If you are old enough (obviously I am) to remember the 1992 campaign for President, you may recall the internal slogan that Bill Clinton’s campaign team rode to victory:
“It’s the economy, stupid.”
Coming out of a recession in the early 1990’s, and worried that their campaign was floundering, the team realized they needed to focus on the one issue that was hurting the country most at the time.
This old slogan popped into my head recently after a series of meetings with clients who are experiencing some struggle with their internal company culture. As I’ve stated many times, our clients’ problems aren’t just in the numbers. Sometimes, the numbers are affected by conditions that are not numerical at all, but rather, cultural. Business owners must confront the fact that all of our careful analysis, forecasting, and data-driven plans can be destroyed by that “wolf in the hen-house” – the problem employee, the small faction of manipulative gossipers, or the absence of discipline and work ethic among management and staff. When a situation like this arises, I can assure you, it is the number-one issue in your organization, and it must be fixed.
In other words, “It’s the culture, stupid.”
Business owners often don’t want to deal with these issues, particularly when they “seem” minor. We are too busy, too tired for nonsense, so we may choose to downplay the problem or to think that forcing a change will appear drastic or panicky. We tend to be slow to act, quick to justify the reasons for the misbehavior, and fearful of…
- Confrontation: “I just don’t want to deal with her; it’s exhausting and uncomfortable.”
- Hypocrisy: “If I discipline this group of employees for their unacceptable habits, I’m prone to criticism for having done some of the same things before.”
- Replacement: “But he’s so talented…where can I find someone else who can do this work? I’ll just deal with the attitude.”
These things look like risk, but they are pale risks when compared to the devastation that awaits if you allow a cultural problem to fester. In Part II of this series later this month, we’ll look at how to create, reinforce, and nurture a positive company culture.