6 Key Elements of a Healthy Culture

culture question

Like Where You Work

The authors of The Culture Question: How to Create a Workplace Where People Like to Work believe that everyone should be able to like where they work. This is a compelling vision, and after reading the book I reached out to two of the four authors, ACHIEVE CEO, Randy Grieser, and ACHIEVE Managing Director, Eric Stutzman, to learn more about their thoughts.

 

Culture is the relational environment in which we work, and it’s how we work together.

 

Culture: How People Behave and Interact

What is your definition of culture?

Workplace culture is really about how people behave and interact. This includes how decisions are made, how disagreements are voiced, how conflict is resolved, and how people connect when they pass in the hall. Culture is the relational environment in which we work, and it’s how we work together. The simplest way we’ve come to describe culture is, “It’s the way things work around here.”

While culture is not physical, you can feel and see it in the language we use, our rituals, and the stories we tell. Even simple things like whether people feel comfortable displaying personal items on their desk or walls can tell you a lot about an organization’s culture.

We describe culture as being on a spectrum between healthy and unhealthy. Healthy cultures are full of energy and productivity, whereas unhealthy cultures produce unmotivated employees. Most organizations are not completely healthy or entirely unhealthy, but rather lie somewhere in the middle. Or there are parts of the culture that are good, and parts that are bad.

 

One of the hallmarks of a healthy culture is that leaders communicate change well.

 

Why is workplace culture important?

The goal of most workplaces is to get things done. When we have a healthy workplace culture, it sets the stage for doing good work. In our opinion, culture is the most significant factor that influences work relationships, employee happiness, and productivity. We agree with the phrase attributed to Peter Drucker: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” You can have the most incredible strategy imaginable, but if you don’t have a healthy culture in which to execute your strategy, it’s just words on a page.

In our opinion, nothing impacts employee engagement more than workplace culture – and almost every leader and human resource manager we know would like to see engagement increase. The secret to improving employee engagement is culture.

 

A healthy culture is much like a car that requires regular, ongoing maintenance so it can continue to serve its purpose.

 

What does it look like when leaders truly prioritize culture?

As leaders, we are all stretched in multiple directions. As such, it is tempting to focus on all our other operational demands at the expense of culture – culture becomes something we will eventually get to once other priorities are dealt with.

Healthy cultures require intention and effort. When leaders prioritize culture, it becomes part of the daily and weekly conversations they have with others – culture may even become the agenda item for a meeting. The good news is that when operational challenges emerge in organizations with healthy cultures, everyone is more willing and able to rise to the occasion.

 

Don’t miss:  Turn Your Mistakes Into Gold. Skip’s appearance on Inspire Nation in video or audio.

 

Common Leadership Mistakes 

How to Attract and Retain the Best People

Hire the Best

 

During one of my interviews, someone asked me about my biggest career mistakes.

“That’s easy,” I said, “I have made the mistake of hiring the wrong person. It is an expensive error.”

Since that early career mistake, I have developed a number of strategies and techniques to reduce my hiring errors. And that’s why I loved The Right Hire: Attract and Retain the Best People because the book shares many techniques to get the right person for the job. The book explains that hiring should be both part of the organizational strategy and strategic. I had the opportunity to speak with Lisette Howlett who has fifteen years of global change leadership and business development experience.

 

Make Hiring Right A Part of Your Strategy

How do leaders ensure that hiring is part of the overall organizational strategy?

At its most simplistic, by simply putting it into the strategic plan and elevating it to be part of the leadership and strategic agenda.

The strategic plan outlines where the organization aims to be in the chosen timeframe, typically 5 years, and it should include a section on the organization implications and the hiring strategy required for success.  Adopting an effective hiring strategy is core to the achievement of this plan and will cover different aspects depending on the organization’s strategic intent.  If, for example, the organization is seeking to change direction, expand to new markets or even leave markets and sectors, the hiring plan needs to reflect this.  How will people be hired in anticipation of the future plans, how will they be developed and made ready?  Hiring in this context is not just hiring new talent into the organization from outside but also hiring (or promoting) people from within the organization to new roles and locations.  And similarly, if an organization is exiting a market or geography, thinking about how any key talent in this unit might be retained is critical as well and should be part of the exit plan.

