Imagine for a moment your perfect work situation, environment, and contribution. Do words like collaboration, growth, productivity, appreciation, and impact pop into mind? In my professional career, I’ve come to realize company culture is the key foundational element that helps guide the beliefs that drive the behaviors and actions needed to get the desired results. It is also why according to KPMG’s 2017 Global CEO Outlook, 74% of CEOs are prioritizing and investing in improving culture, trust, and engagement. They understand the direct impact it has on the financial health of their company.
In one of my previous articles 5 Ways Leadership Development Drives Profitability I explained company culture is a shared set of beliefs and key mindsets that develop through the behaviors and experiences of an organization. If leaders do not do a good job of defining and managing their culture they will find themselves with a hap-hazard culture that breeds negativity because of the misalignment of words and actions, unclear expectations, no belief in a common goal, and zero understanding of how everyone has an impact on fulfilling the company mission. Leaders are responsible for guiding behaviors through their collective strategic initiatives, goals and messaging that aligns with the mission, vision, and core values of the company.
Here’s how to prioritize your people and culture for winning results:
Know Your Culture
Understand the current state of your culture and then clearly define the culture you hope to build. Ask yourself these three questions:
1. What are the mindsets and behaviors we want our employees to have?
2. What experiences or opportunities can we create that help enforce those mindsets?
3. How do we make sure we recruit and hire people with those same mindsets and refine our messaging or training to help current employees develop those mindsets?
Set Expectations, Hold People Accountable and Follow-Through
All employees must understand what’s expected, see leadership following through themselves and hold others accountable to those expectations. Employees need to hear their leaders telling purposeful stories showcasing those doing it right, to connect the words to actions.
Accountability often has the negative implication of simply being a set of consequences for when mistakes are made or goals missed. In fact is can be quite the opposite when approached correctly. It is the act of following through in a manner and timeline that aligns with what was agreed on or made clear. Some leaders have the mindset that adults should know what’s expected and how-to follow-through, but that simply isn’t the case in most organizations. I say that not because I don’t think people intend to do what is expected of them. I believe most of the time what is expected is not made clear or outlined in a way that they understand. Everyone needs to be guided, rewarded, reminded and understand the consequences of operating outside company standards. In the end, a culture of accountability builds trust and dramatically improves performance.
Ask The Right Questions and Listen
You can’t fully understand how to make something better without first understanding the severity and scope of the problem. Most of the time issues arise because of a larger underlying issue that manifests itself in a multitude of ways. For example, lack of trust in the workplace can manifest as people not feeling comfortable speaking up, everyone operating under different assumptions, and adoption of the attitude “everyone is out for themselves”. Ask your employees, ‘what are the areas we need to improve and why,” can give you a great starting point for building your short-term and long-term people and culture initiatives. Feedback is effective when it’s truly heard and there is follow-through. Pay attention, make eye contact, don’t interrupt or get defensive.
Effective communication is the fundamental pillar of any high-performance team, family, organization or partnership. In Brent Gleeson’s bestselling book TakingPoint he explains the importance of keeping the message simple and authentic, utilizing multiple channels and tools, being repetitious, maintaining consistent behavior among managers and leaders, and gathering feedback along the way. Misalignment of messaging can derail progress and many times be detrimental to change efforts resulting in inefficiencies, frustration, and lack of order. You need to define the barriers that stand in the way of property communicating a vision for change within an organization. They can be both behavioral and structural.
Lack of trust is a threat to an organization’s growth, but most CEOs have done little to improve trust because they are not sure where to start. Trust must start at the top. Managers need to set clear goals that align with an organizations mission and core values, allow autonomy to execute on those goals, and provide constructive and consistent feedback along the way. Consistency and alignment are the key elements to building trust. Get aligned with your mission, vision and core values, and then remain consistent in your messaging, delivery, actions, and follow-through.
Remove Negative People
Negativity breeds toxicity so no matter how talented someone is in a specific field or discipline, they need to go. Their negative energy, words, and presence rubs off on others and can lead to turn-over of people you do not want to leave. Toxic employees come at a great cost and although you can’t see the harm it’s causing right away, the long-term effects are much more apparent. You will start to see the “blame game” philosophy where no one takes responsibility for themselves or their team, causing internal conflict and animosity. Employees talk poorly about your company in public which leads to recruiting and brand image issues. We hope this helps you in your efforts in building a stronger culture rooted in trust and accountability. Companies with strong cultures see a 4x increase in revenue growth according to Forbes so it will well worth your investment in time and money to correct mindsets and behaviors of your current and future employees.