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I have to talk about this topic, and raise my voice for all those who work in a toxic environment, where one individual in a role can (sometimes a senior role) act like a jerk, a twat, a donkey (no offence to donkeys!) and sets the atmosphere, culture within the organisation or team.

If that is you, STOP! If that is you, YOU CAN CHANGE! People leave, people get tired, people withdraw their talent, their greatest gift, and will just do enough of their job because the rest of their energy is spent on surviving in the toxic environment that you have created. You will then control more, put more processes in place to monitor; exhausting! This approach will cost you more and block productivity in the long run of your tenure.

I know you think that you are doing the right thing, after all, you get results. Yet, you spend volumes of money on recruitment that is as large as the Grand Canyon. You will then performance manage people until they look and form small subcultures for survival. STOP! Let me be the voice you need to hear.

Lead people, manage processes and control data. There, I have said it for you so that you clearly understand. Do not control people, lead processes and manage data. STOP!

I have worked in many industries with people who are committed, resilient, loyal, work hard, work smart, produce results. Yet, something happens to them when they are placed near, under, reporting to a toxic leader. They withdraw. There comes a time when people begin to wander away and drift to find a safe place, to manage the toxic environment that they find themselves in. This may be outside of work, or even forming subgroups to prop each other up. Have you ever considered the enormous amount of energy that your people use to avoid and survive the toxicity that could have been spent on being productive? Wow, what a question for you to ponder! The amount of time thought and actions to stay resilient in the environment should mobilise talent rather than drain it.

How do you change? I hear you think. Here is what you need to do: Be vulnerable and candid with yourself. Admit that you are showing behaviours that are toxic. Manipulation, domination, intimidation and isolation are all forms of behaviours of toxicity. The first step is for you to acknowledge that you are responsible for this toxic behaviour. You! It is ok to say that and then to fully own it. Once you have done this, with courage and vulnerability you can move onto the next step.

Create a meeting with people who will be honest with you, and then listen to them. That is the second step. Ask your direct reports, front line staff to provide their candid view. Remember you have been honest with yourself, allow people to be honest with you. Listen to them, do not speak. Listen to them with your eyes, your body, your ears. Listen! Say “Thank You” to each person who volunteers their voice, after all it will take a lot of courage for them to do it. After the meeting, and in the subsequent next few days, call or stop by each person who attended the meeting and thank them personally for their voice and attendance.

Now that you have shown evidence of listening, which will utterly surprise your team, invite the same group for their ideas to improve the culture. They will know the solutions better than you, as they have the talent and all they needed was the space to be themselves in order to “make things happen” Let them speak, invite them for solutions. Use the FiveTime Cycle™. Let me explain:

  • Clay Time – Any idea goes. This stage enables people to come up with as many solutions as possible, even if it seems “out there”.
  • Play Time – Discuss the ideas that can be used at a later date.
  • Stay Time – Critic the solution and discuss what are the weakness in the solutions
  • Display Time – Run a pilot of the solution with a small group
  • Replay Time – Role it out to the entire organization and evaluate once every 4 months.

Schedule time with your direct reports and discuss how you use your appraisals and one-to-ones to motivate, and empower people. This will be a different approach to the previous methodology of using appraisals as a source of control and copy and paste exercise.

Seek out a Leadership Coach who can act as an anchor for you as you sustain this new way of containing toxicity within your own leadership and the organisation/team you are responsible for.
Do the top five and you will be well on the way to establishing a culture that releases talent, creates belonging and gets objectives/goals delivered on time with excellence

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