Culture Quote of the Week

“We rise by lifting others.” – Robert Ingersoll

Our culture today can seem very self-oriented, with people doing what benefits themselves, but not society at large. At work, if we see leadership doing only things that benefit the highest parts of the organizational chart, it can cause a toxic culture. When companies have beautiful mission and vision statements and commendable values plastered on their walls and corporate literature, it rings hollow to good employees watching selfish jerks get promoted over and over. What is leadership doing for ALL the employees? How is onboarding handled? Is there appropriate recognition for accomplishments at all levels?

Companies need to set behavioral norms that match their values, and ensure those behaviors are the criteria for promoting and recognizing employees. If profits or mission results are the only goal, a culture of “the ends justify the means” can take over. This was the case when Wells Fargo employees were under extreme sales pressure for opening new accounts. To achieve unrealistic new account goals set for them by management, they resorted to opening fake accounts fraudulently. The scandal involved employees creating 1.5 million deposit accounts and over 500,000 credit cards all in customers’ names, but without their permission. Wells Fargo testified to congress the problem was created by a few bad employees, but the evidence showed these practices were rampant and rewarded. Over 5,300 employees and the CEO were fired for being involved in the scandal, and Wells Fargo paid over $185 million in fines and $142 million to affected customers. Read more about it here.

So, how should companies “rise by lifting others?” Leadership guru Simon Sinek suggests we should all be focused on The Infinite Game where the goal isn’t winning in the short term, but keeping the game in play. In his most recent book, he describes how leaders with true vision stay focused on the real goal, ignoring the daily ups and downs of profits to ensure true long-term success for their companies. The five elements necessary for playing the infinite game are a just cause, courageous leadership, trusting teams, a worthy rival, and a flexible playbook. Read a short summary here, or buy the book and read it.

To summarize here, if leadership of a company treats employees well, it engenders engagement and loyalty among the employees. The employees turn to customers and treat them well, engendering loyalty, positive word-of-mouth advertising, and return business – thereby lifting all. It seems so simple, but – in our society – rare.

What do you think? Comment below.

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