A healthy corporate culture depends on mutual trust and respect. Leaders trust and respect each other, as well as their employees. Similarly, employees trust and respect each other and as well as their leaders. When this happens people are happier, work harder, collaborate at a higher level, innovate more often, resolve issues faster, and remain loyal. In short, everyone is more generous with their time and talent, they have no reason to leave and every reason to make important contributions. Everything just works better. “One for all and all for one” is the spirit.
A first step in evaluating and then improving culture is to understand where mutual trust and respect lies along a continuum. To do this, let’s begin with a concept that is a bit more grounded and look at how employee’s ideas and insights are valued by their leaders. William Lofquist first discussed this continuum in the late 1980’s during his work with youth and community development. It begins with low value, in which people are treated as objects, and ends with high value, in which people are treated as partners.
People as Objects
“I’m your leader. I know what’s best, so do it. It’s my way or the highway.” There is no consideration of wants and needs. Organizations that treat people as objects fail to maximize the value of each person’s contribution as experts and, in doing so, minimize the value of collaboration, loyalty, and happiness. Therefore, trust, respect, morale, collaboration, retention, and innovation across all dimensions is low and people are generally unhappy. Conversely, everything bad is at high levels – bad behavior, bad practices, bad work product. In other words, don’t treat people as objects. Nothing good can come of it.
People as Receptacles
“I believe I understand your wants and needs and may take them into consideration when making decisions.” “I want you to feel like you are making a contribution by offering your insights and asking questions because I believe you will gain from the experience.” Both the leader and the employee understand that the exchange is meaningless as the insights will likely not be applied, the questions will not be answered honestly, and the issues raised may never be addressed. This relationship is not authentic and everyone knows it.
People as Resources
“I value your experience, expertise, and insights. I believe you have a unique perspective and skill set. Your contributions will likely have an impact on the organization.”
People as Partners
“I consider you a full partner in each and every phase of project development and within the overall organization.” Trust, respect, morale, collaboration, retention, and innovation across all dimensions is very high and people are generally very happy. In other words, if you treat people as partners you will maximize their value to the organization, attract more talent, increase your profits, and grow your company exponentially. Everything good can come of this. Do more of this.