Is Your Corporate Culture a Halloween Nightmare?
Since moving to the United States, I have been continually amazed at how much Halloween is embraced here. By late September, shops retool (as if by magic), selling costumes and accessories galore. The neighborhood is strewn with festive lights and decorations, graveyard scenes and cackling skeletons; spooky cobwebs adorn people's doors. And carved-pumpkin displays appear, more ornate and intricate by the year, replacing the simple Jack-o’-lanterns I remember carrying on a stick as a child.
It's one of those holidays that you either embrace or don't. Either way, it's the one night of the year when ghosts, goblins and all things spooky rise up to scare the neighborhood. On October 31, doorbells ring as communities come alive with trick-or-treat antics . . . hopefully more treats than tricks! The costumes, homemade and store-purchased, seem to get more and more elaborate, as does the size of the bag for collecting the candy!
All of these customs may feel new but can, in fact, be traced back hundreds of years. Halloween is a night of mischievousness, followed by All Saints Day, a day of peace and reflection, an antidote to all things creepy that occurred the night before.
But that's what's happening in your personal life. Your work life? That may be something else again, a Halloween nightmare that never stops.
Is your corporate culture a Halloween nightmare?
Company culture can be summed up as “how business gets done.” Without care and attention, a healthy culture becomes toxic, a "Halloween nightmare" that lasts more than just one night a year. In our own leadership development training work with clients around the world, we see three obvious opportunities to move a corporate culture forward and make sure that it won't get stuck in that dark night of ghosts and goblins . . .
1. Remove the Halloween mask.
Organizational values are a great tool. However, a motivational poster is not the way to go. If you want a corporate culture built on trust, candor and teamwork, your actions need to demonstrate this. If your employees feel the need to wear a "mask" or costume to fit in and be successful, then things need to change. That needed change starts at the highest level of the organization, where the leader actually role-models his or her expectations, rather than employing a memo or poster.
2. Throw out the horror stories.
Do your employees tell spooky tales about your company and the "villains" (read: CEOs) past and present, who have hovered over all? Following a new-hire orientation, do your veteran employees tell the new staff "how things really get done around here”? Stories are a powerful way to change a corporate culture. So, look for the opportunities to reinforce and share new good-news stories -- tales that celebrate the successes and behaviors desired, rather than the toxic horror stories that may have been.
3. Hand out treats.
Make sure that your reward processes (whether in the form of monetary rewards, promotions or trophies and symbols) recognize the “treats” you want reinforced, not the “tricks” that keep you stuck.
Make sure you are not building or maintaining a Halloween nightmare. Remove the masks, change the stories and reward the behaviors that will stand the test of time.
And to all those little ghouls and goblins at home, have a fun Halloween!
Related: 10 Ways to Build a Winning Culture