‘Culture is King’, a recent article by Dr Linda Sharkey explains that a culture of creativity and innovation can only be created from the top down. She was able to support this assertion with an example of a leader who was complaining about his team’s lack of creativity. As it happens, it was shown that the leaders’ own behaviours were discouraging innovation more than any other factor.
There are plenty of articles out there on how to create a positive culture that fosters creativity and innovation – in fact I have written a few of my own. But I like to think I never stop learning so the one thing that stood out for me from this example was the leader’s total blindness to the culture that he had created through his own behaviours. I know there are some sceptics out there saying ‘if this were me I would have noticed this and corrected the issue’. I am betting this is exactly what this leader would have said as well.
There’s a quote from the French philosopher Albert Camus that I think works well here: ‘The world of the ant is the anthill’. While I’m not going to be writing an article on the benefits of existentialism today, I still think we can apply this quote to the context of today’s workplace. If you help to build a culture, and you exist inside that culture without any regular feedback, then very quickly the norms and regular practices of that culture become your blind spots. You automatically stop noticing them and those behaviours become your reality.
Try as we might, there are always things that we miss. One way to help you overcome this is to focus on creating an environment where your team are happy to speak with you about issues and are comfortable with raising concerns without any fear of reprimand or retribution. Of course, if your cultural blind spot is preventing this you might have bigger problems. Today there are a range of experts and consultants who specialise in assessing your team environment and helping you to improve it – in fact, that’s what we do here at Full Circle Feedback. The good thing about getting an external party in to help with this is they won’t be impacted by any of your cultural blind spots – their world isn’t your anthill.
Of course there are many great leaders out there who are able to recognise problems when they arise – but the best leaders are those that recognise that they can be wrong. If you think your team could be improved, consider getting someone from outside the anthill to take a look. You might be surprised at what they discover.