An organization has the opportunity to destroy or strengthen its culture during turbulent times. Both leaders and team members determine the outcome.

During my life, I have witnessed thousands of sporting events and most of them involved my own children. I did the math and included sports in which I was a participant, parent or spectator.

The questions from the spectator stands are always the same: Why did he do that? How did she miss that catch? Why would he take that shot? Why did the coach start him? What was she thinking? In my experience, those questions far outweigh the encouragement from the bleachers. The questions are soon followed by conclusions and statements about the performance of the athletes. They sound like this: “He’s trying to give away this game.” “She wants to lose this match.”

The truth I believe is this: no one wants to win the game or the match more than the people on the field, on the court and actually in the game. They have dedicated themselves day in and day out to competing and winning.  They have sacrificed more than fans can imagine for the privilege to be part of a team.

Leaders often face the same scrutiny from people who are not in the arena. They make decisions, sometimes unpopular ones, and people, many of whom do not even have a vested interest, stand on the sidelines and question not only the decision but also the motivation behind the decision.  Within an organization, this behavior will quickly destroy the culture.

Disagreeing with the decisions and performance of our favorite sports team does not have the same consequences as doubting the leadership of our organization.  If our favorite team loses, we are only out the cost of  the ticket and a few hours of frustration. However, most of us are far more vested in our organizations, and the price of dissension in the ranks is much higher. We risk a failure in organizational culture evidenced by decreased engagement and increased turnover.

How can followers support the leaders in their organization?

  1. Consider the Source. When I was growing up and faced criticism, my mother used the phrase, “Consider the source.” At the time, I had no idea, fully, what that meant. She intended for me to discount the criticism based on who offered it. However there is a flip side to this statement. If the source, the leader, is someone who has been trustworthy in the past, then it is more likely there are missing facts than a sudden loss of trust. A long track record of making good decisions and a known character of sound judgement does not usually change overnight.

 

  1. Rely on facts and not the conclusions of others. Try to understand the decision by seeking out the facts from the source. If you want to know why your daughter is not starting on the softball team, then to talk to coach and ask questions about her performance. The same is true with a leader whose decision gives us pause – ask the leader to help you understand.

 

  1. Accept that you will never know all of the facts. If we are a spectator, there is no way we can possibly know all of the facts. We don’t know what happens in the team meeting room, in the locker room and off the field. As much as we like to assume, we don’t know all of the facts when we are not in the arena. It’s true in organizations, too. Sometimes, there is not the opportunity to share facts and other times, it is not appropriate because of confidentiality. For example, when an employee is terminated, the employee might share an untruthful reason for the termination, but it is usually in the employer’s best interest not to comment. One of my favorite coaches over the years, treats his players the same way. If they are injured, he does not disclose the type of injury. If they are suspended, he does not share the transgression that led to suspension. Treating people with dignity and respect is the hallmark of a great leader.

 

  1. Trust the process. Sometimes, we don’t really understand the decisions on the field, but until the season is over, we don’t know if they were truly bad or actually good for the team. The same is true day-to-day in our organizations. What might look like a poor decision is sometimes part of a much bigger strategy that only becomes more evident over time. Leaders must earn the trust of their teams through a long history of trustworthy behavior. Remarkable cultures are built by leaders and organizations who have grown trust over time.

These suggestions are not popular. It’s much harder to follow these ideas than to sit in the bleachers, stand in the galley, occupy space on the sideline and question the decisions and behaviors of those in the arena. These actions are founded in wisdom and require patience, depth and even trust.  Trust is the currency of organizational culture.Trust is the currency of organizational culture. Click To Tweet

If you are a leader in your organization and you want to sustain a remarkable culture, then help your emerging leaders and team members learn how to manage what they don’t and can’t understand. Role model this behavior when you find yourself in similar situations with your leadership. If you are a team member questioning organizational strategies and decisions, consider how you can strengthen your own team and ultimately the organization by modeling these 4 actions.

Great organizations are not great because they never fail. They are great because they have a remarkable culture that propels them forward both in challenging seasons and seasons of success.Great organizations are not great because they never fail. They are great because they have a remarkable culture that propels them forward both in challenging seasons and seasons of success. Click To Tweet