How To Create An Affirming Culture

When you first hear about an affirming culture, you may think the culture will be weak or timid. You may think your organization doesn’t need to affirm the abilities of your team.

If this is your line of thinking, you would be incorrect. Your team needs to be affirmed. You need to tell your team “Good job on completing the project ahead of time” or “You know, you’ve been on time for a full year. You are awesome.”

Man standing in front of mountain range

Photo by Axel Holen

What Is Affirmation?

You may come from a culture where affirmation isn’t common. You may not even know what affirmation is.

If you’re wondering what affirmation is, wonder no more. Affirmation is the act of validating or confirming a person or their actions.

Affirmation isn’t pandering to someone. Instead, it is recognizing what they’re doing or who they are and choosing to say something positive.

Why Affirmation Is Important

Affirmation hasn’t been common in the workplace. Yet, affirmation is becoming more and more prevalent. More than prevalent, affirmation is becoming even more important in workplace culture.

As the Millennial generation has become a major force in the workplace, you need to think about the ways they want to be communicated to and how they want to be treated. You can’t treat a Millennial the same way you would a Boomer.

Affirmation goes beyond being nice. Affirmation is important because it shows those you’re affirming they are important and notice. This is huge to a Millennial and Gen Zer.

Make sure you’re affirming those in these demographics because it’s how they feel valued.

How To Create An Affirming Culture

If you don’t make affirmation a core value of your culture, you’re going to run into problems with Millennials and Gen Zers. You won’t be able to help them understand you value them without affirming them.

But how do you create an affirming culture? What does it take to show those you lead you care for them and see their value?

To begin with, you can:

Know your core values:

An organization’s core values can set the tone for an affirming culture. When you know what your culture values, you can begin to recognize those actions and bring them to the attention of others. If you value hard work, problem-solving, and teamwork, your core values better mention those traits.

Once you’ve made known your core values, you know what to look for. You can begin to affirm those actions when someone does them.

Be on the lookout:

Too many organizations are on the lookout for team members to do something wrong. They’re ready to pounce on a bad decision or a mistake.

This doesn’t create a culture of affirmation. This does the complete opposite.

Instead of looking for team members to make mistakes, be on the lookout for team members to live out the core values of your organization. You can walk the production floor to see who is working hard or working well with the team. Maybe you’re in the office when you hear Janice is helping Bob with a big project.

These are perfect actions to affirm. Be willing to look out for the right actions.

Affirm positive actions:

Knowing your core values and looking out for the right actions only goes so far in creating an affirming culture. Without affirming your core values and positive actions, you won’t have an affirming culture.

It’s only once you begin to recognize the positive actions your team members are doing will you begin to create the affirming culture you desire.

You can affirm positive actions in multiple ways. A few of those are

  • Send out a weekly update of the positive actions you seen from your team
  • Announce the 5 actions you saw throughout the workweek during a companywide meeting
  • Go to the team member and affirm the actions you saw (this is best done shortly after you saw the positive actions).

When you make sure positive actions and attitudes are noticed (affirmed), you begin to create a culture of affirmation. People take notice that good behavior is recognized. They, then, begin to repeat those positive actions.

An affirming culture doesn’t just happen. It takes the intentionality of the organization’s leaders to be affirming to their team members.

Be an affirming leader. Create an affirming culture.

Question: What are you doing to create an affirming culture in your organization? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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