Give your Culture Engine a Tune-Up

I’m on a blogging sabbatical. I’ll be focusing on writing my upcoming book. This is a guest post by S. Chris Edmonds, the founder and CEO of The Purposeful Culture Group. Since 1995, Chris has also served as a senior consultant with The Ken Blanchard Companies. He is the author or co-author of seven books, including Leading at a Higher Level with Ken Blanchard and his latest book, The Culture Engine. His blog, podcasts, assessments, research, and videos can be found at http://drivingresultsthroughculture.com. He’s hosting a Culture Leadership Roundtable in Denver that starts in March ’15.
chris-edmonds-culture-engine

How well is your team or department or division or company performing? I’ll bet you know exactly how well your team is hitting goals and targets.

Monitoring results closely is something that is ingrained in business leaders. Dashboards and systems provide instant updates on traction towards desired goals.

Performance is a good thing. Meeting performance expectations sustains the business over time.

An equally important question is one that not many leaders ask: “How well is your team operating?” How are team members treated by leaders and by peers? How are customers treated by team members?

Monitoring the quality of your work environment – of your organization’s culture – is something that great leaders do constantly. A work environment that demonstrates trust, respect, and dignity to all players in every interaction delivers three powerful benefits – engagement, service, and performance.

If leaders only measure, monitor, and reward results, they’ll typically get those results in some not-so-nice ways. People bend the rules. They poach customers. They throw tantrums. They withhold vital information – all to ensure they win while others lose.

A work environment that delivers on promised results while demonstrating desired values is more sane, more fun, and more productive than one that operates without defined valued behaviors.

High performing, values-aligned cultures are not the norm today. A recent study by TinyHR found that 64% of employees don’t feel their company has a strong work culture. 49% are not satisfied with their direct supervisor. Only 21% feel they are strongly valued at work.

How can leaders guide their team’s evolution into a high performing, values-aligned culture? With an organizational constitution.

An organizational constitution is a formal document that outlines the team’s purpose (it’s present-day reason for being), values and behaviors, strategies, and goals.

These agreements form the foundation – the culture engine – of high performing, values-aligned organizations. Let’s examine these four elements in more detail.

An organization’s purpose states what they do, for whom, and “to what end.” The desired outcome isn’t about making money. Making money isn’t naturally inspiring for everyone in the organization; it is for stakeholders, but not for the majority of the workforce.

A genuine, inspiring outcome is about how you serve others – your customers and your community.

Let’s look at a very solid purpose statement from a pharmaceutical company: “To discover, develop, and deliver innovative medicines that help patients prevail over serious diseases.” I think you’ll agree that this statement addresses all three of our purpose element questions.

Most organizations have strategies and goals in place. There may not be terrific accountability practices for those strategies and goals, but at least the foundation is present.

The biggest opportunity organizations have is with values and behaviors. What you want is to make how you want people to interact as clear and as measurable as what you want people to deliver.

You can’t measure lofty, vague values. You can measure valued behaviors. Behaviors are observable and tangible. Players can be rated on the degree to which they model valued behaviors in day-to-day interactions with peers and customers.

Your organization may have values in place. It is extremely rare for organizations to measure values and hold people accountable for those values. Defining desired values in behavioral terms solves this problem.

For example, if your company had an “integrity” value, how might it be measured? A dozen people might interpret what integrity means in a dozen ways. Shared values require specific definition. One client had great success by including this behavior in their integrity value: “I do what I say I will do.”

Is that behavior something that people could observe over time? Could a player – a leader or a team member – be rated twice a year on the degree to which he or she “does what s/he says s/he will do”?

Absolutely.

That’s the way you make values as important – and as relevant – as performance.

The approach is simple. Craft clear agreements for performance and values. Model, coach, and hold all accountable for both. Watch engagement, service, and performance grow.

Don’t let another day pass without clear values expectations for your team, department, or company.


  • Our value and principles should be at the core of all we do. They should be the standard we use when making our major decisions. If we hold them too loosely we wind up with a bad culture / work environment.

  • Great post. It reminds me of an organization that had great performance reviews, but the employees were miserable. Some would work their tails off, while others would kick back and watch. It reminded me what not to do as a leader, which was be involved with my teams and have a standard of accountability that every person was held to.
    I think the only performance reviews are great when used to cast the vision of “Why” we do what we do. When we can clearly communicate that, often times, people understand the values and principles. Thanks again for the great post!

  • Spencer Marona – HFO

    It’s a great book and been extremely helpful as my firm is currently experiencing growth and organizationl change. Thanks for the post.