342 | How To Stop Toxicity As A Leader (Encore)

When people are looking for leadership and business coaching, there are usually two main reasons:

  1. Help them fix  ______________
  2. Give them expert advice on questions they struggle to answer

Getting answers to specific questions or situations helps, but there’s something that can hold leaders back from effectively making changes and seeing results:

…allowing poison and toxicity from team members to seep into culture.

Toxicity creates disunity, inefficiency, low productivity, gossip, backstabbing…the list goes on. What do we do about it? How do we prevent it?


  • Even if you found the “magic pill” to make you money like crazy, none of it would matter if you’ve got a toxic culture.
  • We allow this toxicity into our culture because we either don’t know how to stop it or we’re choosing not to recognize it.
  • Culture = actions + attitudes
  • If you don’t create the culture you want, the wrong culture will be forced on you.
  • When leaders allow the “blame game,” they start to allow poison to seep into the culture.
  • When we bring toxicity into the building and our culture, what happens next is replicating behavior.
  • Accountability is not pointing out flaws, it’s lovingly helping them to succeed by lifting them up, asking the right questions, and helping people get to the solutions they need.

Key Action Items:

  1. How to discover the toxicity in your business’ culture today [9:15] 
  2. Get Core Values in place that will stop toxicity in its tracks and prevent disunity, gossip, inefficiency, lack of productivity… [9:55] 
  3. The Five Step process for solving problems and addressing failures [10:40] 
  4. How to lead a team on the “actions and attitudes” that accompany the Core Values [12:20] 
  5. Get team members bought in to the Core Values [13:45] 
  6. Go from Core Values on a piece of paper to self-policing Core Values on a team [15:02] 
  7. What to say to take responsibility as a leader [19:45] 


How To Turn Your Mistakes And Your Team’s Into Growth

Next-Level Mastermind

Next-Level Life


Continue scrolling for the full transcript:

Chris LoCurto: Welcome to the Chris LoCurto show where we discuss leadership and life and discover that business is what you do, not who you are.

When Poison Seeps In…

Welcome to the show folks. Today we’re talking about poison. What a great topic to be talking about today and what we’re talking about is when poison seeps into your business. And you can take this as how it seeps into your business. It can be how it seeps into relationships. It can be friendships, marriage, your kids.

When people are looking for a leadership and business coaching, there’s usually a couple of main reasons that they’re looking for it. They’re looking for an answer on how to fix something. There may be a problem or something that they need fixed or they’re seeing something that’s usually a surface level issue and saying, well, how do I fix this issue? Not realizing that there’s a whole lot more than just that one area, that one thing that needs to be fixed.

There’s probably something considerably bigger than that, behind it. Some people want that information. Some people don’t. Either way, they’re still looking for somebody to give them good information on that, or they’re giving, or they may be looking for expert advice on questions that they struggled to answer. We get a lot of those questions in as well where folks are like, I don’t even know what the answer to this situation is.

Or, how do I do this? I’ve never been here before. Here’s the thing you have to understand: getting answers to specific questions or struggles that you’re dealing with, or fixes to situations that you’re dealing with. They help.

What holds us back from making effective changes

Getting those answers helps. It absolutely does, but there’s something that can hold leaders back from effectively making changes and seeing results. And that tends to be, thinking that the answer is your fix, and not realizing that you’re allowing poison to seep into your culture. It could be coming from toxicity from team members. It could be toxicity in your business. It could be that you’re allowing poison to seep into your culture.

That’s one of the reasons why when we focus on StratPlan, one of the things we do is we focus more on the communication. We focus on the culture. A lot of folks think that all they need is the magic pill for the money. Just show me how to make more money. Chris, just show me what’s the magic pill, the magic product, the magic thing. We get to that, we’ll show you that stuff, but none of that matters if you’ve got a toxic culture, I can solve a ton of things for you. I can give you all kinds of information and answers, but none of that matters if you’re not willing to look at the toxicity that may be inside of your business. If you’re allowing that poison to seep into your culture, then you need to do something about it. So we’re going to talk about that today.

