Archive | June, 2011

Culture Fit ON PURPOSE

We’ve all seen it happen, more than once. A new team member is hired. Everyone is enthused about her past accomplishments and skill set. She is enthusiastic about her goals and about team projects she’s assigned to. The new hire is optimistic about how she can  contribute.

Yet, within weeks, her enthusiasm wanes as it is clear she “doesn’t know how we do things around here.” Her supervisor receives feedback that she is “off doing her own thing” and doesn’t keep everyone informed. She expresses frustration that “I’ve never had such difficulty getting information from key players.” She knows her new job isn’t working as expected – so she quietly goes away after finding a job with another company.

HR begins the hiring process again. Team members indicate she “just didn’t fit well on our team.”

The impact of bad hires has been discussed for decades – two recent articles (in the NY Times small business blog and the Impact Hiring Solutions blog) examine the costs quite effectively. The list of causes of a bad hire is a long one, including a skill mis-match, personality conflicts, and the classic “poor culture fit.” Let’s look at that last item more closely.

Culture Fit

How do you describe your company culture to acquaintances, family, or friends? What characteristics do you emphasize? When I ask people to describe their organization’s culture, I hear a wide range of characteristics. They include:

  • Intense
  • Goal focused
  • Fun
  • High pressure
  • Cooperative
  • Competitive

Would it surprise you to learn that these descriptions were of ONE single organization? Depending upon their leader’s personality and bias(es), staff in this organization experience very different cultural characteristics.

For many organizations, their company culture is more implicit (implied though not plainly expressed)  than explicit (stated clearly and in detail, leaving no room for confusion or doubt). If the culture is not formally defined – and, therefore, implicit – the responsibility of day-to-day culture rests on individual leaders. As you can see, that makes for a wide-range of norms across that organization.

You can also appreciate how difficult it can be hiring a new player into such a wide ranging corporate culture.

Culture fit ON PURPOSE

Would you like to improve your “batting average” on new hires, and enjoy greater culture fit more frequently? Then you must be more intentional, more explicit, with your desired culture.

You can’t figure fit without a clearly defined culture. Only then are staff able to depend upon consistent culture norms and day-to-day ground rules that help them get their jobs done without frustration.

I coach senior leaders regularly about how to utilize our proven culture refinement process to create their desired culture. The three basic steps are:

  1. Define performance expectations for every person in the company. “Contribution plans” must include specific goals and standards expected.
  2. Define values expectations for every person in the company. “Contribution plans” must include specific behaviorally-defined values so citizenship expectations are clear.
  3. Hold all staff – senior leaders through front-line, hourly employees – accountable for exceeding performance and values standards. Every day.

How do you know your desired culture is actually “lived” day in and day out? ASK. Ask a lot. Ask a variety of staff across your organization what your company values are and how they’re being demonstrated. When you get 80% consistent answers that desired values & performance IS the norm, you know you’re on the right track.

What is your experience with culture fit? Share your insights in the comments section below.

Get your FREE excerpt of my new book, #CORPORATE CULTURE Tweet.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Customer Service Department?

It was a pretty simple transaction. I ordered a pedal for my guitar stage rig (check out Chris’ “working musician” life here). It was a “scratch and dent” item, meaning someone bought & returned it so there was a nice price break. It was in perfect working condition and I don’t mind a few scratches if I can get a good deal.

The pedal arrived and worked great. As I reviewed the receipt, I noticed that the price had jumped from $200 to $330 for the item, $80 more than the brand new pedal retailed for! I called my sales contact and explained my issue. He said, “Let me transfer you to our customer service department. They’ll fix you right up.”

While I waited, it struck me – why have a “customer service department”? Isn’t it EVERYBODY’S job to serve the customer?!?

Organizational Structure Sends a Message

The way your organization operates and is structured sends clear messages to employees and customers. If your systems & policies are aligned and serve customers well, you’ll reap the benefits. If not, the buzz will fly: “This company treats customers like dirt.”

When companies make it difficult for customers to get service issues addressed, they 1) lose business (customers take their business elsewhere) and 2) frustrate employees.

