Why are things the way they are? Because we allow and reinforce them

Why Are Things The Way They Are - People Development Network
Why Are Things The Way They Are - People Development Network


Is yours a civil, productive, engaging work environment? Or is it demeaning and frustrating for employees to live in?

However your organizational culture operates today, it’s not happenstance. It may not be intentional on your part, but it’s perfect.

“Perfect” not in the sense of it couldn’t be better but in the sense of it’s operating exactly as we should expect it to be. Why? Because how people behave has been – and is today- tolerated and reinforced by leaders, policies, and practices.

I learned about this “concept of perfection” from the executive coaching field. In coaching, the concept of perfection aims at helping a client understand that his or her behavior, decisions, and actions are logical, rational outcomes of their beliefs and thoughts. The situation he or she finds themselves in, right this minute, is driven by their behavior, decisions, and actions over time.

This is a cause and effect circumstance; the cause (the client’s beliefs and thoughts) lead directly to the effect (the client’s behavior, decisions, and actions). As a coach, you can easily see how the current behaviors and effects are entirely driven by the underlying cause. The results are “perfect.” You wouldn’t expect to see any different behaviors, decisions, or actions, given that client’s core beliefs and thoughts.

In my consulting work with senior leaders and executive teams across a variety of industries, the concept of perfection is a powerful tool to help leaders assess their organization’s culture. A company’s culture evolves over time based upon the beliefs and thoughts of it’s leaders (cause) which logically leads to consistent behavior, decisions, and actions demonstrated by members that live in that culture (effect).

Look around the organizational culture you live in. If you experience caring leaders who demonstrate respect and trust for their staff and who celebrate successes and wins along the way, then the underlying beliefs and thoughts are being played out in that culture. It is perfect!

On the other hand, if you experience leaders who take credit for others’ work, who pit employees against each other, and who rejoice in “catching people doing things wrong,” then the underlying beliefs and thoughts are being played out in that culture. It, too, is perfect!

If you experience “less than positive” behaviors, decisions, and actions in your organization’s culture, understand that people are acting exactly as you have asked them to act! You’ve tolerated bad behavior; you might even have rewarded it.

One company I observed had a very aggressive organizational culture. Senior leaders behaved badly with each other – even in full view of employees.

I learned of one recent exchange between two senior leaders in the middle of their offices. With forty employees working away in their cubicles, these two senior leaders yelled, screamed, and cussed at each other over a decision. It was a full blown, nose-to-nose meltdown. When I asked the CEO about the incident, he said, “I know. It’s not good. And, it happens all the time.” I asked what he’d done about it. He said, “I told them to stop.”

Yet the yelling and cussing continued. Telling them to stop has not caused them to stop. Therefore, the CEO is enabling and tolerating this bad behavior.

It won’t go away until he holds his senior leaders accountable for civil behavior in every interaction.

If you want more positive behaviors, decisions, and actions, you must change the underlying beliefs and thoughts of leaders in your organization. That’s a longer term discussion. In the short term, don’t tolerate anything but civil interactions.


How does the concept of perfection play out in YOUR organization (or community or family)? Share your thoughts on this powerful idea in the comments section below.

(Article is adapted from an April 27, 2010 post on Driving Results Through Culture.)

S Chris Edmonds
S. Chris Edmonds is a speaker, author, and executive consultant. He shares insights on organizational culture, servant leadership, employee engagement, and workplace inspiration. He writes books and articles and records podcasts. In his free time, he's a working musician with the Brian Raine band in Denver, CO.
S Chris Edmonds


I help leaders craft purposeful, positive, productive work cultures. Speaker, author, & executive consultant. Blogger & video-caster. @BrianRaineBand mate.
S Chris Edmonds