. workers see their work as a way of helping others and finding personal fulfillment. This study goes on to show that of the 28% who are purpose driven, that they are more likely to stay longer at their jobs, be more engaged, and are more likely to advocate for their companies.
Given these studies (and more) it seems logical that it would be important for leaders to treat their teammates with trust, respect, and dignity. In fact, the whole culture movement is very simple at a core—take care of your employees and they will take care of you. Logical yes, but significantly lacking to merely express desired leadership changes in the form of trite platitudes.
If it were that simple, everyone would be doing it.
I’ve heard many stories along the way of consultants coming into companies and offering their wisdom, facilitating interesting and engaging processes and workshops, and then the team going right back to their common way of doing things. I’ve also experienced first hand, the reluctance of many in leadership to engage in meaningful conversations around culture, for reasons I can only surmise as being related to the fuzziness around what culture work truly is and how it translates to the bottom line.
Trust, respect and dignity lie at the core of strong cultures. The research shows us that over time companies that cultivate these qualities will excel beyond their contemporaries.
But, if a company or a leader is not there yet, how do they get there? It’s not like flipping a light switch to go from distrust to trust, or lacking in respect to being respectful.
Contained within the answer to the question is also the reason for the reluctance to focus more on culture. Moving from a culture of distrust, disrespect and dishonor to one of trust, respect and dignity requires that we as leaders first learn to deeply trust and respect ourselves, and to authentically carry ourselves with dignity.
As Gandhi once said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” It starts with us, internally. As we increase our self-respect and trust, we naturally exude and infuse it into everything we do. It infects our families, friends, communities and business endeavors alike.
Abraham Maslow once wrote, “If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.” The true work of organizational culture is to develop more tools—tools that we haven’t classically been trained to cultivate in the business world. To move the needle we have merely to look to ourselves, to uncover whatever might be in the way of us having a deeper and more aware relationship with ourselves.
The steps to positively shifting culture in an organization will come as naturally as breathing air when we’ve done the inner work—when we’ve learned to trust and respect ourselves, and walk with dignity.