By Robb Lifferth | Posted - Aug 15th, 2020





Company Culture: It's Not Nice to be Nice

In the last five years, we have seen a growing trend of companies recognizing that solid company culture has a direct correlation to the top and bottom line of the company's balance sheet.  A bad company culture will at best stagger the health and growth of the company, and at worst can kill a company altogether. The Intermountain West has strong Judeo-Christian values centered around treating others with kindness. The importance of kindness is taught in most homes. The saying in our family is "Kindness Costs Nothing."

Misunderstanding True Kindness Leads to Poor Culture

While kindness is important, it's also very misunderstood. It's a false notion that being kind means you can't give people important feedback about poor performance.  In fact, in my 18+ years in HR, I've seen several companies allow leaders to avoid tough conversations with poor performing individuals, all in the name of kindness.  The irony is avoiding that conversation is one of the most unkind things a leader can do. By not holding individuals accountable, there's a terrible domino effect throughout the whole organization. The individual doesn't know they're failing. The high performers are demotivated because they see that low performance is tolerated. Also, high-performers have to pick up the slack from the poor performers, which leads to burn-out. Habitual poor performers see the hole and exploit the system. Lastly, the health of the company (strategic and financial) suffers, which can jeopardize the whole organization.  This is the formula for a culture of no accountability.

Everyone Wants to Win

It's human nature to want to win, and we all want to know how we can win. When a leader doesn't give feedback that a poor performer needs to correct their behavior, they're withholding critical information.  If you catch the faulty behavior early, confront it, and make the corrections so everyone can move forward.  However, when a leader wants to be "kind" by not having an uncomfortable conversation, the poor behavior goes unchecked.  Egos flare, rumors roll, and before long, the damage is beyond fixing. Termination is imminent.  The irony of ironies is it all started because a leader didn't want to hurt the poor performer's feelings, but the situation ends in that employee having their professional and personal life thrown in chaos. The blame sits solely at the feet of the leader, not the poor performer.

A Culture of Accountability

Creating a culture of accountability is not complicated.  If the leader can lay out clear goals, and tell their team where they are in reference to those goals on a regular basis, then human nature will win out. Humans want to win, we've been doing it from the beginning of time. When we know where the goalposts are, we'll throw for the touchdown. 

A culture of accountability requires consistent communication, goal setting, and most importantly, trust in your employees. Making small corrections when an employee gets off course is the kindest thing a leader can do. It builds their confidence, moves the company strategy forward, and creates the coveted culture of accountability. In the end, accountability is the best kind of kindness, because it results in the whole company winning together.

Robb Lifferth
About the Author

Robb Lifferth - Husband to Carlie, father to 4 amazing kids. Robb has worked in the Utah start-up world for nearly 20 years. Robb believes that by putting people first, the business world will be a better place. Robb is also the Co-Founder of TechBuzz.News as well as Co-Founder IsoTalent. Robb is passionate about advancing other people's careers and is constantly thinking about new ways to advance how we find talent in this world.



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