Spotlight on The Trustworthy Leader

Spotlight on The Trustworthy Leader

5 Tips to Define the Non-Negotiable for your Company Culture

Last week, I had the privilege of hearing Great Place to Work® co-founder, Amy Lyman, speak on her latest book, The Trustworthy Leader.  A story Amy shared in her seminar got me thinking about how trustworthy leaders create great company cultures. 

For better or worse, it is often the executive leaders who set the stage for a company’s culture, and it is by “walking the talk” that those cultural values become firmly established inside an organization.  One path that leaders can use to set those cultural values is to identify their “non-negotiable,” a principal for which compromise is simply never an option. 

In The Trustworthy Leader, Lyman illustrates such a non-negotiable through Sally Jewell, CEO of Seattle-based Recreational Equipment, Inc., better known as outdoor outfitters, REI.  Jewell’s non-negotiable is that all employees (including executives – senior leaders are employees too!)  say hello to each other as they pass in the hall regardless of what they are doing, whom they are speaking with, or even if they had just said hello while taking reverse paths to and from the kitchen.  This simple act reinforces the importance of every individual, creates a sense of inclusion, initiates and deepens personal relationships, and provides a myriad other immeasurable benefits for REI. 

Want to get started on building a non-negotiable for your company or team?  Here are five tips for how to get it right:

  1. Envision the sort of work environment you are trying to create.  Sally Jewell wanted an environment that felt friendly and connected.  Saying “hello” is merely the means to an end.
  2. Stay affirmative. Focus on the sort of behavior you want, not on the sort of behavior you don’t want.
  3. Aspire to be meaningful.  While you may want to make your non-negotiable, “no dirty dishes left in the sink,” this is not likely to be one that will drive a positive organizational culture.
  4. It’s okay to ask people to stretch. Jewell’s non-negotiable does not come easy for some, and that’s part of what makes the practice remarkable.
  5. Be willing to walk the talk.  Your non-negotiable cannot be something you are not committed to consistently living out day-after-day, and with some conviction! You need to model the positive outcome you hope to see for your workplace.

What would your non-negotiable be? And, what impact would you hope to see from it?