I went to a great college football game the other day, and my favorite NCAA team has a new coach who talks about creating a culture for his team and the program. He is doing an awful lot of things right, and the results are very encouraging! I realize that turning around a struggling football program is the sort of challenge that will require a number of years and that there are disappointing days ahead as he builds his culture and program. Still, this particular coach has a long-suffering fan base truly excited about the sorts of things he’s doing. It got me to thinking about the roadmap he’s using to build Leadership Brand & Culture for his program. I decided to take a crack at laying out a simple 5 step roadmap for you so that if you’re pondering change and transition for your organization, you’ll know where to begin and how to proceed.
Consider and Articulate Your Values: If you intend for your organization to stand for a certain way of doing things, you have to be clear about that. If you want to brand how you will operate and make it the foundation of your culture, you first have to be very clear about what that looks like and document it. My suggestion would be to get your leadership together and to review lists of principles or values. You and the team need to narrow down a list of the values that resonate with you and form the kind of company you want to be. It’s difficult to hone the list of values down from 20 to 10 and then again from 10 to five. You need to do that. You need to do that so that your list of values is concise and crystal clear to everyone in your organization. This list of five core principles is going to tell the world, (including your prospects, customers, employee associates, and strategic partners) that this is how we do business. You want to be very clear in communicating that. If you can document your values on one side of one sheet of paper, you’re off to a great start. Document the values and then no more than 2-3 sentences that articulate the meaning behind each value and WHY it is one of your chosen five.
Implement and Communicate Your Culture: Too many organizations work behind the scenes for too long to prepare to launch their Leadership Brand and their Culture. Precious time is lost while they “Get ready to get ready…” and discuss how and when they’re going to launch. Err on the side of launching quickly. Get the process started, and avoid allowing the effort to gather dust or to lose momentum. Schedule a company meeting where you spend no more than 30 minutes talking about YOUR Leadership Brand and YOUR Culture. Go through each of the four or five core values with your team. Highlight why each value is essential to your Brand and to your Culture. After presenting to the group, emphasize that a lot of people and a lot of companies struggle to make their Brand REAL and to make their Culture the moral compass for their organization. Yes, that’s right, many companies do this exercise and then go back to their old bad habits. Make it clear from the get-go that YOUR company will live these values in everything that you do. Behavior that is consistent and congruent with your values will be acknowledged and rewarded, and behavior that is not will be addressed and altered quickly. Make it clear that your company’s values will be discussed often, and will be used in recruiting the best new employees. Make it clear that you’ll use the values in measuring your success, in handling performance measurement and reviews, and in every way possible. Most important, get your Culture launched quickly, and then communicate about it frequently. You cannot overdo this, in my experience. You must commit to living these values and never waver from them if you want to build Leadership Brand and Leadership Culture.
Teach, Coach, Communicate and Equip Your Culture: Expect that as with any transformational change and transition that is deep, there may be some resistance to your new Brand and Culture building efforts. When you see signs of resistance, overwhelm the resistance with your 110% commitment to the Core Values and the Culture you’re building. If there are members of your team who don’t want to be involved in changing the culture, perhaps they are no longer a fit for your organization and should self-select out to find a place to work more to their liking? From day one you need to stay relentlessly on message about your absolute commitment to changing the culture intentionally. Your team will be looking for signs of weakness in your resolve, and there can be no weakness or inconsistency whatsoever. Invest in teaching your associates how to make decisions and how to take actions that are congruent and consistent with the new Culture. Use examples that happen as powerful coaching moments where you can make your associates understand the reasons behind the culture and how it benefits everyone involved. Communicate the Values at every meeting and every opportunity until your entire team knows that this isn’t a fad, it’s a passion! Then communicate your Values and the foundation behind them some more! Consider branding your Culture, which will tend to give it a life of its own and get people even more excited about it. Equip your team to make your Culture resonate in every aspect of day to day operations, and it will take root and grow quickly.
Measure Your Culture and Reward Culture Enabling Behavior: We’ve all seen companies and organizations who have lovely Culture Posters tacked up in the break room, or in the lobby, but have no evidence of that culture in day to day conduct. Don’t be that company; you can truly inspire great behavior and great performance by making your Culture relevant. Start by measuring everything about your Culture. If one of your values is to treat customers with the ultimate respect and appreciation, then measure your ability to do it, and immediately reward great results and immediately remedy any shortfall against that value. Your employee associates need to see regular metrics and reports that help them to keep score and inform future choices. A company who values customers, but doesn’t measure how their customers are being served, isn’t really in a position to affect their customer’s experience positively. Put your thinking caps on with your Leadership Team. Identify how you can build a scoreboard to measure your Culture and your progress toward attaining high performance against your core values. You’ll never regret it.
Model Your Brand and Culture: Your people will watch you like a hawk, and will follow your example. Knowing that the entire organization (and everyone your organization touches) is watching your every move, make the moves that will drive success. You want everyone to conclude that your Culture is at the core of the company you are today and will continue to form the kind of company you will be in the future. There are two things that must be absolute constants as you model your Brand and your Culture. Those two things are Consistency and Congruency. You cannot take a day off. Every day must show that you are laser focused on executing decisions. Every day must show you making choices consistently. You cannot be focused on Culture Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and take the other days off. It’s an EVERYDAY thing. Secondly, every action that you take, every decision that you make must be 100% Congruent with your Culture and your core values. If you allow sacred cows in your organization to behave in ways that contradict your values, then your core values will not guide future behavior. Congruency must be constant.
All righty, then, that is a pretty basic roadmap toward beginning to build Leadership Brand and Culture in your company. Get started, stick to your guns and do not let early resistance knock you off course. I have worked with dozens of companies who have made these steps turn into VERY positive transformational change. These companies have seen results for their company and their Culture in a 12-month period. What’s best is that all of the research suggests that an investment in building Leadership Brand and Culture in your organization will pay off with higher profits. Your associates want to be proud of the work that you do, and they want to feel connected to a greater purpose than just making money. So, get busy and get started helping to connect your team to a greater purpose as suggested above. I know you will never regret it. If you need some help getting started, give me a call, I can and will help you to get started and will guide you to a very strong and positive outcome. Remember this; nobody can do this but you. Are you tired of the way your business is underperforming? Do you have the motivation to do this for yourself, and for your team? I know you can, but again, nobody can do it for you, you’re going to have to decide to do it for yourself. I hope that you will. Remember, we’re here to help you if you need it.
Michael Beach is a business advisor who specializes in developing outstanding management skills and leadership abilities in Emerging Leaders, those high performing individual contributors whose company intends to promote into management and leadership positions. Michael’s approach to developing the next generation of leaders is extraordinarily successful, so much so, that he offers his clients a performance guarantee. What are YOU doing to develop the next generation of leaders in YOUR company? If you’re not doing anything currently, or if you’re not doing enough, or if you worry that you’re not doing it the best way possible, you should contact Michael at firstname.lastname@example.org.