Build a healthy culture by cultivating healthy relationships

If you want to identify the elements of a strong, healthy corporate culture that optimizes team performance, you need only think about the fundamentals of a healthy personal relationship. Examples of these fundamentals include: 

  • Being honest: Tell the truth, be worthy of someone’s trust, and don’t cheat.

  • Being candid: Address uncomfortable issues, even if they result in conflict, and don’t be passive aggressive.

  • Communicating expectations: Offer clarity, communicate preferences, and don’t count on people to read your mind.

  • Admitting when you’re wrong: Everyone makes mistakes. It demonstrates maturity and builds trust when you can acknowledge them.

  • Being respectful: Listen attentively, mind your manners, and communicate respectfully.

  • Having fun: Whatever your version of fun is, do it together and don’t be a mope.

There are more, to be sure.

Underlying all corporate cultures, good and bad, are individuals. How these individuals interact with each other and your customers define your culture. Whether that culture is one that optimizes the performance of your team and the experience of your customer is contingent upon whether the interactions follow the pattern of a generally healthy relationship, or a destructive one. The same behaviors that make relationships difficult in your personal life – passive aggressive conflicts, poor communications, confusion over what is expected, etc. – tend to make relationships difficult in your professional life. And getting things done requires relationships. The more dysfunctional the relationships are, the more dysfunctional the culture is. What follows is a dysfunctional execution of strategies.

As a leader of, or within, your team, what can you do to improve the culture? Start by using the aforementioned characteristics of a healthy relationship in every professional interaction you have, regardless of reciprocity. In time, you can influence the culture around you. And if you can't, you may just go find one you're more compatible with.