Now, this episode is brought to you by next level life. Do you ever find yourself asking in life? Is this it? Or finding yourself feeling unfulfilled, stuck in the same old stuff, but never moving forward… and it’s not just affecting you, it seeps into your relationships as well and it’s just frustrating, isn’t it? What if you could wake up every morning with a clear purpose?

What if you could wake up every morning with a clear purpose? What would it look like to have healthier relationships with less conflict? Where would you be in five years, three years, one year if you had clarity, purpose, and peace, probably a big difference from where you may be standing today. I know it’s possible because I’ve been where you are, standing right there asking myself, is this what the rest of my life is going to be like? There is a better way and it starts with next level life and you can go to chrislocurto.com/discover to take the next step.

Next level Life is a two day personal discovery experience that’s a one on one personalized event where we guide you through a process to help you get unstuck in life, to improve relationships, and to discover what’s holding you back from freedom and peace. So if you’re struggling with discontentment or regrets or not feeling good enough, if you’re filled with anxiety, or your relationships are lacking. Don’t keep going through the motions every day. Learn how to move past the things that are robbing you of peace.

go to chrislocurto.com/discover and take the next step for a better future. Trust me on this. It will change your life. Now back to talking about toxicity and your culture. As we talk through this, think about it, why do we allow this toxicity in our culture? Because we either don’t know how to stop it or we’re choosing not to recognize it. For me, culture equals actions and attitudes.

Will you create it or suffer in it?

The question is, are you going to create the culture that you want, the culture that you desire, the culture that you need, or you’re going to suffer through the one that’s forced on you? How does it get forced on you? By people bringing in bad cultures, by people bringing in toxicity. So what does toxicity look like?

Well, toxicity shows up in a lot of different behaviors. It shows up in control, manipulation, abusiveness, procrastination, it can show up in the way that we take advantage of people. It could show up in the way that we are only focused on ourselves. There’s so many different ways that toxicity could show up. It could show up as victim mentality. It could show up as impatience. It can show up in so many different forms, right? So for example, one of our core values around here is that we don’t play the blame game.

It’s something that I have had in a leadership is a core value that I have had in my leadership for decades. I don’t like to play the blame game. The blame game is where you know something happens and you have to put the blame on somebody else. Even if it’s their fault, the focus is for you to blame somebody else. So you either feel good about yourself or make yourself look better, whatever the reason, the goal is to definitely point out that somebody else has done something wrong.

It came up in Monday staff meeting…

Now we were discussing this as a team in our Monday staff meeting and the team was sharing their perspective on what this means in our culture, you know, actions and attitudes.

we were discussing how if we blame people and circumstances or our lack of time or the work projects itself, etc. And one of my team members was sharing that, if we blame others or situations and become victims, then we begin to bring toxicity into the building. Our self protection and blaming seeps into the culture. If nobody does anything about it, which here it’s going to get shut down pretty quickly. but if it doesn’t in a culture where we’re able to blame people, we’re able to blame situations, “well, I didn’t have enough time…” you know, which really means I didn’t make it a priority, you know, when we’re able to blame situations, the circumstance, any of that kind of stuff, then we start to allow that type of toxicity to seep into the culture, that type of poison, because that’s exactly what it becomes, right?

Victim Mentality & The Blame Game

Especially for blaming other people, especially for not taking responsibility for ourselves. So when we brIng toxicity in, whether it’s that style blaming people, blaming things or being controlling or being manipulative or procrastinating, no matter what it is. When we bring toxicity into the building, into our culture, what happens next is you start to see a replicating behavior. You start to see either the person or people around do the same thing. It starts to grow, it starts to change actions. It starts to change attitudes. We talked about victim mentality.

