Many folks have a view of the Ten Commandments as nothing more than a laundry list of things you shouldn’t do because God will be mad at you. Oh…and I think there is some smiting in there too. I have a little different view of them. If you set aside the religious implications most people struggle looking past, they are some great suggestions for living in harmony with one’s self, those around them and to have an overall healthy environment.

Organizational culture has a similar set of commandments that aren’t excuses for punitive action, but rather a set of suggestions that will help create harmony and a healthy atmosphere within your organization. No divine punishment if you ignore them, just the punishment you create for yourself  if you choose to ignore them.

Listen without interrupting

So many times we act like we’re listening, and in one sense we are. We’re listening for that ever elusive breath the other person takes so we have the opportunity to slather them with our opinion. Often times it isn’t in response to what is being said, but just so we can be heard. Listen. Your culture depends on it.

Discuss without accusing

Many times we have differences of opinions or things don’t go perfectly. Sure someone may be at fault, but unless it’s absolutely necessary (or you’re absolutely sure), what point does accusing someone make? If there is a consistent issue with lack of ownership, you can address that privately and respectfully. No sense in making finger-pointing a part of your culture. It rarely accomplishes anything except contempt and division.

Give without sparing

One of the biggest misconceptions about giving is that people will take advantage of you. Sure, some will but the majority will be grateful for your generosity and respect you for it. Netflix offers unlimited paid vacations. Yes, I said “paid”. There are about 1% of companies who are doing this now. For those who have transitioned to this have only seen 2%-3% increase in vacation time taken.

Reflect without stopping

Of course this doesn’t imply you should constantly be in a reflective state. It does mean that you should do it regularly. It’s so easy to become task driven that we lose almost any and all sense of awareness of ourselves or those around us. Don’t just know what is happening, consider why it could be happening as well. Ask questions and refer to commandment #1.

Answer without arguing

It’s going to happen sooner or later that there is a significant gap between your opinion and that of a colleague, boss or ancillary. Arguing is more about proving the rightness of your perspective than trying to find what is right for the situation…objectively. If you think arguing is effective, you should watch more sessions of the U.S. Congress.

Share without pretending

In a word…authenticity. Share things with others without pretenses or hidden agendas. Share your ideas. Share your concerns. Share your appreciation. Share your passion. Share your enthusiasm. There is something magical about the vulnerability of sharing. Keep in mind the awkwardness of over-sharing. No one cares about how gassy your dog can be.

Enjoy without complaint

Will there be things you absolutely don’t like? Count on it. Why is it we think it’s more appropriate to capitalize on the negative than the positive? Celebrating the positive isn’t some naive Pollyanna view of the world. It’s purposefully choosing what you magnify in your environment. We all have a responsibility to the culture we want and to the others who share it.

Trust without wavering

People will disappoint you. Stop expecting the opposite all the time. The “I’ve been burned before on this” excuse is lame and cowardly. There…I said it. We have all been burned. By that logic, no one over 35 should ever trust anyone. Let’s get beyond our own discomfort and show people we actually give a rip about them and have enough grace to let them screw up.

Forgive without punishing

How many times have you seen passive aggressive behavior in the workplace because someone just won’t let something go? It’s awkward and destructive and destroys the culture of the place. Forgiveness isn’t ignoring what happened. It’s talking about it like adults and choosing to move on in spite of what happened. Come to an agreement or an understanding. That only happens through dialogue.

Promise without forgetting

A man/woman is only as good as their word. Truer words were never spoken. Flippant promises done in the heat of the moment or in a fit of zeal are the beginning of the end for most folks. This is especially common for new leaders as a way to try and gain favor with a new or difficult team. When you make a promise, write it down. Put a timeline on it and add it to your calendar or task management system. Your culture will thank you for it.


So, what are your thoughts? Is ten enough, or should there be a few more “Culture Commandments”?