Many of us have been on a long-haul flight overseas for a holiday or business trip, passing non-stop, from one side of the planet to the other.

For some of us, this will conjure up memories of arriving jet-lagged.

We reach our hotel room, close the door, and put out the “Do Not Disturb” sign.

These signs are not just the domain of hotel rooms.

The “Do Not Disturb” sign features across organisations where a healthy culture is in jeopardy.

In the absence of a highly attuned leader, individuals and entire work teams can be operating in a comfort zone behind the “Do Not Disturb” sign.

Even more disturbingly, whole organizations can be napping behind the sign.

What are the indicators of a “Do Not Disturb” culture?

The Oxford Dictionary defines disturb as:

  1. “Interfere with the normal arrangement or functioning of”

(evidenced by a culture of “this is how we do things around here”)

  1. “Interrupt the sleep, relaxation, or privacy of”

(evidenced by closed sessions, closed doors and closed minds)

  1. “Make (someone) anxious”

(evidenced by a comfort zone and low productivity)

Inaccessible Leaders

Is it feasible that a leader with an overt “open-door” policy might have a covert, and more potent “Do Not Disturb” attitude?

It’s possible.

Is such a leader aware they are putting out a mixed message?

Not always.

In my previous post, Uncomfortable Leadership I wrote about the discomfort of being a leader.

Effective leaders won’t hide behind the “Do Not Disturb” sign, even when they are feeling high levels of discomfort.

We know that leading effectively is all about engagement and connection. When we engage and connect, we disrupt the development of a “Do Not Disturb” culture.

Leaders across all levels of the organisation are expected to function with a high level of self-awareness and emotional intelligence. We are getting there.

Simon Sinek, author of “Start With Why” wrote in his more recent book: Leaders Eat Last: “Leadership is not a license to do less; it is a responsibility to do more…leadership takes work. It takes time and energy…leadership is always a commitment to human beings.”

Leaders lead people and culture.

Leaders | People | Culture – These three elements are inseparable.

When the leader’s door is open, but their domain is impenetrable, the culture adjusts itself accordingly.

Leaders who give conflicting messages about their accessibility should not be surprised to see the “Do Not Disturb” signs going up all over their organisations.

We now know that cultures are more organism than construct. They develop, grow and morph in response to the hidden agenda and sub-texts flowing across the organisation.

Work cultures are the culmination of the spoken and unspoken, written and unwritten, heard and unheard, felt and unfelt experiences of the people engaged in that organisation.

Disrupt | Disturb | Wake the Sleepers

  • Engage | Connect
  • Listen | Learn
  • Influence | Empathize
  • Challenge | Hold accountable
  • Value | Trust
  • Empower | Support
  • Be generous | Be aware
  • Mentor | Coach