Archive | March, 2012

Leaders, Change What You Pay Attention To

At a recent corporate culture keynote, my audience responded enthusiastically to a “best practice” recommendation.

I shared Blanchard’s culture change model and facilitated small teams in drafting sample behavioralized values for their organization.

Our culture change model requires that companies be very disciplined in setting expectations on two fronts: performance and values. These particular leaders have worked hard to increase performance clarity. As with most of our culture clients, though, they have not created clear values standards. Our discussions and activities helped increase their understanding of the importance of values clarity.

The tough part of culture change isn’t setting expectations; it’s holding all staff accountable for those performance and values expectations.

My “best practice” recommendation: leaders must change what they notice. Every day.

What Do Leaders Pay Attention To Today?

Most leaders in organizations have been trained to look at performance metrics. Organizational systems have been designed and refined to present up-to-the-moment data about performance metrics. Those metrics typically include:

  • Widgets out the door
  • Quality of products and services
  • Financials, including revenue, expenses, and net profits
  • Waste, scrap, and/or recovery
  • Labor costs
  • Raw materials costs
  • Market share
  • Customer satisfaction

These are important metrics to track as they all contribute to or erode financial success and the long-term viability of the enterprise.

However, they are not the ONLY metrics leaders must observe closely. And, suggesting that leaders spend 50% of their time and attention on things OTHER than performance metrics causes consternation (and worse) in audiences I speak to.

Why? Most leaders have not experienced an organizational culture that requires values alignment as well as high performance. Without relevant role models or “on the job” training for managing values AND performance, organizational leaders don’t know what to “do differently” to do those things effectively.

Pay Attention to These Metrics, Too

These values metrics provide insights into how well the employee population believes that their company trusts, respects, and honors them, day in and day out.

  • Employee morale
    Do employees believe the company is a good place to work? Do they recommend  that others work there (or stay away)? Do employees apply discretionary energy to their work tasks and opportunities?
  • Employee perceptions of the company’s culture
    Do employees believe that the organization has their best interests at heart? Does the corporate culture enable staff to share hopes and dreams about the future? Are they happy about working in the company?
  • Employee perceptions of the company’s leaders
    Do employees believe leaders are credible, behave with integrity? Do employees believe what leaders tell them? Do employees rally around leaders during times of stress or do they disconnect?

How do you measure traction in these metrics? Wander around your workplace. Ask questions. Listen. Conduct regular employee surveys. Hold leaders and staff for values expectations.

To free up time, energy, and space to observe these values metrics, leaders must delegate some of what they’ve been doing to stay on top of performance metrics to trusted, talented staff. Very capable staff are ready to provide data that enables leaders to keep track of performance standards and accountability.

Great bosses create safe and positive workplaces that inspires high performance and values alignment. Results reported by our culture clients indicate consistent gains in employee work passion, customer devotion, and financial profits.

What do you think about “changing what leaders notice”? Add your comments below.

Learn more about my new book, #POSITIVITY AT WORK tweet, written with the delightful Lisa Zigarmi. View our video on why we wrote the book, get a FREE excerpt (and automatically be entered in our monthly contest for the entire ebook), and more!

Photo © iStockphoto.com/JackValley


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.”

Create a Safe & Inspiring Workplace

A global study about the psychological health and safety of today’s workplaces recently caught my attention.

The Reuters News-sponsored study by Ipsos Public Affairs found that 27% of 14,000 workers from 24 countries surveyed believe their workplace is not psychologically safe or healthy.

There is some  good news in this study: 47% believe their workplace is safe and healthy. That is higher than expected given the results of studies and articles regarding workplace satisfaction during the global recession.

26% of surveyed workers in the Ipsos study are on the fence; they did not feel one way or the other. Is this “middle of the pack” ranking a good thing? No. These scores (5-6 on a 10 point scale) indicate respondents do not believe their workplace is awful, but it is not, in their minds, psychologically safe.

