Rid your Company of its Shame Culture
How tackling this hidden emotion may improve productivity and innovation.
If a shame culture exists in your company, it’s likely coming from the top.
A bold statement? Yes. And a true one. For we model what we see, isn’t that the saying? If your business is lacking in creativity and innovation, might the trouble be shame and not a lack of expertise, effort, hard work?
Business owners often carry with them the shame of some previous failure in business or life that perhaps unbeknownst to them is impeding their ability to make sound decisions, undermining their self-esteem and confidence, and stifling the measured risk-taking that must occur within a business for it to grow and prosper.
Brené Brown, author of “Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead” says that shame “crushes our tolerance for vulnerability, thereby killing engagement, innovation, creativity, productivity and trust”.
This killer of self-esteem can show up in the workplace in several ways. How can you determine if shame is holding your business back? Some indicators include:
1. Staying Silent – A reluctance to speak up about your thoughts and ideas because you feel they hold little value or a reluctance to share them with your team for fear of ridicule or mirth can be an indicator of shame.
The overwhelming instinct is to avoid exposure and risk, to stay safe. This stifles creativity and productivity in a growing business where the ethos really should be that no idea is a bad one.
2. Not Celebrating the Wins – Shame can stop the desire to acknowledge success because it feels undeserved or temporary. The burden of previous failures promotes the belief that no matter how much one accomplishes it’s just a matter of time till it all comes crashing down. So, the thinking is to keep pushing and doing more, because it’s never enough.
Celebrating wins, no matter how small, encourages engagement within a company and without this a culture of complacency and coasting will exist, which in turn will ensure your efforts are never enough.
3. Micro-management – Trust comes with confidence. A shame culture emanating from the top will lead to constant micro-management as teams aren’t trusted not to fail and are believed to need constant guidance. But surely, you need to fail often and fail forward because that is the route to success.
The best people do not like to be micro-managed. Studies have shown that one of the main reasons for attrition in a workforce is micro-management.
4. Blame over Solutions – In situations where more time is spent on the blame game than on finding solutions to challenges, an underlying factor could be shame. The need to externalise the failure and point at it is instinctive and is about self-preservation. “Oh no, not again. I can’t fail again!”.
What you get is a business repeating the cycle and staying stuck.
You can rid your organisation of a culture of shame by adopting this 3-step process.
1. Awareness – One of the tenets of emotional intelligence and excellent leadership is raising awareness, of self and others. By promoting a questioning culture, not for the sake of asking questions but to get to the root of an issue, you are able to build a culture that firstly respects the thoughts and opinions of others, second gives permission to be vulnerable and transparent in a safe space, and finally encourages open communication.
2. Forgiveness – I am often asked what one piece of advice I would give entrepreneurs and I always answer the same way – Forgive yourself. Sure, you messed up, you could have done better. Now forgive yourself and move forward.
Promoting forgiveness in the workplace will ensure that problems are tackled quickly before they become critical and energy is expended properly rather than spent looking back.
1. Encouragement and Reward – Open communication, idea generation, innovation and creativity, measured risk-taking, leadership, are all positive behaviours and should be encouraged and rewarded. What starts off as little ideas and suggestions will usually snowball into awesomeness if drawn out and nurtured.
What are some of the struggles you face? How have you dealt with them and what are some of the strategies you’ve applied? Share them below in the comments.
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Till then, live your purpose with passion and align your vision with strategy
Uzo Ijewere is a Business and Mindset Coach. She works with and supports female entrepreneurs to align their vision with a strategy to achieve intentional, and intelligent, results.
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