Is Your Culture “Sticky”?

Businesswoman Solving a ProblemLet’s pretend for a moment. Let’s put you in the role of leading a large division within your company. And, you’ve done really well.

You’ve worked hard and crafted a high performing, values-aligned team. You’ve embraced your primary leadership responsibility of creating workplace inspiration.

You’re the champion of your desired culture. You’ve made values and citizenship as important as results and profits. And, team members and leaders have embraced the new culture.

Employees are happier. Customers are WOW’ed. Goals are exceeded regularly. Your team enjoys financial success.

Then, a new job offer drops into your lap. It’s a terrific opportunity for you. You can’t pass it up.

Taking the new job means that you’ll have to leave your current – and exceptional – division culture to whomever replaces you.

You’ve done all you can. You bid your old team goodbye and head off to your new opportunity.

What happens to the culture you’ve help craft? Too often, when the champion leaves, the culture struggles to maintain the new practices.

Unless the new leader is as committed to the current culture as you were, the culture “reverts to the norm.”

Typically, within a very short time (months), all the traction gained is lost. The values go back to “nice to have” status – not “must have” status.

One client experienced exactly this scenario. The champion moved on and the new leader of the division didn’t support “that culture stuff.” The gains the division enjoyed under the previous leader – 40 percent growth in employee engagement and customer service and 35 percent growth in profits – dissipated within four months.

People went back to old habits. The division “earned” exactly what it deserved – less than stellar engagement, service, and profits.

How do you, as a leader, ensure the desired culture “sticks”? These three practices will help your desired culture outlive the champion that moves on.

Embed your culture. This is a vital, foundational practice. Change systems and incentives to measure and reward both performance and desired values. Make valued behaviors important; talk them up, coach them up, and hold them up! Create a twice-a-year values survey that lets employees rate their bosses on the degree to which their bosses model your valued behaviors. Add rankings from this values survey in each leader’s performance (or contribution) review each year. Make the structure of your values-based culture as solid as the structure of your organization’s performance.

Prove the benefits. Measure the positive impact of your safe, and inspiring work environment. Carefully track employee engagement, customer service rankings, and results and profits. Help your bosses understand the net benefits of a workplace culture based on trust, respect, and dignity. SHOW THEM THE MONEY. Employees who feel trusted and respected bust their behinds for your team.

Share leadership. Don’t be the sole champion or the sole banner-carrier of your desired culture. Engage leaders at all levels in communicating why your culture is so important – to employees, leaders, customers, and company. Share “stage time” with every senior leader so they can be seen as the “voice” of the desired culture as much as you are. Celebrate teams and team leaders that “get it.” Let the “idea virus” of your desired culture infect everyone in your organization.

There are no guarantees these three practices will ensure your culture’s ability to stand the test of time – but they’ll certainly help.

How healthy is your team or company’s culture? Don’t guess – get the data with my online Culture Effectiveness Assessment.

Photo © PtnPhotof – Dollar Photo Club. All rights reserved.

Subscribe!Podcast – Listen to this post now with the player below. Subscribe via RSS or iTunes.

The music heard on these podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play all instruments on these recordings.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Common Ground

Businesspeople Giving Each Other High Five In Office LobbyDo you experience workplace fulfillment in your job? Apparently, not many of us do. For a recent study, the Energy Project interviewed over 12,000 employees and found that 50% report a lack of meaning and significance at work.

According to a June 2014 Fast Company article, increasing a sense of meaningfulness at work is one of the most potent ways to increase engagement and productivity.

What do we mean by workplace meaning and significance?

  • When workplace efforts serve others, tangibly and effectively, beyond “making money,” workplace meaning and significance grows.
  • When team members understand how their efforts improve the quality of life for customers and community, workplace meaning and significance grows.
  • When there is a strong link between what team members do and serving a greater good, workplace meaning and significance grows.

Here’s a great example. In Ft. Collins, Colorado, yesterday, a teenager who fell 80 feet from Horsetooth Rock in August was able to meet and thank the 47 rescuers who took part in getting her off the mountain and to the hospital for treatment.

It was an emotional reunion for Hannah Schall and the rescue personnel. One search and rescue team member said “It’s rare that we get to meet someone we rescued, to see that they’re doing fine. It’s really good.”

Some of you are thinking, “It’s easy to see how rescue workers serve the greater good! What about me?”

For many of us, our day to day work activities aren’t about saving lives or teaching kids. Our work activities are about finishing reports, waiting tables, driving busses, fixing computers, holding meetings, and the like.

We each, individually, can choose to engage in meaningful activities outside the workplace. We can volunteer, we can deliver meals, we can collect goods for the homeless, or we can take our dog to a nursing home to raise spirits.

That’s definitely a way to serve the greater good, individually. What about our teams at work, though? Does it require changing the company’s business model to boost workplace significance?

It doesn’t – but it may take some creative thinking and rallying of energy towards suitable activities.

There are many events and organizations that need volunteers to provide needed services for kids, families, seniors, etc. in your communities. For example, at VolunteerMatch.org, over 99,000 organizations have placed over 8 million volunteers – and have over 90,000 opportunities available.

