Behind every great business is a great business culture that is tended by a good leader. They may have created it or inherited it, but they are tending it much like a good gardener would tend a prized garden.
In a recent piece about the founder and CEO of 23AndMe, Ann Wojcicki, she talks about her success. “As a business leader, you have to be very comfortable being criticized and recognize it’s not about you. It’s about learning how to be even better. And who wants to be in a static state?” This is her first point. How many of us are willing to be criticized? The farther some move up the food chain the more awkward it is for people to give you open and honest feedback and yet, you can only get better if you receive feedback. As a leader, you will have to seek it out because in most organizations people are fearful to give it.
Recently, I worked with an organization who had an entire department quit within a two-week period due to the inability of a leader to take any feedback that didn’t agree with his favorable perspective of himself. 12 people left in a hiring environment that is difficult to find new people. If this leader had listened to the head of the department or any of the team members about the fact his bullying behavior was not working, perhaps this disaster could have been avoided. Asking for feedback gives us real-time knowledge about what we can do better or different. Mistakes only become failures if we don’t do anything about them. Ask for feedback, take it in, and learn to consider it a gift.
Wojcicki’s second point is that “If you create a great culture, those humans are happier, obviously, but it also pays rewards in terms of overall company success. Productivity is higher. Recruiting is easier; more people want to join.” As you know, I’ve been saying this for years. It’s true and proven out every day in those companies and with those leaders who choose to make good cultures a priority. It’s not a nice thing to have, it’s an essential thing to have if you want to run or create a successful business. It’s not optional. In my book The Great Culture [Dis]Connect, I share multiple examples of how this plays out. It’s not hard but it takes work, just like tending that prize-winning garden. Different plants need different things at different times. As the leader, it’s up to you to be the master gardener.