We spend a good chunk of our lives working. If that workplace is toxic, it affects everything from our happiness to our health. From a bottom line point-of-view, productivity, performance and customer service tanks in a toxic environment. Turnover (and the high cost of it) grows.
Given that we (and our employees) spend so much time on the job, fostering a positive environment seems like a top priority, right? After all, as leaders, we should want employees to be happy and engaged at work.
When we came across some excellent advice by revitalization expert Quint Studer, author of Building a Vibrant Community: How Citizen-Powered Change Is Reshaping America, so much of it struck us as being highly relevant to the workplace.
If you want to change your company culture, as a leader, you have many opportunities to do so. But, says Studer, it doesn’t just happen. Strong workplace communities are built—in a smart and organic way. It really requires a sense of collaboration.
While his advice is often applied on a larger scale, here are some tips you can use to improve your work environment for yourself and employees:
Stop waiting for things to improve
You and your employees have to realize that things aren’t just going to change on their own. You are responsible for improving things. Take responsibility for you own part in any workplace issues, commit to change, and then encourage employees to be part of the process. It requires open, candid conversations about what needs to improve.
Frame the issues and opportunities the right way
Figure out that one thing that will spur employees to buy into changes and to do their part in fostering a new positive culture. To start, pick one core mission. For example, “to reduce turnover to limit disruptions, operate more efficiently and better serve the customers” Once leaders frame issues that way, employees can unite behind a common cause.
Create a dashboard showing critical, objective metrics, update it regularly, and keep it in front of employees. Think of how the dashboard of a car shows gas, oil, engine performance, temperature, etc. It is easy to see what is not going well. A balanced dashboard also shows where progress is being made and what still needs to improve.
Plan well, but pivot as needed
Early on, decide what steps you must take to turn around your workplace culture. Then prioritize ruthlessly. You won’t be able to do everything, so figure out which initiatives will make the greatest impact and start there. Collecting feedback through employee surveys, town hall meetings, and one-on-one sessions is a great place to start. Learn what is contributing to a toxic workplace and what is holding employees back.
Once you figure out your priorities, decide your plan of attack for turning things around. Share it with staff and gain their buy-in. Just be ready to change the plan as needed, and especially when things aren’t going as expected.
Communicate often and with everyone; no one should be left out. The more stakeholders understand the process and what the goal is, the more successful your efforts will be. Remember, it’s impossible to go overboard on transparency. Sharing information openly and sincerely and inviting feedback builds trust and, ultimately, buy-in.
Quint Studer is author of Building a Vibrant Community: How Citizen-Powered Change Is Reshaping America and founder of Pensacola’s Studer Community Institute, a nonprofit organization focused on improving the community’s quality of life and moving Escambia and Santa Rosa counties forward. He is a businessman, a visionary, an entrepreneur, and a mentor to many. He currently serves as the Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the University of West Florida. Quint’s latest book, The Busy Leader’s Handbook: How to Lead People and Places That Thrive, is due out in October 2019.