I want to expose something because I am troubled by what I see. Often in my consulting business, I will see a pattern of shaming and ridiculing in the company culture. The boss does it and allows it to be done. The culture is toxic, sarcasm is the norm, people have their own agendas, there is a lot of activity but nothing gets done. There is no unity.
Your business and family are not the military. Be decent to your employees and children. We all learn by doing, and doers make mistakes. If you never do, you never learn. Those who are shamed will shut down. I know because I work with people in business who were shamed so much by their parents that now they are afraid to do even what they know how to do from fear of shame.
People don’t grow in this kind of culture because when they make a mistake, it’s too painful. The status quo is never challenged and change does not occur. Everybody puts on their “we can change” mask in front of the CEO but they know in their heart that they just want to kick the can down the road.
Mr. (or Ms.) Big CEO, if this is your culture, please open your ears. You are the problem. If it’s happening you are either doing it or allowing it to be done. You, Mr. (or Ms.) CEO, are responsible for your culture and no one else. The source of the shaming is pride. If people can humble themselves enough to let go, trust their people (until you have reason not to) and allow them to make mistakes, then creativity will blossom. Unity will follow and the company will experience synergy. Shame, ridicule and sarcasm shut this down.
Davis Heating & Air in Rocky Mount, VA is a good illustration. Chris Bishop, the owner, has set good boundaries and sarcasm is not allowed in the culture. Bishop fosters a safe place for employees to be vulnerable and has an online group coaching session every week. Each person gets up and shares a success story or challenge from the week and speaks to their peers. The new guys are learning from the old guys. Everybody pulls everybody up. There is no sarcasm allowed in the meeting and if it occurs we confront it by asking the person if he was being sarcastic.
David is a new employee at Davis and it’s been a culture shock for him to be in this new environment. Recently in our online group coaching session he said, “I have a different attitude here. It’s taken me a while to get used to it here. It’s okay for me to make a mistake. Knowing that I won’t be judged if there is something that I don’t know is helping me relax and figure out things on my own.”
Allow me to translate what David is saying “All the other SOBs that I worked for did not trust me or treat me with dignity. I felt like a private in the marine corp. I left because I felt bad about myself most of the time and always felt ashamed of my lack of perfection. My brain actually is working again and I do have the ability to be creative and figure out things for myself, and it is refreshing to see how this works for me. I am excited to be here and am so glad that I am part of something bigger than me that I can contribute to.”
David has done a lot of things wrong. The guys coach him every week. He learns from Levi things that Levi learned last year; he learns from Jeremy things that Jeremy learned. This makes my job very easy. All I do is facilitate the discussion and the group pulls the group up.
It is unity and synergy but most of all it is love for one another. Yes, love does work even in business.
But that is an article for a different day.