How to Survive – and Thrive – in a Crappy Culture

Everywhere you turn, you hear about the great cultures at Apple and Zappos and other organizations on those endless “best places to work” lists — and you’re urged to do what they do.

But what about organizational cultures that are irreparably poor? How are leaders supposed to function? A recent blog from Dan McCarthy, a former exec at Paychex and Eastman Kodak, addressed this common reality head-on.

“It’s easy to be a great leader in a company that values leadership, develops leaders, and is full of role model leaders to learn from,” he writes. “What about the rest of us? What about those aspiring wannabe leaders [who] happen to work at one of the other organizations that don’t make the leadership honor roll? Is it impossible to develop into a great leader, and to be a leader, in a bad organization with a crappy culture?”

His answer is no. He offers various tips to managers who find themselves in this situation, including:

1. Clarify your non-negotiable leadership principles and stick by them, no matter what. “In a tough economy, [it’s possible that you] just can’t afford to leave (at least for now),” McCarthy notes. “If you’re in a situation like this, you have to ask yourself, ‘How much are you willing to sacrifice when it comes to your leadership principles and values?’ …If you haven’t already, take the time to develop your own list of leadership principles, values, or rules. Then, given your current culture, ask yourself, ‘Which ones am I willing to be fired over?’”

2. Establish and maintain your own standards of performance and behavior. “Sure, the company may have set the bar so low that any warm body can meet expectations. High performers can give up and poor performers can settle in. That doesn’t mean your standards can’t be higher — much higher. Assess your team using a performance and potential grid and put a plan in place to develop those with potential and gradually weed out the bad apples.”

3.  “Be the change you want to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi When it comes to developing and encouraging leadership, actions speak louder than words. Be a safe haven for other aspiring leaders to come out of the closet. In a crappy leadership culture, role model leaders are few and far between. If you’re being a leader, people will be lining up at your door looking for advice, coaching, and mentoring.


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I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright
"While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
— Ken

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