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FIVE COMMITMENTS FOR CONSTRUCTIVE CULTURES

By Fr. Robert Spitzer, from the Spirit of Leadership
 
I have identified five commitments made to individuals within a constructive culture that can transform teams almost immediately into high performance, highly communicative, synergistic, quality-driven unities of trust and work.  With this optimism, I commit that…
 
1.  I will look for contribution to you and to our common cause before I make any comparisons.  This commitment is the foundation an attitude of mutual concern.  Recall that Happiness Level 2 (ex. winning, getting ahead, and personal achievement) becomes compulsive when it is thought to be the only or primary thing that can bring happiness or meaning in life.  This can affect one’s every action, attitude, and relationship within an organization.
 
Conversely, committing to look for other’s contributions can reduce ego based resentments, thereby opening the way to trust. This commitment can cause a rapid decrease in the five cultural debilitators (fear, anger, suspicion, passive aggression, and compulsive ego).
 
2.   I will look for the good news in you even if I should see the bad news.  This commitment is a pledge to avoid associating others with their mistakes and failings.  When we look for the bad news in others and see it, we can become irritated, impatient, judgmental and inclined to associate these others with their mistakes.
 
When people notice that we are looking for the bad news or what they are doing wrong, they will respond with defensiveness.  This means that most energy will be spent on devising techniques and responses to prevent blame instead of getting a task done.  People become indecisive.  They need to "check everything with the boss."  Creativity reaches an all-time low, and paranoia   replaces openness to change.  In short, people are unable to take risks and are even closed to thinking about taking risks.
 
These negative consequences can be avoided by a simple shift in attitude to seek the good news in a person before making a judgment, to focus on her strengths, her goodwill, her personal qualities and ideals, her whole personhood before allowing myself to be filled with unnecessary impatience in seeing the bad news.
 
3.  I will connect with you as a whole person before looking at your skill set and utility function.  It is easy to focus on a person's skill set or job functions.  We look at these skill sets and competencies when we hire people, make evaluations, and put people on teams.  These things also often receive praise from others.
 
Unfortunately, it is easy to overlook the personhood of a colleague or co-worker because of the emphasis we put on skill sets or what they can produce. When we do this, people silently resent it.  This resentment leads to uneasiness, then to passive aggression, and eventually to bad will.
 
Respecting one's personhood includes valuing the others' innate goodness, their life outside the organization, their ability to be team players, and the goodwill and enthusiasm they offer to their colleagues and co-workers.  By attending to these intangible elements of persons, I connect with them as whole human beings.  Connection builds trust, respect and meaningful workplaces.  It makes one feel valued who they are as much as for what they do.
 
4.  I will look for the "win-win" before settling for the "win-lose." A "win-win" atmosphere decreases the five debilitators (fear, anger, suspicion, passive aggression, and compulsive ego) by creating an atmosphere of equity and contribution.  
 
If one stakeholder gets the impression that another is winning at his expense (“win-lose”), he will believe that an injustice has been committed.  This sense of injustice often  leads to passive aggression, and frequently to outright aggression. 
 
One way to look at this fourth commitment to make the best out of imperfect situations by creating “win-win” scenarios as much as possible.  For example, suppose that you and I belong to distinct groups of stakeholders.  You are a manager and I am an employee.  Since a "win" for one stakeholder can become a "win" for all stakeholders over time, look for wins for employees that will become a win(s) for managers, customers, and suppliers.
 
5.  I will trust you until you give me ample reason to do otherwise, and will 'cut you plenty of slack' because realize that, like me, you are not perfect.  This commitment is the culmination of the first four commitments.  If both parties make the first four commitments to one another, they are declaring themselves to be trustworthy. This movement from threat to trustworthiness allows people to take risks for common cause.
 
However, if commitment to trust is to take hold, it cannot be based on a standard of perfection.  People will make mistakes.  They will succumb to pressure, egoism, and fear.  They will be tired, stressed, and experience bad moods.  So, we must be realistic with others while we seek to do our collective best.
 
These five personal commitments are good business.  Why?  Because they are good in themselves - good for colleagues and employees, and good for their families. They give rise to a culture filled with hope, fun, spirit, energy, and creativity.  They open the way to growth, change, adaptability, and synergies with customers, suppliers, and community.