The Benefits of Psychological Healthy Workplaces

The American Psychological Association‘s Psychologically Healthy Workplace Awards program has identified these benefits to employees:

  • Increased job satisfaction
  • Higher morale
  • Better physical and mental health
  • Enhanced motivation
  • Improved ability to manage stress

. . . and these benefits to organizations:

  • Improved quality, performance, and productivity
  • Reduced absenteeism and turnover
  • Fewer accidents and injuries
  • Better ability to attract and retain top-quality employees
  • Improved customer service and satisfaction
  • Lower healthcare costs

Creating Psychologically Healthy Workplaces

Despite the powerful benefits to employees and organizations listed above, most organizations focus primarily (some exclusively) on getting products and services delivered. Too few organizations pay close attention to the environment employees exist in while trying to deliver those products and services.

How can you improve the psychological healthy of your work environment? The responsibility falls on the shoulders of the organization’s leaders, from senior leaders through supervisor ranks.

Leaders at all levels of an organization must pay equal attention to employee performance AND employee work passion. If day-to-day practices, policies, and procedures erode employee well-being, that organization will not be perceived as a psychologically healthy workplace. In fact, if only a FEW day-to-day practices erode employee well-being, your organization will not enjoy the benefits noted above.

In my new book with Lisa Zigarmi, #POSITIVITY AT WORK tweet, we present five elements of well-being and describe the best practices of those elements in employee’s work lives. Those elements include:

  • Positive Emotion
  • Positive Relationships
  • Positive Meaning & Purpose
  • Positive Accomplishment
  • Positive Physical Health

Each of these elements contribute strongly to workplace psychological health. Let’s look at the impact that the first two of these have on psychological safety.

Emotion is a huge driver of the perceptions of workplace health. At work, if an employee feels fear, exclusion, taken advantage of, anxiety, or frustration due to the behaviors of others, those diminish and even quash personal well-being. Positive emotions – like joy, gratitude, awe, appreciation, and serenity – create personal well-being and lead to greater trust, respect, and application of discretionary energy in the workplace.

Relationships are the most important driver of personal well-being. If one’s work relationships are based on interactions that validate, honor, inspire, and enable, there are immediate benefits not only to well-being but to productivity, creativity, and cooperative interaction, as well.

The Ipsos study revealed that 47% of employee surveyed believe their workplace is psychologically safe and healthy . . . and (therefore) 54% did not. Organizational leaders should strive for a work environment that is seen as psychologically healthy in every way by 100% of it’s members.

What is your experience with psychological workplace health? Add your comments below.

Learn more about my new book, #POSITIVITY AT WORK tweet, written with the delightful Lisa Zigarmi. You can view our video on why we wrote the book, get a FREE excerpt (and automatically be entered in our monthly contest for the entire ebook), and more!

Photo © iStockphoto.com/doxadigital


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.”

Reinforce Your Desired Culture with Stories

What stories are told in your workplace? It’s an important question because the kind of stories that are told around your organization are an indication of what is important to the company’s members (from senior leaders to frontline staff).

Stories are powerful because they connect themes and values to our humanness – to our hearts, to our natural desire for meaning and interpersonal connection.

We humans are rarely inspired by facts and figures. We are frequently inspired by stories of how our efforts helped feed the hungry or provide skill-building for the unemployed so they find a job. Such stories not only inspire our pride but they inspire us to action in ways that facts and figures rarely do.

Because stories describe what is important in an organization’s culture and they inspire action, leaders must be intentional about the stories that are told. Let me share an example from my fabulous employer, the Ken Blanchard Companies.

Praising & Recognizing Recovery

In the late 90′s our company was going through a growth spurt that was fun, exciting – and stretched our systems to the max. A colleague was on the road, checking materials and room set up in a hotel late in the afternoon before the following day’s session with senior leaders of a new client. Everything looked good until she checked the envelope with the leader effectiveness profiles and discovered they were for attendees at the following week’s class. Not good.

She called our Escondido, CA headquarters and explained the problem. The project manager found the right profiles and said she’d get them overnighted for delivery by 10:30am the next day. The consultant said that would be great. One of our fulfillment staff checked with the delivery service. The last flight out of San Diego airport was at 6pm that night. The only way the profiles would get delivered on time was by driving the profiles to the airport. He got permission to drive down and delivered the envelope with minutes to spare!

