Archive | June, 2012

Vision is the Foundation of Culture

My vision had been bothering me for a few months. It was no longer crisp and clear – it was blurry. Objects weren’t in focus. I chalked it up to old age. Feeling confident that since lasik surgery fixed my blurry vision 12 years earlier, lasik surgery was the way to go.

I had a pre-op exam and made an appointment for a complete exam on the morning of surgery. The doctor dilated my eyes, took one look through his high-tech instruments, and said, “We’re not doing lasik on you today. You’ve got cataracts.”

I wasn’t surprised; both my parents had undergone cataract surgery when they were in their 80′s. However, I wasn’t yet 60! No matter; if that’s the issue, you gotta solve that problem.

Vision Is The Foundation Of Culture

For most players in most organizations around the globe, workplace vision isn’t clear. There is no formal declaration of where the company is going (vision, or future state) or what the organization is trying to accomplish today (purpose, or present state). Just as my blurry vision caused me frustration, lack of clear organizational vision causes frustration for everyone in that organization.

A key part of Blanchard’s culture change process kickoff workshop for senior leaders is assessing the clarity of vision & purpose in their organizations. Typically senior leaders believe that the organization’s vision is “obvious” yet middle managers and front line staff don’t have that clarity, at all.

One client “took to the plant floor” to help senior leaders understand the lack of clear vision. They arranged videotaping of dozens of informal interviews with front line supervisors, team leaders, and staff. The interviews were short and sweet since there was only one question: “What is the purpose of our catalog printing plant, today?”

The answers were amazingly consistent. Nearly all of the respondents said, “To make money.” Some added, “For owners & stakeholders . . . ” Senior leaders were quite surprised but, after reflection, they realized that they had created that image in the minds of plant staff.

When senior leaders constantly, primarily, sometimes exclusively focus on profits, market share, cost savings, etc., the message is clear – “we need to make more money.” Now, making money is NOT a bad thing – in fact, it’s a VERY GOOD THING. AND, it should be a RESULT of your organization’s vision and purpose – not the company’s sole reason for being. “Making money,” particularly for somebody else, is NOT an inspiring vision or purpose, day to day.

Once these senior leaders understood they had created an incorrect vision & purpose, they educated plant staff about their organization’s core reason for being: “through accurate and inspiring marketing, help their client’s businesses be successful.” Within months, that message began taking hold – which enabled staff to act in alignment with that clear vision and core purpose.

How’s My Vision Now?

My cataract surgeries (yes, in both eyes) went beautifully. Vision out of my left eye (with a multi-focus lens implanted) is startlingly crisp, in focus, and clear. My right eye (similar implant) is set for close or mono vision, so I’m still getting adjusted to close focusing with that eye. Overall, my vision is fabulous and getting better every day.

How clear is your organization’s vision and purpose? What is the impact today on the degree of vision and purpose clarity? Tell us in the comments section below.

Get your FREE EXCERPT from my new book, #POSITIVITY AT WORK tweet, written with the delightful Lisa Zigarmi. View our video on why we wrote the book, understand the research on positivity in the workplace, and more!

Photo © iStockphoto.com/robertsrob

Subscribe!Podcast – Listen to this post now with the player below. Subscribe via RSS or iTunes!


The music heard on these podcasts is from one of Chris’ songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). Chris plays all instruments on these recordings.


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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Build a Culture of Accountability

Many of you follow me on Twitter (thank you!) and know that I post quotes daily about cool culture practices, positivity at work (and at home!), what great bosses do, and similar subjects. I love it when I receive questions – sometimes even push back – about the bold declarations I make.

I received a response to a tweet I posted recently about “great bosses clarify performance AND values expectations” and “hold all staff (and themselves) accountable for BOTH.” This is a mantra for me in my work with senior leaders on helping them craft and maintain their desired corporate cultures.

The question was regarding how a leader, once he/she puts accountability into place for expectations, deals with employee reaction. Those employees may not like having their “feet held to the fire” over those goals. It’s a great question – and needs more description than 140 characters on Twitter allow.

Shoot the Arrow, then Rush Over to Where It Stuck . . .

My best boss, Jerry Nutter, highly valued clear expectations. He gave his staff this example to help us understand why goal setting is so critical. Without clear goals, Jerry said, it’s like shooting an arrow at the side of a barn, then rushing over to where it stuck and painting a bullseye around the arrow. “That’s NOT goal setting,” Jerry said. “That’s simply a celebration of showing up.”

Clear goals set a standard; they create a target. Make your effort, then evaluate how well you performed. Did you hit the bullseye? (Did you hit the target, even?) Assess then refine your effort to hit the bullseye on the next pass.

Over my consulting career I have found that most clients create goals for leaders, managers, supervisors, and sales staff. Clear, specific goals and targets are less likely for frontline staff. Without clear goals for ALL staff, accountability problems are the logical consequence.

All Good Performance Starts With Clear Goals

The above is the mantra of our chief spiritual officer, Ken Blanchard. Ken has been teaching leaders (for over 40 years) this core truth – set clear goals so people know what is expected of them. Then the leader’s role and responsibility is to provide direction and support, remove hurdles, and celebrate progress and accomplishment based on traction towards the declared goal.

Blanchard’s success is built upon our ability to help clients create goal (and values) clarity for their staff – then to hold everyone accountable for those standards.

