How would you describe your organization/department/team’s culture? Take a moment and select three words or phrases that describe your company culture. Write them down and set them aside; we’ll come back to them in a few paragraphs.

If you’re like most leaders, you don’t pay careful attention to the work environment that exists in your organization today. Most leaders have been groomed to focus primarily on performance metrics, things such as net profit, market share, EBIDA, payroll expenses, etc.

These are certainly important metrics; all organizations need to meet or exceed performance standards. And research indicates that these, alone, are not the strongest drivers of desirable outcomes such as consistent performance, terrific customer service or engaged employees.

What differentiates great organizations from ordinary ones?

Leaders in every organization around the globe monitor performance metrics. Yet some organizations are seen as “great places to work” and “great investments” and deliver “great customer experiences.” Most organizations are not seen like that.

Organizational cultures that are consistently high performing AND values-aligned do not happen casually — they happen intentionally. The leaders of these organizations understand that they must effectively manage employees’ heads, hearts and hands — not just one of those three. Leaders that focus on performance alone typically see their role as managing employees’ hands, not employees’ heads and hearts, as well.

These organizations create a workplace culture where employees do the right things — using their heads, hearts AND hands — even when the boss isn’t around.

Blanchard’s experience and research identified the single foundational component of high performing, “great places to work” organizational cultures. That differentiating component: values alignment, driven by senior leaders.

There are three key elements required for a successful culture refinement effort.

  • First, senior leaders (of the organization/department/team) must champion the culture change. The responsibility for proactive management of team culture cannot be delegated to any other player or role. Only senior leaders can change expectations, structure, policies and procedures to support the desired culture.
  • Second, senior leaders must create measurable, behavioralized values. Defining what a “good citizen” looks, acts and sounds like — down to specific and observable behaviors, describing how leaders and staff treat each other and customers — sets a clear standard for how leaders and staff are to behave day to day.
  • Third, senior leaders hold themselves and all staff accountable for both performance standards and values expectations. Once valued behaviors are published, leaders at all levels are “under the microscope.” Employees will be observing leaders’ plans, decisions and actions closely to see if they “walk the values talk.” Only when leaders demonstrate desired valued behaviors will the employee population embrace those behaviors.

The impact of our culture process is best shown by the results reported by our culture clients. They consistently report:

  • Increased employee performance.
  • Increased employee work passion/engagement.
  • Increased customer service experiences.
  • Increased profit.

Think back to the three words that describe your organization’s culture that you selected earlier in this post. If you selected words like trusting, employee-focused, safe, inspiring, family or “work hard & play hard,” you’re on the right track. If not, you might consider refining your team’s values expectations and accountability systems.

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10 responses to “How workplace culture can help drive employees to succeed”

  1. Glen Grant says:

    I heartely disagree that it has to be the senior leaders who change the culture. I drove the changes in fitness in the British Army as a young offcier and they all had to follow in my wake. Every unit I went to changed dramatically in terms of health habiits and fitness. The numbers of retired soldiers on my facebook who write to me and thank me bears witness to this. I agree it needs leadership, but often seniior leaders are simply too stale and and morally weak to do the business.

    The banking culture proves my point.

  2. Randi Herman says:

    Leadership is developed from within an organization, recognized and cultivated so that capacity grows within the culture . that's the only way to ensure sustainability. creating culture where people want to do the right thing and feel safe doing it-that is to say, don't fear any repercussions, that, is an entirely different matter, and a very heavy lift.

  3. Tammy Redmon says:

    Great article. The three points you make on the change driven by responsibility are key. And while the 'champion' of the change must start at the top, the modeling it must be prevalent at that level as well. Unfortunately far too often I have seen a leader say 'yes, change is good, let's change our culture, I support this' and then demoralize every person in the company because they don't Model the Change.
    Your final bullet says it best "Only when leaders demonstrate desired valued behaviors will the employee population embrace those behaviors."
    Thank you for sharing your aritlcle.

  4. colinnwn says:

    Glen, it sounds like your senior leaders were "stale" enough to not care what you were doing, you had wide ranging authority over the people you were leading to better fitness, I bet you had mesurable goals, and were modeling that change personally. In effect, you were the senior leader even if your rank didn't reflect it. Military has a stricter hierarchy of control than civilian life. Military subordinates will be less willing to go around you when they disagree.

    Frequently mid level leaders, and line employees have great ideas they can't implement due their leaders not being willing to support the change (if a subordinate comes to them complaining of the change) or provide resources when necessary.

    I think in civilian life it is even more important to at least have buy-in from senior leaders to affect change in an organization. Otherwise you will have people who disagee with your change trying to sabotage it by pointing out ramifications to your leaders. Many famous and successful companies are successful because senior leaders foster an environment that encourages innovative thinking, ownership, and a culture of change throughout their company at all levels.

  5. […] Read more Tags: alignment, business, company culture, corporate culture, entrepreneur, great organizations, leader, leadership, metrics, organization culture, performance, value aligned, values, work environment Category: Business News, Employment, HR & Employment, Leadership, Small Business News  |  Comment (RSS)  |  Trackback […]

  6. S. Chris Edmonds says:

    Thanks for your comments! Glen, Colin states it well – you were the senior leader. You championed the desired culture, modeled the desired behaviors, and inspired followership.

    We've seen tremendous traction on desired culture in divisions of large organizations – regions, plants, sales teams, etc.

    The vital measuring stick about whether your culture holds all staff accountable for high performance AND values alignment is how staff behave when the boss isn't around. In best practice organizations, the staff commit their heads, hearts, and hands – wholeheartedly – to do the right things, in the moment, day in and day out.

    That's when you know your culture is working well.



  7. […] A positive culture in which employees are focused and productive, behaving in ways the organization wants while delivering on strategic objectives (which is the definition of employee engagement, by the way), does not happen by accident. As Chris Edmonds recently explained in SmartBrief on Leadership: […]

  8. Alex Dail says:

    One of the most commonly heard complaints I get from consultants is that a corporation will pay a great deal to bring them in and then won't do anything with the recommendations the consultant made. I've talked with several which plumb the willingness of the senior leaders to adopt a recommendation before they will accept being hired as a consultant.

    Along similar lines companies that take the time to establish values as you suggest, define a vision. and translate it into all parts of the business also do better. Marketers call this consistent branding. Thanks I really enjoyed the way your post got me thinking.

  9. […] engagement, by the way), does not happen by accident. As Chris Edmonds recently explained in SmartBrief on Leadership: “Organizational cultures that are consistently high performing AND values-aligned do not happen […]

  10. sc_edmonds says:

    Thanks so much for your insights, Alex –

    I see my consultant role as one of "multiplying hands" – educating senior leaders on what practices they must embed in their daily interactions to create/maintain their desired culture. If I'm successful with that, I can move on to work with other senior leaders and the process repeats itself.

    I LOVE working my way out of a job in this way!