You could organize a “fun run/fun walk” team to raise funds for local charities. You could organize a team to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity to help build homes for needy families in your community.

You can even engage people in serving the greater good right at work. The Ken Blanchard Companies created a program that, when profits exceed a certain percentage, each employee is able to provide a gift to a charitable organization of their choice at year end. The grant amount per employee averages about $1,000. Multiply that times over two hundred full-time employees and that’s a lot of money going to charities.

Throughout the year, employees keep a close eye on expenses and they are proactive in finding ways of saving money. Those efforts help boost the funds available to the charity grants.

Give people in your organization a firm foundation of meaning and significance – a common ground of service to others.

How healthy is your team or company’s culture? Don’t guess – get the data with my online Culture Effectiveness Assessment.

Photo © Monkey Business – Dollar Photo Club. All rights reserved.

Subscribe!Podcast – Listen to this post now with the player below. Subscribe via RSS or iTunes.

The music heard on these podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play all instruments on these recordings.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Off Script with Liberating Rules

Scripted-LifeI love the new Audi commercial. You’ve probably seen it. Everyone has a written script. They carry it around and refer to it. They don’t think. They don’t act outside the scripted boundaries. They follow their script, no matter what.

They follow their script even as their engagement and spirit wanes.

The commercial wouldn’t be funny if it wasn’t based on truth!

I believe we all have scripts. We have scripts in our heads for our roles as team leaders, team members, family members, parents, neighbors, spouses, or partners.

Some of our scripts serve us well. Some of them don’t serve us well, at all. Even worse, some of our scripts don’t serve others well, at all.

I learned my scripts from watching others and being guided by others. I watched parents, teachers, coaches, friends, colleagues, etc. – and learned what was “nice” to say and do as well as what was “not so nice” to say and do. I learned how my actions, behaviors, decisions, and words could make others angry (hmm, that’s not very fun . . . ) or happy (OK, that’s pretty cool) or engaged (aha, we’re learning together) or disengaged (oops).

Over time, I think I’ve refined my scripts so I’m less of a thorn in others’ sides and more of a willing partner to those with whom I share this daily journey. I still screw up but I’m trying to be nice and of service, every day.

Where this gets interesting is in a work team. Let’s say you have six people on a team, one of them the team leader. Each individual on that team has their own scripts happening in their heads & hearts. Everyone comes to the team with their own experiences and their own “experience-modified” scripts. Everyone is doing the best they can – but that’s a lot of competing scripts, expectations, rules, and noise happening every day.

How can the leader help the team go “off script” – to step away from each individual’s embedded scripts – and create a safe, inspiring workplace where players serve the team’s purpose, common goals, and shared values? Where every team member acts to apply their skills alongside trusted colleagues, WOW’ing customers consistently and delivering expected results?

With an organizational constitution.

An organizational constitution is a formal statement of the team’s purpose (reason for being, today), values and valued behaviors, strategies, and goals. When players have a hand in crafting these agreements and “sign up” to abide by these expectations in every interaction, they change the “scripts” experience. These expectations create liberating rules that help create workplace trust, respect, and dignity.

An organizational constitution helps these players go “off script” – away from their personal scripts – and embrace effective scripts that boost engagement, performance, and customer service.

What do you think? What scripts do you follow – and do they serve you and others well? How might “liberating rules” help your team or family behave in alignment? Add your insights or questions below.

My latest book, The Culture Engine, guides leaders to create workplace inspiration with an organizational constitution. Get your free sample chapter here.

Don’t guess about the health of your team or company’s culture. Get the data with my online Culture Effectiveness Assessment.

Photo © Audi USA. All rights reserved.

Subscribe!Podcast – Listen to this post now with the player below. Subscribe via RSS or iTunes.

The music heard on these podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play all instruments on these recordings.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Culture Audit

trend analysisWhat metrics to you scrutinize frequently? If you’re like most leaders, you pay attention to performance metrics – quotas, service ratings, market share, profits, and the like. What you probably don’t have metrics for – but you need metrics for – is the quality of your team or company’s culture.

To create high performing, values-aligned teams, leaders must spend as much time and energy on driving workplace trust, dignity, and respect as they do on driving results.

The reality is that very few leaders around the globe have been asked to do this. And, too few leaders have had role models that did this.

The great news is that leaders can learn how to create safe, inspiring work environments. With the right structure, effective modeling, and coaching to alignment, leaders can shift their team’s culture from dull and frustrating to engaged and inspiring.

My new online Culture Effectiveness Assessment can help. The CEA survey is based on the concepts in my latest book, The Culture Engine.

The CEA compares your team’s (or department or division or company’s) work environment to the best practices of high performing, values-aligned workplaces. The assessment gathers team leader and team member responses quickly and reliably. Results are presented in an electronic profile that explains how well your team culture ranks on five “culture health” levels: dysfunction, tension, civility, acknowledgment, or validation (the highest level).