If an organization has a “customer service department,” two key messages are reinforced to staff across the organization:

  1. “You don’t trust me.”
    If you have a separate team to solve customer issues, it means you don’t trust employees of other departments to solve customer issues. The message is clear: “We don’t trust you to do this right.”
  2. “Serving customers is not my job.”
    Since there’s a “blessed group” that solves customer issues, I don’t have to worry about customer service. I can stay in “transactional” mode, taking orders, and – even if I know the customer wants “X” but I’m selling “Z” – if there’s a problem, someone else is paid to take care of it.

Neither of these typical outcomes benefits your organization for long. Stupid policies inspire frustration, not inspiration!

The Pedal Price Conundrum

To close the loop on the guitar pedal, the customer service agent could not explain why the price on the receipt was different than the price the “scratch and dent” pedal was listed for. I faxed (I know – 60′s technology) the copy of the original order page to prove it was listed at $200 (Yes, I keep electronic copies of key pages sometimes – it served me well in this instance. Yes, I had to prove that THEIR SYSTEM had priced the item as I told them it was priced). She was simply unable to change the price for me. I said, “OK, then, I’ll return it to you for a full refund.” That apparently was the “secret word” for she soon honored the $200 price for the pedal and refunded the difference on my credit card.

I don’t shop with this firm anymore. I still purchase a lot of music supplies and accessories – just not through them. I just can’t justify reinforcing a company’s stupid policies; there are too many other really good companies who deserve my business.

Customer Service is EVERYBODY’s Job

If your company sells a product or service, relationships with your customers have to be its priority. If you don’t allow staff to use their heads to solve customer problems, you’re creating frustration, demoralizing staff, and creating a negative buzz that costs your company hard dollars.

What is YOUR experience with “customer service departments” and the like? Join in the conversation in the comments section below.

Get your FREE excerpt of my new book, #CORPORATE CULTURE Tweet.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Organizations “Create Their Own Weather”

The wildfires in Arizona, USA, these past two weeks have burned nearly 700 square miles. The fires recently moved into New Mexico. As of this weekend, fire crews indicate the fires are only 6% contained. There is some good news as less than 40 homes have been destroyed and, to date, no injuries have been reported.

Newscasters have reported how difficult it is to control these fires with current weather conditions - low humidity, high heat, and strong winds. In addition, experts have described how wildfires “create their own weather,” which cause even worse conditions for controlling the spread of the flames.

How Wildfires Create Weather

This post by the Phoenix, AZ, ABC affiliate describes the circumstances of “fire weather creation” very well. In a nutshell:

  1. A burning tree provides fuel (wood & sap). When the flames reach the top of the tree,
  2. The water in the tree is turned to hot vapor – steam – which rises quickly.
  3. The hot, rising steam create hot winds, which
  4. Fan the flames and carry embers – hot, burning “coals” – beyond fire breaks to create new fires in surrounding areas.

The more trees that burn, the hotter the winds, the livelier the embers, etc. which set more trees aflame. It is a dangerous environment for firefighters, air support equipment & personnel, and homeowners.

How Organization’s Create “Cultural” Weather

Just as wildfires create weather that reinforces and extends the fire, organizations create “cultural” weather that reinforces and extends it’s culture. If that’s a positive culture, that’s a great thing. However, if it’s a less-than-positive culture, it makes it more difficult to refine the culture to a more positive one.

Some of the ways that organizations reinforce and extend their existing culture include:

  • Practices - whether explicit (formally defined) or implicit (normed behavior which is not formalized), practices are powerful “maintainers” of culture. Practices include how decisions are made, how inclusive discussions are, how transparent the organization is, and how leaders see their role (dictating, cooperating, etc.).
  • Incentives - whether intentional or not, incentives drive behaviors that maintain existing practices. If your organization desires a team-based culture yet provides only individual compensation, teaming behavior will be quashed. If bonuses are paid when “kinda unethical” behavior occurs (like selling lots of widgets at the end of the quarter to generate commissions, then accepting returns on those widgets the next month), that behavior will be normed (embedded) and will occur again and again.
  • Idea Consideration – if problems are ongoing, never quite get resolved, and “out of the box” suggestions are quashed, your organization’s culture is actively maintaining the status quo. If “no stone is left unturned” in generating ways to be more productive & efficient, your culture values change and inclusion to solve issues.
  • Hiring - who gets hired for leadership or frontline roles exposes a culture’s bias for new thinking or “it ain’t broke” (even it it is broke) approaches. If your organization values fresh perspective and new approaches, it will hire people who bring those skills.

