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3 Mistakes Leaders Make That Destroy Company Culture

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What You Need to Know

  • Advisory firm leaders can hurt the firm's culture by focusing only on the future.
  • True leaders celebrate accomplishments, which reduces stress for them and staff.
  • Many problems are due to communication issues, not the need for more people or things.

Because they are professional services businesses, advisory firms are created and developed through the personalities of their individual leaders. Within the walls of a firm, that means that how you build your company culture becomes paramount to your ability to grow and succeed.

When trying to build a productive and efficient culture, how leaders think is critical to creating the company cultures they desire. In my two decades of consulting with advisors, I have found three critical mistakes in thinking that repeat themselves.

When a leader makes any of these mistakes, they harm their culture and restrict their firm’s ability to grow. Most of the mistakes in developing cultures are subtle and are related to how a leader thinks about their own success, their own firm and then ultimately leads to interacting with their teams.

Here are the mistakes and how to get past them:

1. Living in the Future

Although many leaders naturally have visionary skills, too many think that allows them to see what the future will hold, feel they can control it, or both.

This is even more problematic in advisor leaders who are natural planners. They are constantly looking at goals and numbers to see the future for their clients. It’s part of the job.

When you constantly focus on the future, however, you lose perspective on what’s happening today in your own firm. It also takes time away from building your culture.

While visionary skill is a great ability, the best advisor leaders know how to apply it and when to pull it back. Knowing what’s happening around you now helps you understand what the future will hold.

2. Never Having Enough

When focusing only on the future, you never have enough. That attitude creates a high-stress environment, because leaders who constantly think about more will never have enough of what they need to make things happen today.

As a result, they are stuck in a constant state of high stress, which creates burnout, anxiety and other mental health issues. Few people can live in a high-stress culture all the time.

To fix this, step back and appreciate how far you’ve come and where you are today. Celebrating your accomplishments fuels more success. Doing so helps you think more clearly about where to take things next. 

3. Fixing Communication Problems With Nouns

When leaders see something going wrong around them, they naturally want to fix it — and fix it quickly.

Almost all problems in leadership stem from communication problems. To fix these problems, the best leaders encourage their team. The more amateur leaders add a person or a thing. This manifests itself in hiring, adding more technology, etc.

When you try to fix communication problems using nouns, you run into more complicated problems. You cannot simply commit more people and stuff to a problem in the hope it will be solved.

Instead, the best leaders often use their ability to be grateful for what they have right now, the ability to tell their team “thank you” for their contributions and the ability to show up and acknowledge the hard work done.

Encouraging your team for what they already have done gives them a clear signal that you support them. Doing so does not always feel like you are making progress when you take time to step back and use verbs. But helping your team be seen for what they have accomplished is the first step on the path to higher growth.

Once you learn to celebrate the success of what you’ve already done, you will think more clearly. While we often see leaders who want to do more as you grow, doing more means having people you can trust. To obtain those people, encourage yourself and them to be the best, which is the best place to start.