Victim mentality creates villains and monsters, right? So if I’m a victim and I’m bringing that into this culture that I can’t take responsibility, I’ve got to be the victim in the situation, then guess what I’m going to make out of that? Villains. I’m gonna have to have a villain. I’m going to have to have a monster to blame for my victim mentality, right? Well, if I get away with that, then what happens? Other people start to follow suit as well. Then there’s disunity, there’s lower productivity, there’s inefficiency, there’s gossip, there’s conflict on the team. This one thing, this one small behavior of victim mentality can turn into disunity, lower productivity inefficiency, gossip and backstabbing, conflict. All of that junk.

#1: Find the toxicity

So what do we do about it? Well, first thing you gotta do is you’ve got to take a hard look at your culture and find out what toxicity you see. What are some of the things that you’re experiencing? What do you see that’s not healthy? That’s where we’ve got to start, is to recognize this right now. We always want to give you guys the actions that you can take every week to change your leadership, your business, and your life. So here’s how to stop the toxicity in your culture this week.

The first thing you have to do is recognize, the next thing you have to do is make sure that you have core values or that you create the very core values that you want inside the business. You need to sit down and say, what do we want this business, this team, this company to value the most? And if we’re not currently doing that, what are we going to do to make it happen? So you got to get core values in place. You need to discuss them with your team. Now, for a lot of you, you need to just present it to your team. Guys, this is the direction we’re going in. If you’re not able to follow this, then you’re probably not going to be here very long, but one of the things we’re going to stop doing is, you know, not playing the blame game.

We’re not going to sit here and throw people under the bus because we don’t want to take responsibility. We’re going to take responsibility. We’re going to solve problems the correct way, the way that I’ve had the five ways of solving a problem. I teach all the leaders. I teach it in Stratplan, Next-Level Mastermind…all over the place.

#2: Solve the problem

What happened?

How did it happen?

Why did it happen?

What are we going to do to fix it?

How are we going to make sure that never happens again?

It cuts out the blame. Oh, well, so and so’s to blame for that. That’s not what I asked you. I didn’t ask you who’s to blame. I’m asking you what happened. “well they were a part of it.”

Well, okay, what happened? What specifically? Well, this is a thing that happened. Okay, well great, now we can solve that. We don’t have to blame a person to solve this. If it’s somebody’s fault, it’s going to be apparent, right? So there’s no need in playing the blame game. Instead, teach people how to solve the problems. Then you don’t have to worry about people playing the blame game and throwing people under the bus, right? Now people are going feel bad if it’s their fault, but that’s okay. Show them how you solve problems.

Okay, so what if it’s your fault? How do we fix this? How do we make sure it never happens again? When they see that you’re not going to rip their head off or take their birthday away, then they actually can feel more vulnerable.

#3: Getting Core Values in place

Get core values in place that you want. What are our top two here? God is number one, and number two is grace. Why? Because I’ve been given grace beyond measure in my life. I can’t even possibly calculate the amount of grace that I’ve been given from my god, much less people in my life. Therefore, I must give grace. So make sure you put core values in place and discuss them with your team.

Have you defined yet, what is and is not acceptable in your culture? If you haven’t, sit down and do that today. make it happen. What do you not want? How do you want people to treat people? The reason why people love coming into my business is because my business has a phenomenal team,

an amazing group of people that loves on them. Why? Because that’s our culture. So it doesn’t matter that it’s my business. What are they stepping into? A group of people who surround them, who care about them, who are interested in them, who are willing to go and do things for them if they need it. We’ve had team members that have hiked it to a store to buy aspirin or something, you know, or pickup prescriptions. We, matter of fact, we just had that probably, about seven months ago or something at an event where we had to go take care of that. Crud, last week at Stratplan. We had to actually take one of our clients, one of the people on the team we had to take to my chiropractor and help him out because he had a bad situation in his back.

That is the kind of culture that you want people serving people, people taking care of people. It doesn’t matter that my business is my business. What matters is the culture that’s in place. Does that make sense? It doesn’t matter that you own the business. If you’re the business owner, it doesn’t matter that you’re the leader with the title, if that’s what you are. What matters is the culture that you put in place. So if you want a good culture, start by discussing your core values. What are the values you want?

