Leadership: Creating Cultures that Work
Peter Drucker is known for his warning “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Understanding this, any company team that disconnects strategy and culture puts its success at risk. Organizational culture is the direct results of the styles and behaviors the leaders demonstrate. Consciously or not, the top team sets the tone for what people can expect and what will make or break the company in the long-run.
Three best practices can help shape the future direction of any organization.
Do Three Things Right
Winning companies take three steps early on by giving this thoughtful attention.
Define the values the organization will live by and exemplify
These values should be the top 5-7 that ensure the organization can meets its long-term vision. It’s a conscientious exercise to select the key few that are the building blocks for teams to achieve their goals.
These values must be clear. This does not mean only choosing the right words. Research studies show people understand values best when the values are defined by examples of both actions that show when it is done well and actions that show when it is done badly. Specific examples of “do’s” and “don’ts” make values understandable.
Here is an example.
Discipline with Risk-Taking
We win with rigor because we balance it with risk to make a significant difference.
What We Do: Make the most of work time…Align operating plans with company strategic plans…Reserve adequate time for planning and thinking…Stay the course once a plan is defined…Evaluate and measure the results of decisions previously made…Use the right balance of data and intuition and decision-making…Continuously improve in all ways…Relentlessly seek total quality in all we do…Take initiative to develop oneself and others professionally…Manage time effectively and minimize interruptions
How We Do It: Take risks to make a significant difference…Take an unpopular position when it is the right thing to do…Consistently demonstrate strength of convictions..Say what must be said tactfully an with regard to the feelings of others…Tries high risk approaches and learns from successes and failures…Make decisions under conditions of uncertainty
What We Don’t Do: Run with an idea without evaluating the possible consequences…take on a project without discussing it thoroughly with all stakeholders…remain silent about concerns with a proposal under consideration.
Leaders model the values in the way they work
Make no mistake. People study what leaders do and take their cues for how to then behave. It’s not enough to declare values and put them on a website. They need to breathe! They need to be alive!
Executive leaders who come together and create a team code about how they will behave and work with each other set the DNA for what follows. The best practice for mature executives is to take time together to discuss and commit to a team Charter: How We Work, that includes a list of commitments about how they will work, establish effective group dynamics and solve disagreements and challenges.
Of course, integrity to live by the Charter is the vital test the team must pass. Proving it’s true comes from consistent examples of executive showing they mean it.
Celebrate when employees live the values
Be on watch for great examples of when an employee does something that shows the values are alive and make a significant difference for the organization. Call attention to these by recognizing the individual or team and acknowledging their contribution to the company and for what it stands. Tell people why it is important and how it makes the company great. Honor professionals who set an example and say “thank you”.
Celebrate these moments to show they matter. I a world of busy work, it’s good to take a moment to enjoy what is going well.
Make it Happen
Fortunately, this is not a difficult or time-intensive effort. It’s about quality of time rather than volume of it. Setting a time (2-3 hours) to define the values and the charter as an executive team can be done as a lunch or dinner exercise. It helps to have an independent person facilitate the discussion, so each person has one, equal voice. Moreover, the time for this yields an ROI for years to come.
Build a culture that makes everyone proud and eager to be part of a successful organization!
We are happy to set up a free 30 -minute phone call if you would like help creating an effective culture.
Donna Hamlin co-leads the Strategic Services Practice Group, working with clients in all industries to facilitate their strategic planning and business performance improvement. With more than 35 years of experience in strategy, change management and human performance improvement, she works with clients ranging from Fortune 500 global enterprises to start-up companies spanning more than 40 countries.