Culture: Not a Fill-in-the-Blank Exercise!

By Bill Kaiser, Senior Consultant

All too common

C’mon, admit it.  You’ve gone through the traditional culture building exercise of defining your vision, mission and core values statements at least once in your career.  Did anyone walk away from this process feeling like the outcome was nothing more than framed statements occupying the empty spaces between your Successories motivational posters?  The end product may have “looked good on paper,” but did it help your people and organization perform any better?  Did it contribute to creating a sustained differentiation in your commoditized marketplace?  Are you now attracting and retaining better employees?

Don’t get me wrong.  There is value in answering, “Where are we going as an organization?” (Vision); or “Why are we in this business?” (Mission) or “How do we conduct ourselves?” (Core Values).  Having statements that reflect our passion and conviction can powerfully align our workforce.  The problem is that most of the time, the statements we write reflect a fill-in-the-blank exercise and are so broad and abstract they become meaningless.

A shift in thinking

Regular readers of this blog know we’re advocates for a shift in thinking for how we go about defining our cultures.  It’s much more than simply articulating vision, mission and values.  A high-performing culture is fueled by the identification and practice of the behaviors we want to see, every day, that drive our success.  Behaviors are visible and much easier to coach, teach and provide feedback on than the esoteric values.

Identifying behaviors

The first step in our 8-Step Framework for institutionalizing your culture is to define, with great clarity, the employee behaviors (Fundamentals) that drive your success.  When leading this discussion with CEOs and their executive teams, the following questions help us identify those critical behaviors:

  1. What behaviors do we currently do well that we want to make sure always remain a part of our culture?
  2. What are the behaviors about which you often say, “If we could only get our people to more consistently do these, we’d be kicking tail?”
  3. Picture the employee that you wish you could clone.  What do they do that you wish others would also do?
  4. What behaviors drive you the craziest?  What do you want to see people do instead?
  5. When your CEO goes on a rant, what is he/she usually ranting about?

At High Performing Culture, one of the 30 Fundamentals we practice is “Deliver Results.”  While effort is appreciated, we reward and celebrate results!  If you’re serious about driving a high-performing culture to achieve better results and a sustainable market differentiation, it requires more than just a fill-in-the-blank-exercise. It all starts with identifying behaviors.

Looking forward to sharing more in future blogs regarding the power of our 8-Step Framework.  Feel free to call or shoot us an email to discuss any of this in more detail.

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