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 

Understanding Leadership in the 21st Century

leadership

21st Century Leadership

How can today’s business leaders keep up with the seismic geopolitical and economic shifts in the world?

What do these mean for their own leadership narratives?

In their newly-released book, The Leadership Lab: Understanding leadership in the 21st century, author Chris Lewis and megatrends analyst Dr. Pippa Malmgren set out to help leaders navigate these changes successfully. Covering everything from how to build a new type of leadership trust when other spheres of public power have been overturned to robots overtaking companies, this book explains not only why the old rules no longer apply, but also how to blaze a trail in this new world order and be the best leader you can be.

I recently had the opportunity to ask the authors about their new book and get their thoughts on some of the most important challenges facing leaders today.

 

“’What do you think?’ are the four most powerful words in a leaders armory.” -Lewis and Malmgren

 

Embrace Uncertainty

What are some of the skills required in the 21st century that are different from previous generations of leaders?

The Leadership Lab front coverThere is but one skill required today that is different from previous generations. That is the willingness and ability to embrace uncertainty. Once a leader has abandoned certainty, they are on the path to excellence. The fact-based, research-led, ‘drill-down’ analytical approach that has historically been followed in the pursuit of efficiency is no longer enough. There’s nothing wrong with this, provided it is not at the expense of a ‘look-across’ big picture view. The reductionist model with one right answer at the back of the book promulgated by the infallible (often male) leader, is disappearing. This means the leader can no longer afford to predict one outcome but must now prepare for all outcomes.

 

“There is but one skill required today that is different from previous generations. That is the willingness and ability to embrace uncertainty.” -Lewis and Malmgren

 

What are some of the dangers of over-relying on data analysis when it comes to leadership? 

The Power of Company Culture

company culture image

The Power of Company Culture

In more posts than I can count, I have written, discussed, and interviewed authors on the importance of organizational culture. A powerful culture fuels an organization to achieve greatness. When a new book by Chris Dyer titled The Power of Company Culture: How any business can build a culture that improves productivity, performance and profits hit my desk, I was interested to see the author’s view of culture and his interpretation of the latest research. Chris didn’t disappoint. The book takes the reader on a thoughtful overview of culture and shows the practical steps to take to improve yours in record time.

I recently spoke with Chris about his work on company culture.

 

“Culture is the bedrock of business success.” -Mark Goulston

 

3 Ways to Increase Transparency

Transparency. You share some great ways to increase transparency. Is it ever possible to be too transparent?

Of course! Take any example, and a case can be made that too much of a good thing can be bad for you. Each company needs to decide how transparent they should be with employees, customers, and vendors. InThe Power of Company Culture, I present evidence that more transparency is usually better. Regulations, privacy concerns, and competitive advantages aside, transparency is really about writing—and playing by—the rules of the game.

When companies take charge and share information about their financial health, successes, failures, goals, and dreams, they then control their own narrative. As humans, we can only use the information we already have to explain something new we don’t understand. By providing more information to those impacting our companies, we help them arrive at the correct conclusions and outcomes.

Any company looking to improve their transparency should start in a few key areas. First, ask: Does everyone in the company know what goals have been set by senior management? Overall company goals, department goals, and even team goals should not be a secret.

Second: Does everyone know and understand the financial health status of the organization? For public companies, this information is available to everyone. But most companies are not public. Decide how far you are willing to go, and share the numbers that you can.

Third: Do teams, departments, and employees understand what is expected of them by senior leadership? Nine times out of ten, when a department or person is not measuring up to what is expected, there is a disconnect as to what they believe is expected.

 

“Transparency is both a business ethic and a cultural element in the workplace.” -Chris Dyer

 

Develop a Positive Culture

How do leaders develop a culture of positivity?

There are lots of ways to infuse positivity into an organization. I suggest a deep dive into the Appreciative Inquiry and Positive Leadership working models, via books and interactive workshops.

Before you do that, consider where your business falls on the positivity scale. Do your people ask, “What went right?” or, “What did we do well?” Or do they just focus on solving “problems”? Often, we forget to ask and identify what is working, and consider that the place for us to do more.