Leading your team on Core Values

We discuss our core values almost on a weekly basis. Almost every week Joel will teach one of our core values. Often heather will teach some of our cultural stuff inside of our staff meeting and that’s leading our team to be crystal clear on the things that we believe and the things that we follow and the actions and attitudes that we want inside of this business. The actions and attitudes that go with each core value. We talk through it.

It usually takes anywhere from five to 10 minutes of talking through and explaining and then talking through with the team. What do you guys think about this? Where do you see this playing out? how do you see us not being excellent at this? How do you see as being excellent in this? So they need to know what’s expected of them. So make sure that you sit down and get your core values.

If you don’t have them down, do them today. Sit down and decide and if you’ve got a good solid leadership team, sit down with your leadership team and say, what is it that we do value inside of this business? What do we want our core values to be? If you’re not doing those things as core values, then you have to implement them and push to get there. It’s going to take a little bit longer, but it’s got to happen. You’ve got to force it right. If you don’t, it’ll be forced upon you.

Holding your team “accountable” to Core Values

And the next thing you need to do is make sure that you have accountability. If you’ve put the core values in place, if you’re leading the team on how to treat people, if you’re leading the team on how to take responsibility, if you’re leading the team on not being victims, if you’re leading the team on being graceful, being excellent, having integrity, communicating incredibly well, like some of our core values are, leaning in each other’s directions when it comes to their personality styles.

Another one of our core values is everybody has a root system honor that, For those of you that have been through next level life, you understand what that means. So if you’ve done those things and put those things in place, now you can hold people accountable to the core values. Now, as I say that word accountable, some of you shrink, some of you recoil, right? Because you probably are like me, where you come from a religious background, a church background where accountability was actually not accountability.

TRUE Accountability (not what you may have learned in church) 

Instead, it’s not what true accountability should be. Instead, it was something where you beat people up with a Bible or, or accused them of things that they’re doing wrong. And even if they are doing wrong, you just beat the daylights out of them with how bad they are. And of course you’re perfect, you’ve never done anything wrong and you know, you just treat people badly because it helps you feel better about yourself.

That is not accountability. We’ve got a whole lesson on accountability that we teach leaders, because we want to take that word back. Our next level mastermind here as the group, as everybody shows up, we actually call it an accountability group with inside the groups, right? All the different groups. No, they’re in an accountability group. They’re in a place where people care about them, other leaders, other business owners. Hold them up, push them, help them get to help them get to solutions and, and challenge each other because that’s what accountability is.

It’s not pointing at somebody and saying, look at how horrible you are. Instead it’s going, hey, I think you’re stronger in this area. What can we do to get you there? Hey, are you missing this piece over here? Hey, have you thought about this? Hey, you’re doing a great job over here. It’s lifting up people’s arms when they need their arms lifted up.

That’s what accountability looks like, so if you have somebody that’s taken advantage of one of your core values, if you have somebody that’s not having the actions and attitudes that you want, you don’t sit there and point at them and say, look at how badly you’re sucking. Instead, it’s, hey, let’s talk about this. Why are you experiencing that? Or why? Help me to understand why this is happening?

Help me to understand why you’re not taking responsibility in this situation. Give me more perspective on why this is the way that it is. You go through all of the processes to make sure that they understand the core value, that they understand the situation, that they understand it’s their responsibility to take responsibility. You help them to see choices and consequences. If you put the accountability in place an amazing thing begins to happen, the core values become self policing.

People will start to call other people out and again, not in a terrible way. saying “Look at how horrible you are.” It’s “Hey listen, I understand that this is a difficult situation. I understand that this has some failure attached to it. You know, this is a situation that fell apart, but the way that we solve problems around here is bing, bing, bing, bing, bing.”

