“If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”-Modern Proverb
I see this one a lot: leaders chasing performance, whether it’s wins, revenue, or whatever metric gets rewarded in their system. They believe that talent is key, so they ignore the behavior of the talented. They are focused on outcomes over culture, and when faced with a moment of truth do not take a stand. They have missed a critical point. Talent will only flourish in a great culture, and a leader who isn’t committed to great culture will have a team whose performance reflects that.
In the realm of athletics, we see this play out all the time. For example, a talented superstar is a cultural nightmare. She believes the team standards and norms don’t apply to her. Her coach believes the team can’t win without their best player, so they tolerate the poor behavior with no real consequence or correction. At best, this results in some team disgruntlement; at worst, it creates a house divided, as team members resent and react to the double standard, or lack of standards. Either way, a coach’s credibility is eroded. Uncorrected, the degradation in culture will leave even the most talented teams struggling to break even.
As a leader, you have a lot of responsibilities, but I would argue that nothing is more important than creating and cultivating your culture. And no part of creating and cultivating your culture is more important than how you stand in your moments of truth. Nothing sears the importance of your culture more than responding to challenges in a way that puts behavior ahead of the win. This can be scary, and some people won’t be happy. Experience tells me, however, that your team will step up, in which case you’ll get the win and have elevated your influence all at the same time. If not, at least everyone will know what’s tolerated and the price to be paid for failing to meet the team’s behavioral standards.
Culture is a tricky thing. Small, incremental behaviors add up, and like weeding the garden on a continual basis, weeding your team of undesirable behaviors matters. Then there are big moments, where opposing forces create a situation where everyone is watching, and your response will be a story that gets remembered and told over time. Be ready for both. Let everyone see what you stand for, and you will be getting the most out of the talent on your roster.
Don’t rue your moment of truth, relish it instead. It’s your best opportunity to do your most important job as a leader. Take a stand.