Destroying Culture

The Top Mistakes Leaders Make That Are Destroying Company Culture

Don’t Invest in Another Training Program Until You Read This 

By Dorothy Zevenbergen – Cultivate Consulting

Working in Corporate America for 10 years, I experienced a lot of well-meaning peers who — proverbially — used a hammer (a go-to,  one-size-fits-all solution)  because every problem, to them, looked like a nail. A quick example of how this scenario may play  out in any number of  companies or  corporations  today can be seen  clearly when a team loses a series of good managers, due to said managers being on  the “fast track.” : 

I worked with a particular team that went through 12 managers in 9 years, not because the team was bad, but because each manager was on the “fast track” and was out to prove their worth to upper leadership. This situation — a common one in larger companies — creates a toxicity in communication between the team and the manager. The result of this mixed-focus (my career vs. the team’s success) was reduced productivity, increased distrust between management and team members, and devastated team morale. 

If you talk to a professional trainer about this situation, understand that the “hammer” he or she is accustomed to using, is more  — or proper —  training. If you talk to a coach about your lowered morale and productivity, they will see — and perhaps convincingly display– the need for their chosen “hammer,” which would be coaching.  If you speak with someone in power (maybe the President of the company), his “hammer” may be one that consists of executive penalty, workforce reduction, or even strategic use of bonuses, promotions, etc.   My point is simple:  when you have a PREFERRED solution (ie. training, coaching or power-based solutions) it is very easy to see every corporate issue through the lens of your particular hammer, leading to generic, one-size-fits-all application… and very minimal, often temporary results. 

Communication issues often fall into this category, largely because they can show up as production problems, bad employee reviews, management/employee conflicts, leadership/management/conflict, and/ or team morale issues.   When you bang on every problem with the same tired hammer — regardless of the hammer of choice — your organization feels worse for the wear.  This is why I recommend beginning with a  shovel,  which is a much more effective tool to uncover the root cause of any issue. Only after effective diagnosis can we effectively prescribe an actionable path to effective, meaningful, and consistent improvement. 

At Cultivate Consulting I bring a nuanced approach to every organization I  serve, designed to — first and critically important — accurately identify the problem (and its cause) and then to provide a full toolbox of possible solutions to help you create a robust culture within your company.  This not only “fixes” red flags but allows you to identify them early when the flag is still yellow and before it becomes burning red. 

Before buying yet another program designed to fix ANY issue in your organization, consider the following mistakes to avoid:

Mistake #1: Do not lump all culture, communication, onboarding, and other “problems” into one bucket before seeking a solution. 

Every organization, department, situation, and leader is different.  Every problem has multiple facets (including multiple hidden opportunities) and demands a nuanced approach to solving. I work with my clients to sift through the dirt to separate the weeds from the seeds, the debris from the loam.  You must identify the things that are working well in your organization or team and those that are not.  You must clearly delineate them so that your solution can both leverage strengths AND mediate challenges.  

Mistake #2: Do not assume everyone is on board with YOUR goals or your plans to reach them

One of the biggest mistakes a leader can make is creating a plan for his team, but not being clear and concise about why and how it is to be achieved and lacking confidence that it will be carried out.  Never make the assumption that your team will just carry out your plan without question or deviation.  

Everyone receives information differently and filters it through their own framework. This is why creating a communication framework is essential to align a team’s efforts behind a clear goal.  I work with my clients to create a framework that is more than a PDF that circulates throughout the office. It becomes a living breathing document, a communication tool that is concise brings clarity and confidence to you and your team to reach the goal.

Mistake #3 Be careful not to break something that is not broken

Leaders of organizations sometimes feel the need to implement the latest and greatest ideas for how to better their organization in 5 easy steps. I absolutely love the enthusiasm of leaders who tell me about the newest way to FIX their communication, culture,  productivity, or engagement problem, because  I can see and feel their heart for leadership.  HOWEVER, when you do this too often, even when You do it with the intention of improvement,  it CAN be perceived as the “flavor of the month” and resented — rather than embraced — by your employees.

I work with organizations to evaluate what is working and what is not and never advocate rototilling it all under and starting over when there is a problem in communication. 

Using the right tools to uncover and sift through the root cause of your organization’s cultural and communication challenges  — and opportunities —  takes a trained eye and a willingness to consider more than 5 easy steps, a PDF file circulating with a plan, or any one-system-fits-all solutions.

For over a decade, I  have been developing leaders using a proprietary and nuanced servant leadership model that cultivates a container for growth, the capacity to strengthen skills, and the competence to lead the future workforce.

A graduate of Gonzaga University, my career marries education, experience, and passion for the critical role of clear and effective communication within an organization. With an eye for growth and a heart for service, I offer creative and applicable strategies for business development and personal growth.

If you are needing new tools to cultivate the life you want to lead and the communication skills to get there contact me today. I have a free consultation to create an individualized plan for your specific needs. Contact me today at


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