You know, the five different steps. What happened? How did it happen? Why did it happen? How do we fix it? How do we make sure it never happen again? You will watch your team members do that. When you see that somebody’s struggling with something personally. In here, you can watch team members love on each other and I can see somebody struggling with failure. How do I help them to get past the failure? Not by turning them into a victim, not by being lenient in the process.

You know, Jesus was never lenient. He was incredibly graceful. He was incredibly merciful. He was just never lenient, right? So we don’t get in there and go, well, it’s okay. You don’t have to worry about this. No, we love on somebody. We take care of them. We have compassion. But then we also hold them up, okay, now how do we solve this? How do we go forward? How do we adjust? How do we fix? What do we do? So sometimes it takes tough conversations. Sometimes it takes sitting down with somebody and helping them to see the consequences that their choices are leading to. Guys, listen, we get that from god. That’s how he grows us, right? So many times we get the consequences of our choices to help us to say, hey, don’t do that again. That was a bad choice.

Taking responsibility as a leader

So sometimes accountability requires tough conversations and unfortunately sometimes accountability means that there are going to be consequences. Help people to see that if they are choosing this, that they’re choosing the consequence. If it’s your fault, leader, take responsibility, take responsibility. Every time. The first thing I do is go, is this my fault? Did I do something wrong? Did I not communicate well? Did I not? You know, whatever the thing is, I’m always looking to see what’s my responsibility here first before I call out a team member.

And if it’s my fault, then I call me out. Hey guys, sorry about this. This is totally my bad. I didn’t do this. I didn’t communicate this. I took for granted thinking you guys knew this. So whatever it is, I hold myself accountable and take responsibility and solve the problem. So if you’re experiencing some toxicity in your environment, if you’re experiencing some poison in your environment, then make sure you take these steps.

This week…

So this week, sit down. Start by asking what actions and attitudes do we want in this culture? What does that look like? Then sit down and decide what are the core values we want in this place? If you’ve not done that, line that out. What are the things that we want to value in this environment? Whether it’s at work, whether it’s in your marriage, whether it’s in your family, you know, write down the actions and attitudes you want.

Write down the core values that you want to put some accountability in place to hold it in place. Put some choices and consequences in there. Put some tough conversations in there and take responsibility for when you mess up. Teach people to take responsibility and teach people how to not be victims in the process. If you do these things, then you will be amazed at how much unity you will start to see inside of the team.

If people see you as the leader caring, then they will become even more unified. They will definitely become more loyal to you. You will start to see productivity increase. You will see efficiency increase. You will stop seeing things like gossip and backstabbing and you will see considerably less conflicts on the team. Why? Because it becomes self-policing. They will start to solve the conflicts on the team.

Now, folks, this isn’t easy stuff to overcome. It’s easy to talk about on a podcast, but the hard work comes in in the implementation, so if you’re struggling with toxic culture, team performance, hiring and firing, conflict, maybe even being the bottleneck, talk to us. Go to chrislocurto.com/strategy and we can direct you how to solve this from there. you may need to get out of the leadership crazy cycle. We had a leader recently describe it as being on a roller coaster and every time you get to the end of the loop, trying to hit the lever to slow it down as you fly by…just going around and round at full speed. That’s what the leadership crazy cycle is like. If you’re experiencing that, if you know what it’s like to feel overwhelmed daily, then go to chrislocurto.com/strategy enter your name and email and get started in getting out of this crazy cycle, or discover what it is that’s holding you back so you can solve it. Well hopefully this has helped you today. As always, take this information, change your leadership, change your business, change your life, and join us on the next episode.

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Meet Chris LoCurto


Chris has a heart for changing lives by helping people discover the life and business they really want.

Decades of personal and leadership development experience, as well as running multi-million dollar businesses, has made him an expert in life and business coaching. personality types, and communication styles.

Growing up in a small logging town near Lake Tahoe, California, Chris learned a strong work ethic at home from his full-time working mom. He began his leadership and training career in the corporate world, starting but at E'TRADE.