You just need a mirror and an open mind.
Whenever I’m facilitating an engagement or culture strategy the business leaders usually want to spend a great deal of time telling me all the reasons why they’re frustrated with the lack of results they’ve experienced thus far. Most clients have done their due diligence and spent countless amount of hours assessing the problem and coming up with possible solutions. I always enjoy listening, and I always wait until they’re completely done telling me the whole story before I respond. I wait, because the story always ends with the same statement and question: “Here’s where you come in. What do we do next?”
My response is always the same. Sometimes it’s more colorful and elaborate, but regardless of the leadership team my response is always, “I know exactly why your business isn’t getting the results you want in the timeframe you want. And I have the solution. It’s guaranteed to work. It’s low cost. And you’ll get the immediate results you’re looking for—again, guaranteed.” At this point I have their attention. Some people laugh. Most people grab their pens and get ready to take notes. I tell them what they need to do:
“Tonight, on your way home from the office, each of you needs to stop at the store and buy one thing: a mirror.” At that point the room always becomes silent. I usually wait at least 30 seconds, and let everyone sit in silence before I start talking again. Then I keep going. “You see, you are a direct reflection of your business and all of the people within it, and the business and all if the people within it are a direct reflection of you. If your business isn’t “working,” or your people aren’t responding, you’re the problem—bottom line. Now you have a choice. You can either own the reality that you’re the problem, or you can avoid it. It’s your choice, but I will tell you that owning it costs a hell of a lot less, and it’s a hell of a lot more successful than avoidance.”
I always end with one question, and I don’t talk again until everyone in the room answers it: “Which is it, ownership or avoidance?” Every once in a while I’ll have a leader actually stand up and walk out—a direct indication that he or she is suffering from dysfunctional leadership disease, and he or she is at the core of why engagement is suffering, and why unhealthy energy is running rampant. Most often, the room answers the question with another question: “What does ‘owning it’ mean, exactly?” That’s when I know it’s game time and the culture has a chance at becoming healthy.
There is one other scenario that sometimes plays out: denial. Some businesses have what I call a numb heart. The heart of the business is toxic, and the business is circulating enough unhealthy energy to take down a city, yet the leaders of the business, collectively, are convinced there is nothing wrong. They’re still asking for help with engagement, and they still want a healthy internal brand, but they refuse to admit, or face the fact, that they as the leadership team will never get the results they want until they figure out how to get functional, and walk in the way of trust, compassion, and freedom. If this is your business, I recommend you have your leaders take the leadership health quiz. After I have leaders take the quiz, most leaders begin to acknowledge the fact that an issue exists, and from there we can begin to have a more serious discussion.
Bottom line: you’ll never be able to move forward and build a healthy business culture unless you have a leadership team (at all levels) willing to “own it.” You see, the heart of a business is just like the heart of a human: it only becomes strong when surrounded by people who are willing to live in a way of high-character and show acts of love to those around them. When business leaders are finally willing to face their fear and “own it,” engagement increases, the culture turns healthy, and the business becomes a place where everything good is possible.
Gina Soleil, is a speaker and acclaimed author of Fuel Your Business: How to energize people, ignite action and drive profit. She blogs and speaks about how to create a business where people are energized, feel good and are happy. Visit Gina Soleil and follow her on Twitter.