I believe that success is always about the people in a business. Your success as a Manager or as a Leader is always determined by your ability to lead people and interact with them successfully. When you help your teammates to view conflict positively and to remain open to dialogue and to achieving positive change in the business, your colleagues will welcome each opportunity to engage and to work with you on solutions. In this way, our success in business corresponds directly to our ability to guide our colleagues to positive outcomes and a constructive journey along the way. Today, I’d like to help you to improve your ability to do that by helping you to shape the culture in your organization.
A 2014 report on employee engagement and organizational culture indicated that a full 64% of all employees surveyed could not find signs of a strong culture in their workplace. Let that number sink in a bit. 64%! To be honest, I was stunned by that number when I learned it. Does that result shock you a little? If only 36% of the workers in an economy believe that their organization has a healthy culture, we need to do better! In a different study, another frightening statistic to chew on: 70% of employees in US based companies reported feeling disengaged.
To combat these horrific numbers, to overcome the current challenged state of the culture in most businesses, to get past the lack of employee engagement, we’re going to need to lead some positive change. If you conclude that YOU need to develop and shape a healthier culture in your business, here is a crash course on how to do it.
- Lead: You must realize that you have an obligation to lead. Courageously. Go first. Demonstrate your integrity and honesty in every action and every decision. Be a leader that your team would willingly follow. Surround yourself with a talented team of leaders who believe in the same values that you believe in, and are willing to incorporate them into everything that they do. Never waver from doing the right things by your associates and your customers. If you treat everyone in the value chain fairly and do the right things consistently, you will have modeled the behavior you can expect from others. Ensure that your entire leadership team is cohesive and doing likewise.
- Focus: The world moves fast these days. The amount of information coming at us daily is more than human beings used to have to sort through in months or years. Focus has never been more critical to our success, your success! Define your position in the marketplace and your purpose. Be able to communicate to your team the WHY behind your company’s existence and the WHY behind your top 3 goals. Focus your team on those top 3 VITAL FEW objectives. Don’t try to overcomplicate things by focusing on too much at once. Stay simple and focused on the most important objectives, and your team will do the same, and generate better results.
- Simplify: Keep things simple for yourself and for your team. Keep your ears open and listen 80% of the time, and talk 20% of the time. Watch for issues and when they come up, get the team together, and discuss them quickly and arrive at a speedy decision about taking action to turn a problem into an opportunity. Don’t let obstacles or challenges stop your forward progress. Great leaders remove obstacles from the path of their teams by empowering the teams to obliterate the obstacles themselves. Empower your people to solve their own problems and actively engage to help them solve the BIG challenges.
- Measure: Another aspect of keeping the team focused and on keeping things simple is to measure your progress. Decide in advance how you’re going to measure forward progress toward your Vital Few objectives. Share data freely and transparently throughout your organization, and have it organized into a scoreboard that helps everyone to understand the circumstances of the game in real time. When football games get down to the last few minutes, the coaches, players, fans, and commentators all watch the scoreboard to be able to assess the current state of the game, and to select the right strategy and tactics to call the right plays to help you maximize your chance to win the game. You must have a well-functioning scoreboard that tells the story so that everyone can call the best plays at the right time.
- Respect: You have to decide whether to treat the people you’re working with as equals or as something less. When you’re all in it together, there is no other way to treat your colleagues than with respect and trust. Expect the best from your colleagues and associates, and they will reward you with great positive actions and decisions that drive your mission and vision forward. When you believe the best in one another, and you are conducting yourself so that your teammates feel like equal partners, they will rise to the occasion. Do the same for your prospects, customers, and strategic vendors. Invest in your partner, and they will in return invest in you and your success. Pay them well, and train them well, and ensure that you are having positive conversations about expectations and performance regularly. Manage your associates so that the current state can be understood and will quickly lead to the desired future state you are dreaming to achieve.
- Accountable: Always encourage everyone in your organization to be willing to be held accountable themselves for consistently delivering positive results and change. Reward your associates for making a difference with their work and driving positive change and consistent ambitious results. Also encourage everyone in your organization to be willing to hold everyone else in your organization accountable for positive change and consistent ambitious results. Do not allow any sacred cows. Make sure that every member of the team, including the CEO, is willing to allow another member of the organization to call out challenges, problems, and mistakes. Teach your team to engage in dialogue so that they can have constructive conflict when challenges arise and when there is a need to hold someone on the team accountable for raising the level of their game.
- Brand: If you want your culture to persist and thrive, you will need to treat it like it is an important priority, and a living thing. I was fortunate to work for a great company during my career that went as far as to Brand our culture. We talked about culture in every company wide meeting so that everyone would know that our culture was vital to our success. We used our “Positive Aggressive” culture to attract talent to the organization, to recruit employees and customers, to retain customers and talent, to manage performance and virtually every worthwhile activity that we engaged in to run our business. Many years later, the employees of that firm have remained friends and continue to help one another now that we’ve moved on to other pursuits. Interestingly, most of our nostalgic conversations of those golden years, working in that outstanding company include a mention of how wonderful it was to work for a company where the culture was so strong and consistently right.
Research has shown that there is a very strong correlation between companies who have a strong culture and those who enjoy a higher performance. One study indicated that companies with enthusiastically engaged associates typically outperform those companies whose employees are NOT engaged. Care to guess how much they outperformed the laggards? 50%? 100%? In fact, the performance gap was by over 200%. THAT’S how big of an impact a healthy culture will have on engagement and performance in your organization. As Alec Baldwin said in Glengarry Glen Ross: “Oh, Do I have your attention NOW?”
You can do it. You can make it happen in your organization. You can set the stage for a phenomenal performance. You can make it happen consistently and make your company a great place to work, and one that delivers ambitious results, day after day, month after month, quarter after quarter, and year after year.
Michael is an award-winning business coach who works with medium sized technology companies around the United States. He advises C-Suite Executives, their Leadership Teams, and their Emerging Leaders so that they can build a strong culture of executing positive change and results in the business, while having fun. Consider signing up for our videos on our YouTube channel, Michael Beach Coaching & Consulting, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll sign you up for our monthly newsletter and send you a copy of our 25 Best Practices on Culture Development, at no cost or obligation. Good luck with your culture building efforts, give us a call if you run into any roadblocks!