In terms of elevating hiring to be an integral part of the leadership and strategic agenda, one of the best ways to do this is to adopt a balanced scorecard approach and ensure that time is spent on broader leadership topics as well as financial performance.

The less simple way is to invest in the development of what I have called a hiring culture.  This is a culture where the organization is always on the lookout for talent and takes action when it is spotted.  The search for talent, once again, can be internal as well as external.

Additionally, taking a more strategic approach to hiring will go a long way towards ensuring that hiring is part of the organizational strategy.  By this I mean that we need to move away from treating it as a transaction that is forced upon managers due to the need of someone to fill a vacant position in the organization.  We need to think of hiring in the medium term and even long term and start to develop hiring plans to support this.  At the organizational level, think of the competencies and attitudes that you will need for ongoing organizational success and start hiring for them now.  Plan the numbers and skills you will need for your future organization and work to that plan.  For jobs that you know you will always be recruiting, invest in strong talent sourcing systems and hire continually whenever you spot talent.  Hiring ahead of the curve will give you the time to wait for top talent rather than rush to bring someone in just to cover the mounting workload.

 

Don’t miss Skip’s appearance on Atlanta’s Small Business show talking about the 9 Mistakes of an Entrepreneur.

 

The Cost of a Wrong Hire

I’m always surprised at the high cost of a wrong hire. Would you share some of the statistics on making a bad choice? 

5 Conditions for an Effective Team

team

The Most Effective Teams

Rodger Dean Duncan’s latest book LeaderSHOP: Workplace, Career, and Life Advice From Today’s Top Thought Leaders is a collection of lessons from his many leadership interviews. I reached out to Rodger to provide his perspective on world class teams.

 

“Teamwork is more common as a buzzword than as an actual practice.” -Rodger Dean Duncan

 

Tips for Building Teams

Building a world-class team is the job of a great leader. Share a few tips you’ve learned about building great teams.

Teamwork is more common as a buzzword than as an actual practice. Without benefit of nuance, teamwork is one of those catch-all terms often extended as the magic elixir for the moment’s most pressing execution issue. In a bid to boost performance, teamwork is touted in corporate vision statements, on wall posters, T-shirts, key chains, and coffee mugs. Teamwork is the subject of banal pep talks by goofy managers in TV sitcoms (The Office comes to mind). Teamwork has been given a bad name by a world of bad practitioners.

But when we’re strategic about putting both the team and the work into teamwork, beautiful things can happen.

Here’s a helpful metaphor. The suspension bridge is one of the most impressive accomplishments of modern engineering. It begins as individual wires not much stronger than the ones you’d use to hang pictures on your living room wall. Spun together, these individual wires become strands. Then several of the larger strands are combined into giant wire rope or cable that can bear thousands of tons of weight and safely cross obstacles like canyons and rivers.

This same principle is part of the marvelous results that can be produced by genuine teamwork. Ordinary people can achieve extraordinary things when they discover strength in unity.

 

“Some people hesitate in speaking up to avoid being ostracized or being viewed as ‘not a team player.’” – Rodger Dean Duncan

 

5 Conditions of an Effective Team

So what are the ingredients of an effective team?

A team is most likely to be effective when five conditions exist:

 

1. It’s a real team, not just a team in name only.

A collection of people is not necessarily a team. In this context, “team” is used to describe a carefully selected group of people who work interdependently, who are mutually supportive, and who bring out the best in each other as they strive to accomplish a set of specific goals.

Composition matters, and more is not necessarily better. Go for quality over quantity.

 

2. It has a compelling purpose.

How Leaders Achieve Radical Outcomes

outcomes

 

Do you want to create radical outcomes?

 

Juliana Stancampiano, author of RADICAL OUTCOMES: How to Create Extraordinary Teams, is an entrepreneur and the CEO of Oxygen. For more than fifteen years, she has worked with Fortune 500 companies, both in them and for them. Her firm’s clients include Microsoft, DXC, Delta Dental (of WA), Starbucks, F5 Networks, Avaya, and Western Digital, among others. Her in-depth experience, along with the research that Oxygen conducts and the articles she has published, has helped to shape the perspective that Oxygen embraces.

After reading her new book, I reached out to Juliana to learn more about her work.

 

“You cannot defend your design without knowing what you’re designing for.” -I.M. Pei

 

Set the Vision

What’s the role of the leader in the team to produce radical outcomes?

The leader sets the vision and acts as the guard rails. The leader remains outcome-focused yet allows flexibility to achieve the outcome.  It’s not commanding and controlling your team.  It’s knowing their strengths and ensuring roles and abilities are aligned.

 

“Teams must understand and focus on outcomes, not on tasks.” -Juliana Stancampiano

 

Face Team Obstacles

What are the obstacles many teams face in becoming an effective ensemble?

Lack of role clarity. Clearly defined roles and responsibilities avoid internal disagreements.  Teams must understand and focus on outcomes, not on tasks.

Structure and process that prevent ensembles working effectively. We’ve seen performance management that rates people in comparison to their peers, not based on outcomes. When people are rated on a curve, they constantly compete with each other to improve their own rating.  This prevents meaningful ensemble work.

Lack of visibility of work product. Teams must share, even before the “thing” is completed. Early sharing allows teams to iterate together and stay focused. Lack of sharing produces work that often doesn’t meet the stated outcome. It also causes unnecessary re-work.

Various modes of communication.  Effective teams must communicate differently – fast communication, phone communication, chat communication – depending on topic and need.  They embrace different modalities, at different times and with different people.

 

“Lack of sharing produces work that often doesn’t meet the stated outcome.” -Juliana Stancampiano

 

How do team members become collaborative and not competitive?

Learn to Lead with Courage

courage versus fear
Ryan Berman, author of the new book RETURN ON COURAGE, is the Founder of Courageous, a creative consultancy that develops Courage Brands®. For his book, Berman spent three years shadowing top leaders to understand how they accomplish their goals. He found that the best leaders make sure that courage is a key component of their organization’s culture. The excerpt below will help you build an organization in which courage thrives.

 

Return on Courage

Most businesses are properly focused on return on investment. Courage Brands have a high Return on Courage. How can you recognize when your brand is moving down the right path to delivering a Return on Courage?

 

HERE ARE FIVE KEY RETURN ON COURAGE MOMENTS:

1. COMMUNICATION: Lead with your company’s values

By doing the hard work of setting up your Central Courage System, you’re on your way to eliminating the fragmented gap that sits between organizational health and courageous business.

All decisions can now be made the right way—through your core values. Remember, core values are not eye rolls. They are how the exceptional roll. Knowing your values and communicating them takes the guessing game out of what matters most to your business. Activated properly, your values become your corporate cadence that can bring calm and alignment to your employees.

Remember, repeating makes Believers. The same holds true when you stay authentic to your values and use them as decision-making filters.

 

“Courage breeds courage.” -Ryan Berman

 

2. CONVICTION: Make internal Believers

When you lead with your values, you have the opportunity to make a Believer. When you make internal Believers, you make a culture. When you have a culture crafted out of your values and belief system, you build a loyal company willing to go the distance on your behalf. This is the idea of conviction. How you operate and communicate is the driving force behind making Believers or making Fake Believers. It has never been more desired by a next generation workforce than it is now.

In less than a decade, 75 percent of your workforce will be Millennials. This generation aspires to work at unique, innovative, and purpose-driven companies. They’ll stick around if they believe. Create an authentic, empowering, and purpose-driven work environment that Believers can rally behind.

 

“Create an authentic, empowering, and purpose-driven work environment that Believers can rally behind.” -Ryan Berman

 

3. CLARITY: Proactively know your business fears