Positivity also entails identifying who does what, well. In a team, it is common for some people to excel in one area, and others somewhere else. Aligning tasks and goals around strengths, and minimizing weaknesses, is more positive than working on what’s not working.

Additionally, look at the language used by people in your company to find potential tweaks for positivity. Instead of addressing troublesome issues as “problem solving,” which is a negative concept, start calling them “opportunities to improve.”

 

“Give feedforward not feedback.” -Chris Dyer

Flip the Leadership Mind Switch and Rethink How You Lead

Flip the Switch

I’m often giving keynote speeches about the rapid-fire pace of change. From artificial intelligence to the gig economy, the world of work is changing at a record pace.

The Leadership Mind Switch is a new book by authors Debra Benton and Kylie Wright-Ford that helps leaders position themselves for the future in the midst of these changes. To keep up and succeed, you want to understand how to navigate to drive growth well into the future.

 

Rethink How We Lead

Why is it important to rethink how we lead? 

While it is always important to grow and develop as leaders, we are experiencing an historical era where tech advances married with sweeping demographic changes, plus a shift in the power base from corporations to individuals, have upended the way the future looks for work, workplaces and workers.

The sharing economy, the low marginal cost of becoming an entrepreneur and the preferences of rising generations mean that leadership behaviors of the past will fail in a quest for relevancy in our physically and digitally fused world.  Yet leaders are still using biographies of their favorite leaders from the 80s and 90s as their guides for the future.

As a Chief Operating Officer meeting hundreds of the world’s best executives, I was struck by the slow pace of change in the way we interact in the workplace relative to the pace of change in the outside world, the changing complexion of our customer bases in business and the demands of the rising generations.  Legacy thinking and iterations on past methods won’t cut it in the new world of work, yet many leaders are “nibbling at the edges” of the changes they need to implement to attract and retain talent and, frankly, to remain relevant. Free food and subsidized health memberships are not enough anymore.  Dramatic shifts in the characteristics and behaviors we value are needed to thrive going forward.

 

The Importance of Trust

The dizzying pace of change often make us believe that everything is upended, but some things have not changed for leaders. What is something that remains unchanged and just as important in terms of leadership? 

The ideal of being trusted and trustworthy has not changed over time.  It is as important now as it ever was, especially in the eyes of those impacted by less than honest leaders, but what is different now is our ability to get transparency on and take action against leaders that lie, cheat and create subversive cultures.

The optimism of people and yearning for strong leadership, whether real or perceived, can often mask less than trustworthy behavior for a period of time.  However, we are entering an era where rising generations are seeking more from their leaders and their organizations.  Consumers, workers and competitors have more ability than ever to call out bad behaviors, share good behaviors and make choices.

 

“The optimism of people and yearning for strong leadership can often mask less than trustworthy behavior.”

 

I have unwavering belief in our ability as a society to sift through the noise of leaders who are untrustworthy and that we have an opportunity to set a new bar for leaders who create positive cultures, leave enduring legacies and inspire those coming behind and beside them.  We just aren’t there yet.

 

What behaviors do leaders need today that may not have been “musts” in the past? 

The Future of Happiness: How to Be Happy in the Digital Age

How to Be Happy in the Digital Age

 

We live in the digital age.

Some bemoan the constant interruptions and endless internet surfing. Others celebrate the new-found freedom and capabilities.

How has the digital age impacted our happiness?

Amy Blankson is one of the world’s leading experts on the connection between positive psychology and technology. She is the only person to be named a Point of Light by two presidents (President George Bush Sr. and President Bill Clinton) for creating a movement to activate positive culture change.  A sought-after speaker and consultant, Amy has now worked with organizations like Google, NASA, the US Army, and the Xprize Foundation to help foster a sense of well-being in the Digital Era.

Her new book, The Future of Happiness: 5 Modern Strategies for Balancing Productivity and Well-Being in the digital Era, is a blend of research, case studies, and practical tips to improve your happiness, productivity and health in the midst of the onslaught of apps, devices, and constant connection.

I recently spoke to her about staying positive in the midst of it all.

 

Research: Positivity equals 3x more creativity and 31% higher productivity.

