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Mark Cole: Four Characteristics of a Healthy Culture

Photo by Hudson Hintze on Unsplash.

Yesterday, October 10th, was World Mental Health Day. In honor of this day, John and I decided to write about mental health this week. If you missed John’s blog post earlier in the week, I want to encourage you to go back and read it as well.

Just to echo John before we go too much further, we are not mental health experts. We recognize that this is a very common struggle among many people, and want to make every effort to help people in the midst of it.

That said, creating a culture that promotes mental health should be important to any leader.

Now, this may feel like a heavy burden, especially for those of you reading this that lead large organizations or teams. Please let me make this clear: it is not your job to replace a professional counselor or a doctor. But you should prioritize the mental health of your team.

A healthy culture is the leaders responsibility. Unfortunately, for many leaders, the health of the bottom line becomes a greater priority than the health of the culture. Ironically, these leaders actually sabotage their ability to succeed because they aren’t focusing on their people.

And, as I’m sure you’ve heard John teach on many occasions, people are your most appreciable asset.

My friend Simon Sinek has some great insights on a healthy organizational culture in his book Leaders Eat Last. Simon says (see what I did there?), “We need to build more organizations that prioritize the care of human beings. As leaders, it is our sole responsibility to protect our people and, in turn, our people will protect each other and advance the organization together.”

So, what are the characteristics of a healthy culture?

1. A Culture of Safety

Stress and anxious feelings are both natural responses to pressure. But, most often, the answer to easing these responses is not to decrease workload; it’s actually to create a culture where your people feel safe. Safe to fail and learn from it; safe to try new things and grow; safe to stand up for what is right with a client and know that your boss has your back. When people feel safe, they have less stress and anxiety when under pressure, which leads to higher levels of performance.

2. A Culture of Purpose

Show me a leader who is not casting a vision full of purpose and I will show you a team that has grown hopeless and unhealthy. The leader’s responsibility is to paint a clear picture of the future for his or her people. And that vision should be connected back to the purpose of the organization. King Solomon was wise in saying, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” But when people are able to see the purpose, they are more hopeful and excited to fight for it.

3. A Culture of Authenticity

A healthy work environment is one that not only encourages people to be open about their struggles, but also focuses on meeting that openness with empathy and assistance. A leader’s most important tool when building a healthy culture is empathy. When a leader is empathetic, the people of the organization are much more inclined to be authentic about what they are going through. Authenticity in turn allows people to grow through their challenges, instead of shrinking away from them.

4. A Culture of Connection

I recently heard Marcus Buckingham say, “Loneliness is a killer. If you want to kill me, ignore me.” The truth of what he said shook me to the core. As leaders, we must fight to create a culture where our people feel seen and known. I’m talking about a transformational culture vs. a transactional culture. The day you see your people as metrics to be managed will be the beginning of the end for your organization.

At the John Maxwell Enterprise, we have made it a priority to build a culture that supports the health of our people. We focus a lot of time and energy on applying the four characteristics above. I want to encourage you to do the same.

Earlier this week, John introduced the thought that there is little separation between what is good for your life and what is good for your leadership. Focus on your people, help them find health in their lives, and the entire organization will reap the benefits.

3 Comments

  1. […] Mark Cole: Four Characteristics of a Healthy Culture […]

  2. Leigh on October 16, 2019 at 4:54 am

    A great read. Thank you.

  3. Dan Williams on October 16, 2019 at 4:46 pm

    As a man who had issues with depression, I greatly appreciate that the team at John Maxwell has our back! Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

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