Change Your Organization’s Weather

It is much easier to maintain how things are – the status quo – than to change things. Yet, if your organization’s culture does not serve employees, customers, and stakeholders equally well, culture change is needed.

Blanchard’s proven culture change process can help your senior leaders 1) craft their desired values and behaviors, 2) socialize those behaviors, 3) embed those behaviors, and 4) measure how well those behaviors are demonstrated in every interaction.

This approach will change your organization’s weather for the GOOD.

Join in the conversation in the comments section below. What is YOUR organization’s cultural weather like?

Get your FREE excerpt of Chris’ new book, #CORPORATE CULTURE Tweet.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Values Clarity from Scratch

Years ago a client helped me understand the impact of “foggy” values.

This gentleman was a semi-pro soccer player (that’s “football player” to all countries around the globe except the USA). His team’s final match with their long-time rival would establish the division winner.

The evening match was tied, 0-0, at the half. As the players gathered for the start of the final half, a heavy fog blew in. Within minutes the fog was so thick the players couldn’t see more than 10′ in front of them.

My client had control of the ball and made a spin move to distance himself from a defender. He broke free, but his spin in the fog confused his sense of direction! He stopped, scanning the field for his team mates. During those few seconds, the opposing team stole the ball, quickly advanced it down the field, and scored the only goal of the match. His team lost the “big game” and he never forgot the feeling it gave him. He related,

“It was all due to the fog. I did not know how to continue attacking their goal and was not confident where my team mates were.”

Clear values enable strong performance! Most clients have never clarified values expectations; this step-by-step process will guide you.

Creating Values Clarity from Scratch

The requirement for “non-foggy” values is to define values in behavioral terms. Valued behaviors shift from the “concept” to the “demonstration” of values, because valued behaviors are 1) tangible, 2) observable, and 3) measurable. These four steps will help you to define your company or team values in behavioral terms.

1. Set your values. Brainstorm a short list (3-5) of desired values that you want all staff to demonstrate with every interaction.

2. For each value, brainstorm potential behaviors that you’d be PROUD to see all staff demonstrate when they’re modeling this value. We cannot measure nor hold people accountable for what they “think,” what their “attitude” is, or what they “believe.” We CAN, however, measure AND hold people accountable for demonstrating defined behaviors.

3. Cull through the behaviors to reduce the list to three to five behaviors per value. Answer these questions to help with the selection process:

  • Is this an observable behavior? Can I assess someone’s demonstration of this behavior by watching and/or listening their interactions with customers, peers, and stakeholders? If NOT, toss it.
  • Is this behavior measurable? Can I reliably “score” this behavior from low to moderate to high at any point in time? If NOT, toss it.

4. Invite feedback from the entire company (or team) population. Set a deadline (of two weeks, maximum) for input. Refine the values, definitions, and behaviors as needed based on that input, then formally publish them, asking all staff to demonstrate them from that date forward.

Here is an example of one client’s efforts:

Value: Integrity

Definition: We work with customers and prospects openly, honestly and sincerely. When we say we will do something, we will do it; when we say we cannot or will not do something, then we won’t do it.

Behaviors:

  • I clearly define the commitments I make, ensuring my promises are well-understood by the person I’m making that promise to.
  • I do not lie, stretch the truth, or withhold information from a peer, customer, or stakeholder.
  • If I am unable to keep a commitment, I inform all people who will be impacted immediately.

We have not addressed values accountability in this post; you’ll find that discussion here.

In the comments section below, tell me what values exist in YOUR organization today, and to what extent they serve stakeholders, employees, and customers equally well.

Get a FREE excerpt of Chris’ new book, #CORPORATE CULTURE Tweet.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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