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.