Accelerate Your Performance

06: Can You Fix My Culture?

January 14, 2019 Studer Education Season 1 Episode 6
Accelerate Your Performance
06: Can You Fix My Culture?
Chapters
Accelerate Your Performance
06: Can You Fix My Culture?
Jan 14, 2019 Season 1 Episode 6
Studer Education

You’re probably familiar with the saying, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” but how is it that organizations cultivate a positive, inspired culture? And possibly more difficult, how can leaders turn a negative culture around? Dr. Pilcher explains the steps necessary to begin shifting the culture in the right direction. Our people determine our culture, it lives and evolves inside of us every day. 

This episode addresses questions, such as:  

  • Are your values walking the halls? 
  • Are your leaders living the values? 
  • Is your organization committed to excellence? 
  • What do employees envision to be the “right culture”? 

Recommended Reading:  A Culture of High Performance: Achieving Higher Quality at a Lower Cost By Quint Studer

Recommended Learning:  Walking the Halls  
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Show Notes Transcript

You’re probably familiar with the saying, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” but how is it that organizations cultivate a positive, inspired culture? And possibly more difficult, how can leaders turn a negative culture around? Dr. Pilcher explains the steps necessary to begin shifting the culture in the right direction. Our people determine our culture, it lives and evolves inside of us every day. 

This episode addresses questions, such as:  

  • Are your values walking the halls? 
  • Are your leaders living the values? 
  • Is your organization committed to excellence? 
  • What do employees envision to be the “right culture”? 

Recommended Reading:  A Culture of High Performance: Achieving Higher Quality at a Lower Cost By Quint Studer

Recommended Learning:  Walking the Halls  
__________________________________________________________________

Thank you for joining today’s Accelerate Your Performance Podcast. And thank you for having a desire to be your best at  work and helping your organization achieve success. These podcasts focus on tactical actions to improve workplace culture and these tactics align to our Nine Principles® for Organizational Excellence.  

 Today, we’ll focus on “can you fix my culture?”

 I have the great pleasure of working with partner organizations each week.  Over time I’ve heard people ask me, ‘can you fix our culture?’  I answer that I can’t do that. We can, however, do some things together to create an excellent culture.  I also talk about the work being intentional and focused, with high levels of commitment. 

So where can we start?  Most organizations have a strategic plan that includes an organizational mission and values.  As we look at the plan, I ask this question - do your values hang on the walls or walk the halls?  

Our first principle, Commit to Excellence, is difficult to achieve if we’ve not worked with our teams to define what we want our workplace culture to be.  People’s interactions determine the culture.  So, how do we define what we want those interactions to look like with each other and our customers?

Last week I walked into a hotel to meet someone. There were beautiful posters of the hotel’s values hanging in the lobby.  One of the values focused on high quality service.  I was sitting in the lobby waiting for someone. It gave me an opportunity to watch the registration desk for about 10 minutes.  It’s amazing what 10 minutes can tell you about an organization. 

The front desk professional was eating a snack as she answered the phone.  A customer approached her at the desk.  She put the food on the counter in front of the customer.  The phone rang. She answered without first addressing the customer.  She stayed on the phone and waved for someone in the back to help the customer standing at the front desk. No one responded.  With disgust she put the person on hold and asked the customer if they needed assistance. The customer wanted to inquire about a room change. She asked the customer to wait and went back to her phone conversation.  

We’ve all lived this story. And, we’ve lived through negative encounters between people when something like this occurs.  

Several things come to mind when I think about this employee.

She may not know the expectations. She may not have been trained appropriately. Her leader may not hold her accountable. Her leader may not engage in conversations with her to help her work to her best potential. 

And the leader may not understand the values hanging all over the walls nor live them. If the leader is not living them, how can his team be expected to do so?

When we don’t know what living the values looks like, we tend to have negative influences on culture. 

I am convinced that to change culture, we as leaders have to change our behaviors and model what right looks like for others.  To change behaviors, people have to understand the expectations and see what they look like in action.

One key tactic we teach focuses on operationalizing our organizational values. It’s the people in the organization who define how they want to work and live in their workplace.  They set the type of culture they want.

To operationalize our values, we work with people to create what we call - standards of practice. The approach we apply is collaborative and inclusive and is a grassroots approach.

The standards align to the values.  The standards include the value, the definition, and sample indicators of what that value looks like in action.  

Here’s a summary of the process we use to create the standards that set the expectations.  Let’s walk through it.

1.  We create a core team with a leader – talk about the make-up of this team.

 

2.  This team begins the process of defining the values and determining some sample behaviors that represent the values and definition. 

 

They ask – if we were living this value what would we be doing? What would people see? What words would people hear us say?  What would right look like for us? 

 

3.  This group gathers input from employees and then uses that input to begin the development process.

 

4.  We hold sessions with groups of staff to review the work of the team to gain input.

 

5.  The standards team uses the input to make modifications.

 

6.  The draft standards of practice are then sent to everyone to provide additional input using a survey.

 

7.  The standards team uses the input to once again make modifications.

 

8.  The standards of practice are vetted with leaders and then sent to the executive leaders for final review. 

 

9.  The standards of practice are shared with the entire organization and become the foundation for our work together. 

Now we have the organizational Standards of Practice – developed by employees. They define what they want the work environment to look like, what they expect of themselves, their leaders, and their co-workers.

To make it even more relevant, we ask leaders of units in organizations to take these organizational standards and work with their teams to define how the standards translate to their respective areas.  

What’s the advantage of applying this process to operationalize organizational values?

Employees clearly understand the expectations and have opportunities to perform at high levels.

We hire new people who agree to align their behaviors to the standards and who want to work for a place where these standards exist. 

We use the standards to develop people. 

Finally, we can use the standards to hold people accountable. 

This past year, we completed a re-fresh of our values and standards because we’ve added more and new people to our team. I wanted to give our new members a chance to engage in conversations with their peers to advance our work together – what we expect of ourselves and each other.

Here’s what we all created using the process I’ve worked through today.  We have four standards: Leading the Way, Making the Complex Simple, Amazing Service, and Delivering Results.  Here’s an example of our expected behavior for this last standard, Delivering Results

Delivering Results

•      We are only satisfied with being at our best with each other and our customers. 

 

•      We are solutions-oriented and accountable in our quest for continuous improvement.

 

•      We exceed our customers’ goals and achieve sustainable impact over time.

 

Our service line teams have taken these guiding standards and defined what it means for them, working in their respective units with each other.  

For example, we have a leadership coaching team with a Coach Leader.  That team has talked about and determined what they do when they exceed their partners’ goals and achieve sustainable impact over time.  I can tell you that some of the discussion focuses on anticipating partner needs before they do and following up and following through with 100% reliability in a timely way.

I think you get the point.  It’s as much about the conversations we have to be our best as it is having a standards document.  

Our standards stay alive because we align our professional development to them. They’re what keeps our culture alive and well. 

Fixing our culture starts with building a collective process for determining how we want to live together at work and then living this way every day.

 

This week let’s do two things. 

First, evaluate the current state of your organizational values. Do you have organizational values? Do you know them or see them? Do they hang on the walls or walk the halls?

Second,  schedule a block of time with your team over the next week or two. At the meeting, choose a value, ask your team to define it, and then ask, if we were living this value, what would we be doing, what would it look like?

See what you come up with.  I think you will enjoy the conversations and learn about your team.

 

Thank you for tuning in to Accelerate Your Performance. I look forward to connecting with you on our next Podcast where we will focus on Executive Leader Sabotage.   Have a great week.