 

Happiness in the Digital Age

I want to start with the question that an entrepreneur asked you at one of your presentations: “Social media and technology are destroying our happiness, right?”

In recent months, I have seen a growing number of posts about how bad technology is for us. Technology is blamed for social isolation, disconnection, and corruption.  But I’ve also heard and seen how technology can be used for good — a means to connect, to share knowledge, to empower, even to save lives.  So, which is it: Is technology good for us or bad for us?  Does technology make us less happy or more happy?  As Shakespeare once said, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Technology is a tool, a means to an end–and WE get to decide how that story ends.

 

Fact: 95% of Americans spend 2 or more hours a day using a digital device.

 

Since technology can both bring joy and destroy it, tell us a few ways you’ve used it to your advantage. And tell us about what apps you’re using for happiness, productivity, and to “tune in, not zone out.”

One of my favorite examples of “happytech” is the Spire stone.  The Spire stone is a small wearable that clips onto your bra strap or waistband to monitor your respiration and, in turn, lower blood pressure, reduce stress, and increase the flow of endorphins in your blood stream. The Spire uses your breathing patterns to figure out when you are tense, calm, or focused, and provides gentle notifications to guide you when you need it most.

When I first started testing out the Spire stone, I had a particularly poignant experience.  Last spring, my family jumped into our backyard pool to enjoy the unseasonably warm weather. In an unfortunate turn of circumstances, my younger daughter jumped into the pool a bit too close to her older sister, landing on her neck and breaking her neck.  I happened to be out of town when this happened, so I didn’t know how bad the situation was until I returned home and took my older daughter to the doctor.  I was wearing my Spire stone the whole time and had managed to stay fairly calm through the doctor visit; however, as I was walking out of the hospital with my daughter in a giant neck brace, my Spire stone began to vibrate to let me know I was feeling tense.  Pausing to think about what was going on, I realized that I was actually anxious about how other people would perceive me as the mother of a child with a broken neck. The nudge was just enough to help me reframe my thoughts to be more present for my daughter rather than worried about myself, and I was able to short-circuit an emotional response that might have taken me a week or more to realize before I had the Spire stone.

 

“You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.” –Robert Solow

 

Tell us about the Happiness Cliff.

Sometimes tech is fun just for the sake of the endorphin rush and the dopamine boost. But at what point do those focus-altering diversions cause us to lose sight over what we really care about? At what point do diversions turn into fixations that are distracting?

Sometimes we become so engrossed in our diversions that we don’t notice that they are no longer making us happy anymore. Like Wile E. Coyote in Looney Tunes, we get our legs going so fast that it actually takes us a moment to realize that we have run right off the Happiness Cliff. Let me assure you that this never turns out well for poor Wile E.

According to the Law of Diminishing Returns, many diversions can actually be beneficial for our productivity and happiness—up to a point. Beyond that point, the diversion simply becomes a waste of time and eventually a time suck that becomes harmful to our productivity. To avoid falling off the happiness cliff, start your day by setting your intention for how you want to use your time.   When you start to find yourself engrossed in a task, pause to ask if your technology use is helping you tune in (helping you to achieve your intention) or causing you to zone out.  If your answer is the latter, then try to set a time limit for yourself to engage in that activity so that you don’t get sucked in and lose focus.

 

Happiness Tip: pause to see if you are tuning in or zoning out.

 

Train Your Brain to Be Positive

What does the latest research tell us about our ability to train our brains to be more positive?

The latest research from the field of positive psychology reveals that training our brains to be more positive is not only possible, it’s actually essential to striving after your full potential. Why? Because when your brain is positive, it receives a boost of dopamine, which turns on the learning centers in the brain and makes you able to see more possibilities in your environment.  In fact, a positive brain has been linked to: 37% higher sales, 3x more creativity, 31% higher productivity, 40% increase in likelihood of receiving a promotion, 23% decrease in symptoms of fatigue, 10x increase in the level of engagement at work, a 39% increase in the likelihood of living to age 94, and a 50% decrease in the risk of heart disease.

 

Research: Positive people have a 40% increase in likelihood of a job promotion.

 

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