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Leadership and Organizational Culture

Healthy v.s. Dysfunctional

Good leaders constantly examine, probe, and take the temperature of their organization or company. Smart leaders stay ahead of the curve, anticipate bumps in the road, and are always looking to the future. They are visionaries. However, when a leader is constantly spending their time in the mundane, or routine minutia of business they get distracted from their primary role and this affects their impact.

In smaller companies leaders have to function as managers. However, having the right people in the right places with the right chemistry allows them the freedom to focus more on leadership than management. When team members pull their weight and approach their role with passion the leader can focus on vision casting, branding, expanding the revenue base, and making life better for the entire team.

In an unhealthy organizational culture, one team member can affect/infect the entire team. The toxic team member can miss critical deadlines, cause delays, cast blame on other team members, and create an environment that is detrimental to the entire organization. It’s like cancer attacking the body one cell at a time. It’s a slow progression, but the damage can be fatal. 

When a fine-tuned team is hitting on all cylinders everyone is pulling their weight, showing up, standing in the gap, and rowing together. There is laughter, joy, and fun in the workplace. The team is in sync, work is getting done and everyone is on the same page. In a dysfunctional workplace, there is a lack of joy, communication, fun, and communal spirit about the mission. The joy of work is drained and productivity is stifled in these environments.

Positive work culture is contagious. Positive breeds positive! Negative breeds negative. When team members are smiling, laughing, and joking there is a mutual camaraderie and a sense of accomplishing the company’s mission and goals. When the culture is negative it is loaded with drama, gossip, and a lack of cohesiveness that is detrimental to business. 

In a healthy work environment people who drop the ball on a project, or customer own the moment. They acknowledge their mistake, learn from them and grow. In a dysfunctional culture people who drop the ball feel no sense of ownership or responsibility. Blame is cast upon other team members which creates workplace friction. 

Leadership is often forced to wear the mantle of “good cop” or “bad cop” in dealing with the problem child. A toxic or lazy team member can cripple the organization within a short matter of time. The leader gets pulled away from developing new business and increasing revenue to deal with the dysfunction. This drains the business or organization creating conflict, division, and ultimately the loss of revenue. 

Smart leaders know when to cut bait and run. They realize when dysfunction creeps in and offer corrective action to protect the team as a whole so the organization can stay focused on its mission and vision. In today’s “what have you done for me lately,” culture it is hard for leaders to maintain the status quo when the competition is so fierce. Enabling or coddling dysfunction penalizes the bottom line and the team.

Healthy organizations and companies have a sense of interdependence that promotes accountability among team members. Everyone focuses on the mission and goals of the organization pulling their individual weight while helping and encouraging fellow team members. There is a sense of pride and accomplishment that radiates throughout the company. 

Healthy work environments know how to celebrate success. Work is important and moving on to the next task or job is ever-present, but these companies know how to take a victory lap and enjoy the fruit of their labors. Celebrations also serve as strong motivators as the team is rewarded for success. 

Jonathan Wolk, AIA is the founder of Wolk360 in Raleigh, North Carolina, is an innovative and creative buy-design-build firm specializing in helping clients create the perfect home. The firm is unique in that it has a multi-disciplinary team of designers, architects, builders, and real estate agents, so clients do not have to deal with multiple players when pursuing their dream. From real estate acquisition, planning, development, demolition, and building they serve residential and commercial clients with high-quality start to finish custom projects. 919.291.7622​ Email:jonathan@wolk360.com

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