What Culture Are You Creating?

At the end of the day....integrity is all you've got.

We spend so much time discussing the best way to set up our businesses.  What platform, what website, what apps should we use?  What products or services should we provide?  Who the heck are our ideal clients and how best can we reach them?  What price tag can we put on the value of everything we're creating?

These are all necessary conversations.  Good conversations to have.

But there's one question that's missing.  Maybe it's missing because we assume that everyone else will operate with the same integrity we do.  That they'll bring the same high standards, ethics and good intentions that we bring.

Until they don't.

I had multiple conversations this week with colleagues who, like me, were disappointed, let down, heartbroken over the lack of integrity that a mutual friend and colleague had shown.

We vented and shared our disillusionment.  Sympathized.  Consoled one another.  Expressed anger and all the things that friends do when they get together and support one another. 

But we also discussed what "could" have made it better.  How we all desperately wanted this friend to be redeemed in our eyes.  Well, I did at least.

I mean let's face it.  Shit happens.  Things don't go according to plan.  You will drop the ball in business.  You will fuck it up.  You will sometimes feel sick to your stomach with how badly you've screwed this thing up.  That's okay, it means you care.  I've been there.  I've felt the waves of nausea and the tight knot in my stomach.  Rehearsed the apology endlessly in my head.

Here's what makes it better.  Here's the only way I know how to screw up and walk away with your integrity intact.

1. Own It

Don't pass the buck, blame anyone else or "circumstances beyond your control".  Yeah, cliches aren't going to help you here.  And even if you genuinely couldn't control it - it doesn't matter.  What matters is you didn't deliver and I feel let down.  So accept responsibility as CEO - the buck stops with you.

2. Acknowledge My Feelings

Show me you care and can empathise with my position.  Make me feel seen, heard & understood.  That's going to go a long way towards diffusing my anger.

3. Apologise

No blanket, generalise, vague "I'm sorry's" - be specific.  And no sneaky sorry-not-sorry apologies that don't actually take any responsibility like, "I'm sorry you feel that way".  We see through you and that's not going to cut it if you want to restore your integrity.

4. Tell Me How You're Going To Make It Up To Me

There are lots of ways to get creative with this one.  For me, it isn't just about the dollar value.  But the spirit of what was offered.  And of course, it has to be something I want not just something that's easy and convenient for you to deliver.  Also, future discounts aren't the best option here because I don't trust you to deliver...right now.  That needs to be earned back.

Never pretend it didn't happen.  Even though your ego will desperately convince you that hiding and keeping quiet and perhaps and an extended vacation in Antarctica might be in order.

Silence is deadly in this case.

People will fill in the blanks with their own assumptions about you...and your integrity.   And they'll discuss amongst themselves how they feel let down, left behind or long forgotten.  The anger will bubble, the disillusionment grow and the relationships will be beyond repair.

All of this also showed me there's a conversation missing.  Along with what time-tracking app and what social media scheduling tool and what pricing strategy and what business model is best.

We also need to discuss what kind of culture we want to create.

Not just our philosophies and mission statements, which are all well and good, necessary guiding lights but really get conscious about the culture we want to create in our companies.

What does it look like?  What does it feel like?  What does it sound like?  When everything is going well and even more importantly...when everything goes wrong?

How do you live out your values in every interaction, every inch of your brand? Let's start talking about in the comments.