His efforts were widely praised – he definitely went above and beyond the call of duty. AND – there were logical consequences that the original error caused: panic, heroics, non-billable expenses, and more. This powerful story subtly shifted employee attention to recovering from mis-steps as opposed to proactively eliminating errors like this so the need for recovery would be eliminated.

Such errors have been rare over the past 10 years because of the emphasis on getting the right products to the right place at the right time.

Storytelling Guidelines

Be intentional. Work hard to ensure that every story told in your workplace validates your desired corporate culture. Identify and highlight stories that meet these criteria:

  • The story clarifies and elevates your organization’s core purpose and values.
  • The story is about real, caring people serving real, caring people
  • The story is simple, brief, and clear
  • The story describes the beneficial impact on the customer, the company, and possibly even the community at large

With effective stories, your desired culture will be more widely embraced, more quickly.

Join in the conversation! Let us know what your experience is with workplace storytelling in the comments section below.

Learn more about my new book, #POSITIVITY AT WORK tweet, written with the delightful Lisa Zigarmi. You can view our video on why we wrote the book, get a FREE excerpt (and automatically be entered in our monthly contest for the entire ebook), and more!

Photo © iStockphoto.com/biffspandex


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.”

Coaching – Not Conversion

In a recent discussion with a key leader I’m coaching, some insights on the impact of requests arose.

We’ve been talking about creating clarity for values expectations across the team he directs. We’ve delved into Blanchard’s research and experience. We’ve leveraged his personal experiences with his best bosses during his career. It has become clear to my client that proactive values management, along with performance management, consistently improves team performance, commitment, and morale.

As he’s put some of these key pieces into place with his team, his insights about the nuances of “managing by values” have been inspiring!

Holding Team Members Accountable

Once the playing field is defined by clear performance expectations AND clear values expectations, leaders must embrace a role of holding themselves and team members accountable for both sets of standards. When team members demonstrate desired values while delivering promised, high-quality products and services, that’s a reason to celebrate.

Leaders are not always comfortable with accountability conversations – that is usually because of unclear goals and/or a lack of observable, tangible, measurable valued behaviors in place. With those expectations agreed to, the leader has the ability to observe, praise progress, and redirect behaviors that do not meet standards.

Leaders need to focus on team member behaviors, not on the person. The stance to take is nonjudgmental inquiry: “Your report was due to me this morning. You agreed to that deadline. What got in the way of getting it to me as promised?” This approach does not blame. It clarifies expectations, validates agreement on the deadline, and invites discussion on what happened.

The conversation is factual, not emotional. This approach can open the door to learning what the team member was dealing with or thinking. If they say, “I’m so sorry. I got tied into Sonia’s project this morning and didn’t have time to finish the report for you,” then you can examine how they can keep you informed if the deadline will be missed. If they say, “I just didn’t have time,” you can examine if they were overwhelmed with other deadlines or if they just didn’t care about getting it to you. Learn the context of the problem, then examine how to get the player back on track.

One can even use this approach to hold bosses accountable – but that’s a subject for another post!

Chipping Away at Mis-Aligned Behavior

My client’s primary learning was that holding others accountable is a series of coaching conversations. Making a single request to change team member behaviors does not typically change the behavior. It takes coaching over time to set the context for the desired behavior and gain commitment from the player to change that behavior. My client stated, “Accountability is about coaching – not conversion!“Perfectly stated.

Here are the three “best practice” steps we outlined for accountability actions by leaders:

  • Clarify expectations  - set standards for both performance and values; define values in tangible, observable, measurable terms
  • Observe & coach players “in the moment” (manage by wandering around)
  • Manage consequences – praise both progress & demonstration of desired behaviors. Redirect when behavior does not change as desired.

What is your experience with holding staff accountable for performance and values? Join in the conversation by using the comments section below.

Learn more about my new book, #POSITIVITY AT WORK tweet, written with the delightful Lisa Zigarmi. You can view our video on why we wrote the book, get a FREE excerpt (and automatically be entered in our monthly contest for the entire ebook), and more!

Photo © iStockphoto.com/alexraths


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.”

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes