How leaders create great work environments

great work environments

As a facilitator of a Service Excellence Workshop, I recently suggested to a group that great leadership is the key to creating a great culture in an organization, team, or department. This means staff members are friendly, productive, proactive, and warm. In the same note I explained that if there’s a culture that is hostile (where employees are constantly angry, agitated and openly mistreat customers), it could also be a result of poor leadership.

A participant was puzzled by my position and asked: “Well, who creates culture?” They expressed fervent belief that employees are responsible for poor organizational culture. I quickly replied, “Leadership creates culture.”

How leaders create great cultures

You have to think about it. Great work environments are not something that happens by accident. This takes a lot of effort on the part the leader. The leader should model the characteristics of a service professional in a great workplace. They must be competent, courteous, responsive, consistent, uncompromising, and reliable.

Leaders will greet employees in the hall or at the office with a smile and a greeting when they see them. They take the time to acknowledge an employee who does something extraordinary. Effective leaders will recognize when employees don’t perform up to expectations and coach, counsel, or provide retraining to improve performance.

Leaders are trained to address unacceptable behavior in a work environment. A leader’s ability create a great environment at work is key to creating a culture.

How poor cultures are created

It takes a lot of effort to create negative work environments. The leader is too busy with reports, budgets and projects. It makes it difficult to see the human factor, customers and employees. It is common for “things” to become more important than “people”. Employee arrogance is often overlooked and accepted.

Leaders who are unhappy with their work environment pass employees by in the corridor, without making eye contact or acknowledging them. Because the leader believes it is part and parcel of his job, an employee who does something extraordinary will not be recognized. The leader will call a meeting to address unacceptable behavior with the whole department, rather than having an individual counseling session with the employee.

In the end, even highly-performing employees can become disillusioned in a negative workplace and cease excelling. They feel it doesn’t matter that there are no consequences for excellent or mediocre job performance.

What Work Environment are You Fostering?

Do you model the behaviors and actions that create a positive work culture? Are you too busy to take a look at what’s happening in your department or team? My firm belief is that employees don’t go to work to make customers or coworkers miserable. However, if they aren’t held accountable for their actions, this is what happens.

Tips to Positively Change the Culture

You have probably realized that your team has not placed enough importance on creating a great environment. But don’t despair! These are some tips to get your team moving in the right direction.


  • Take a look at yourself and your team to identify any gaps or blind spots in creating a positive environment for work and fostering a great culture
  • Develop a plan of improvement to make simple, incremental improvements
  • Get involved and empower your team to help you tweak and implement the plan of action
  • Be a role-model for the culture that you want your team to emulate
  • Make the new culture a sustainable work environment, not just a program for the month
  • Don’t compromise – and
  • There is no excuse to be substandard. Recognize when a member of your team is falling behind and work immediately with them to improve performance.


Leaders are the ones who create the culture within the organization, department, or team. Send me an email if you need additional guidance or assistance with developing or refining your team’s culture. It will be a pleasure to assist you!