When I address groups, including my own employees, I usually focus on “culture killers”, or things that destroy the culture in any given company. These are complacency, silos and lack of accountability. However, it has become clear to me that the same things that kill your company’s culture can also kill your career.
As individual employees, we have the same responsibly when it comes to managing our careers as CEOs have when it comes to managing their companies. The more we are aware of how to attack these killers, the more we open ourselves up to career growth, job satisfaction and personal happiness.
Here’s what they are and how to avoid them.
When employees become complacent, they quit aiming for excellence and instead focus more on collecting a paycheck.
To avoid this happening to you, focus on the following.
Get out of your bubble: Mastering your job provides a sense of comfort and certainty. To attack complacency, you might push yourself out of our comfort zone. Ask for new responsibilities. Spend time voluntarily in a new area of the company. Take the initiative to create and improve a process or method.
Learn a new skill: There are two types of people: those who have a life-long commitment to keep growing and learning and those who are content with the status quo, placing little value on personal growth. The latter person is at greatest risk of becoming complacent. To avoid, let your restlessness show. Let your employer know that you seek growth: personal and professional. For most employers, this is music to our ears.
Silos exist in many companies. They can divide people, departments, functions (i.e. management vs. front-line employees). No matter the form, silos kill teamwork, communication and enterprise success, as employees have no desire to help or understand the rest of the organization
The duty to tear down enterprise silos begins with corporate leadership – and the duty to tear down individual silos starts with you. Here are a few pointers:
Spend time with other departments: You can either be proactive and get to know other departments or invite others to spend time in yours.
Communicate with complete transparency: Even if you make an unpopular decision, share your rationale. People tend to support ideas when they understand the “why,” even if they desired a different outcome. Who knows? Maybe someone in a different department can suggest a win-win solution.
Get to know your team members personally: Silos die and collaboration grows when we know each other as people first and employees second. Trust must be at the foundation of every relationship. Taking time to get to know your teammates personally can build trust and encourage a collaborative environment.
3. Lack of accountability
A major career killer is lack of accountability – including always passing the buck, avoiding confrontation and not understanding the responsibilities your position entails. While these examples may seem unrelated, you need to realize accountability comes in three forms:
Individual accountability: A properly trained employee knows what action to take, and yet they do the opposite.
Organizational accountability: At a superficial level, the employee may appear to be responsible, but if we look deeper, we find an underlying problem with a process in the larger organization.
Peer-to-peer accountability: This is the tough one, requiring peers to hold each other accountable. This can be difficult because at first, as it is not comfortable for two similarly situated employees to hold each other accountable.
Here are a few ideas on how you can individually promote accountability:
No excuses/no explanations: When something goes wrong on your watch, don’t try to assign blame. Stand up and accept responsibility. Apologize if necessary. Then, commit to action steps, which will prevent the issue from arising again. While uncomfortable at first, you will model behavior that others will emulate. You will gain respect for your honesty and transparency.
Ask questions: While it is the responsibility of company leadership to define clear expectations, let’s face it: this doesn’t always happen. You have the choice to work in a sea of uncertainty, or you can raise your hand and ask for clarification. Once the expectations are clear, it will be easier to be accountable because you know the standard against which you will be managed.
Promote accountability among team members: As indicated, this is difficult at first. Many team members have the notion of “You’re not my boss, you can’t tell me what to do.” To overcome this common, but misguided reaction, consider meeting informally with a few team members. Ask them two questions: 1) What am I doing well for our team? and 2) What can I improve about my performance as a member of our team? By doing this, you are showing leadership and vulnerability as well as a desire to grow. Hopefully you will have opened the door for others to ask the same questions and to begin to create a feedback-rich environment centered around peer-to-peer accountability.
Nothing will pull your career down like complacency, silos, and a lack of accountability. The more we are aware of how to attack these killers, the more we open ourselves up to career growth, job satisfaction and personal happiness.