The CEA includes ten sections with five questions each. Each question is rated on a six-point scale. The sections include practices like workplace attractiveness and safety, the leader’s personal purpose, values, and leadership philosophy, clarity of the team’s purpose, specificity of the team’s values and valued behaviors, accountability for values, values feedback, and hiring for values.CEA-1

The snapshot at right shows the CEA score summary page for a real leader and her team members. This page presents scores on the overall assessment for the team leader (189 out of 300 possible points – 50 questions worth a maximum of six points each) and an average score for all team members (181). These two scores fall into the “civility” culture health level – below what is desired. There is a line on the graph at the 250 point mark, which is where the “validation” level begins.

This graph also shows the lowest and highest individual team member scores (166 and 196, respectively). This particular team has very consistent team member scores, all in the “civility” level. I’ve seen teams with much wider responses, from dysfunction to acknowledgment levels within one team.CEA-3

The profile presents summary scores by section plus response detail for each question. The snapshot at right shows this team leader and her five team members’ responses to the question “Team members are role models of the formalized team purpose, values and behaviors, strategies, and goals in every interaction and in all plans, decisions, and actions.” Desired scores are at the 5-6 level. The team leader scores it a 2 and the average team member score is a 3. There is clearly an opportunity for this team on these practices.

The CEA profile enables leaders and teams to prioritize the work to be done to improve the quality of their work environment. Clients that embrace these best practices enjoy consistent increases in employee engagement, customer service, and profits.

Don’t guess about the health of your team or company’s culture. Get the data with my online Culture Effectiveness Assessment.

My latest book, The Culture Engine, guides leaders to create workplace inspiration with an organizational constitution. Get your free sample chapter here.

Photo © Paulista – Dollar Photo Club. All rights reserved.

Subscribe!Podcast – Listen to this post now with the player below. Subscribe via RSS or iTunes.

The music heard on these podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play all instruments on these recordings.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Positive Proof that Culture Works

Group of co-workers standing in office space smiling (I’m a culture geek. I’m bold with leaders, telling them they’re leaving money on the table if their team or department or company culture isn’t based on trust, respect, and dignity.

My ideas are not always embraced with open arms! There is a natural cynicism about culture change. Leaders are used to dealing with facts and hard data. So, I share the facts and hard data about the benefits my culture clients have enjoyed.

One client came to us because of low employee engagement survey scores. They scored 32 out of 100 possible points, the worst score of the eight business units owned by their corporate parent. This plant’s senior leadership team embraced our culture process fully and promptly.

They defined values with observable behaviors so everyone – leaders and employees – understood what the rules were for effective daily interactions. They increased performance accountability across their production lines. They measured how well leaders lived the organization’s new valued behaviors. They praised leaders who modeled their values, coached leaders who struggled, and redirected leaders who didn’t model or manage to the new values.

Within six months, conflicts, absenteeism, re-work, and grievances dropped by 60 percent. Within twelve months, efficiency had improved by over 40 percent. Customers reported amazement at the “new service attitude” that company staff displayed.

When the next “all company” employee engagement survey came around twelve months later, their plant scored 62 out of 100 points! Theirs was the biggest gain in engagement scores of any of business unit in their company system. And, their plant earned the top score across the organization.

At the eighteen-month mark, employee engagement had grown 45 percent, customer service rankings had grown 45 percent, and hard dollar profits gains surpassed 35 percent.

Plant leaders gave all the credit to every leader and employee’s alignment to their organizational constitution.

Another client, a seven-state region of a large retailer, embraced our culture change process because the new senior leader’s vision wasn’t taking hold fast enough.

Joel, the region’s senior leader, believed and preached “People with Passion drive Performance!” Joel’s messaging and coaching in his first 18 months in the position helped some store managers “get it.” However, most store managers did not.

Twelve months after creating their organizational constitution and managing to it (with our guidance), Joel’s region enjoyed 40 percent gains in employee engagement, 40 percent gains in customer service, and 30 percent gains in profits.

Another client, a manufacturing plant in the Midwestern USA, discovered a fabulous peripheral benefit to their organizational constitution. Their small town suffered flash flooding one spring, which caused tremendous damage in their community. Families were evacuated with little time to gather necessities.

Within hours, plant employees banded together to provide food, clothing, and transportation for their neighbors. They volunteered hundreds of hours for the Red Cross at the evacuation center. They secured funds from the plant’s parent company to rebuild homes and businesses in the following months.

The plant manager said in the 40 years that plant had been operating in that town, no one had ever seen employees rally so quickly and confidently to serve their fellow community members. Some of the employees who volunteered to help had also suffered significant losses in the flooding. “Our values and behaviors didn’t just apply inside the plant. These employees made sure they applied in our town, too,” she said.

The reality is that your culture drives everything that happens in your organization, good or bad. If you’re only paying attention to results, you’re leaving money on the table.

My latest book, The Culture Engine, guides leaders to create workplace inspiration with an organizational constitution. Get your free sample chapter here.

How healthy is your team or company culture? Don’t guess – get the data with my online Culture Effectiveness Assessment.

Photo © Monkey Business – Dollar Photo Club. All rights reserved.

Subscribe!Podcast – Listen to this post now with the player below. Subscribe via RSS or iTunes.

The music heard on these podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play all instruments on these recordings.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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