Leaders must be fair and just with accountability practices – everyone must be held to their defined standards for performance and citizenship. Treating people inequitably erodes trust and respect between leaders and followers.

If leaders and employees do not deliver on promises made to customers and stakeholders, their business experiences another logical consequence – it stops generating profits. Most companies can’t exist for long in the vacuum of losing money; without an influx of capital and accountability, those companies close.

The only way to generate success – for employees, customers, and stakeholders – over time, leaders must maintain a culture of accountability.

How do you and/or your leaders hold staff accountable for expectations? Tell us in the comments section below.

Get your FREE EXCERPT from my new book, #POSITIVITY AT WORK tweet, written with the delightful Lisa Zigarmi. View our video on why we wrote the book, understand the research on positivity in the workplace, and more!

Photo © iStockphoto.com/whitebaltzinger

Subscribe!Podcast – Listen to this post now with the player below. Subscribe via RSS or iTunes!


The music heard on these podcasts is from one of Chris’ songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). Chris plays all instruments on these recordings.


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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Great Bosses Manage People Effectively

Blanchard had a major presence at the 2012 ASTD international conference and expo in Denver, CO, USA last month. In-booth presentations, by yours truly and other fine Blanchard colleagues, were very well received. During one of his presentations, Scott Blanchard made a comment that really stuck a chord with me.

Scott quoted his better half, coaching.com co-founder Madeleine Homan Blanchard, as pointing out that “every workplace problem has hair on it’s head.” Yes, you may have players on your team who don’t have MUCH hair on their heads, but let’s not be distracted from the power of Mad’s statement.

Leaders often spend time (and angst) attempting to manage processes or results or what not. Mad’s point is that people are at the core of workplace problems. If leaders’ efforts distract them from addressing interpersonal issues and addressing “people not playing well in the workplace sandbox,” those issues erode the creation of a high performance, values-aligned culture.

Let’s examine what separates lousy and even good bosses from great bosses: effective management of people.

The Three Keys to Effective People Management

  • Trust & Respect – great bosses know that strong, healthy relationships are built on a foundation of mutual trust and respect. When leaders consistently honor team members’ skills, experience, contribution, and tenure, trust & respect grows. When leaders redirect behavior without malice, without tearing down the player in the role, trust & respect grows. Followership and application of discretionary energy only happens when trust & respect exists.
  • Clarity of Expectations – great bosses know that all good performance starts with clear goals. When leaders define what a good job looks like – in the form of specific, measurable performance standards – contributions improve. When leaders also define what great corporate citizenship looks like – in the form of behaviorally-defined values – team member’s are drawn to behave in those ways. Great bosses define both performance and values expectations.
  • Alignment & Accountability – great bosses know that they must act on their responsibility to ensure their team delivers on the promises made to company peers, customers, and stakeholders. With trust & respect as a foundation and with expectations clear, leaders focus on aligning plans, decisions, and actions to those expectations. Great bosses invest time and energy in checking in with staff, observing how internal and external customers are treated, and monitoring both performance and values in day-to-day operations.

It doesn’t matter how savvy a leader is technically if they are unable to effectively manage the organization’s human resources. When leaders inspire teamwork, dedication, performance, AND passion, they’re “great bosses.”

How do you or your leaders manage people well? Tell us in the comments section below.

Get your FREE EXCERPT from my new book, #POSITIVITY AT WORK tweet, written with the delightful Lisa Zigarmi. View our video on why we wrote the book, understand the research on positivity in the workplace, and more!

Photo © iStockphoto.com/yuri_arcurs


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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Leaders, Observe & Align Culture Practices

On the drive home from the airport recently I was listening to an interview with a well-known comedian, writer, and actor. He was asked how success had changed his work approach over the years.

He said, “Success insulates you. Early on as a comedian you become a trained observer of humans and situations around you. You notice things and they prompt a joke or a story or a film. After you’re successful, you can’t do that as easily anymore. To be an effective observer, you have to be part of the background. When someone recognizes you, you’re no longer part of the background.”

He sighed. “I miss that. I still observe, but it’s harder for me today.”

Success insulates leaders, too. Great bosses are keen observers of the human condition. They keep their fingers on the pulse of how safe and inspiring their work environment is, day to day. The only way to do that is to proactively observe and courageously align their organization’s culture.

Leaders Must Immerse Themselves in Their Corporate Culture

Leaders make plans, decisions, and actions based upon what they believe – about the market, their customers, their employees. Too often the information they receive is only a portion of the “whole story;” if they rely too heavily on that narrow perspective, they make mistakes (sometimes expensive ones).

Here’s an example of proactive observation: A plant manager I work with recently took five key players to visit a customer’s plant. The two-day visit helped my client’s team learn how to tweak systems (and even packaging) to make their customer’s job easier. Those key players came back with tactical plans to fix those issues.

Leaders need to be equally proactive in learning what it’s like to get work done in their own organization’s work environment. Just like the plant manager took key staff to visit a customer, leaders need to regularly push themselves away from their keyboards and “hang out” in their workplace. They need to “observe by wandering around,” asking what’s working (and what’s not).

They will face the same issue the comedian reported: leaders are well-known so they can’t always observe “from the background.” However, observing on a regular basis will reduce staff awareness of the leader’s presence. Hang out and observe a lot.

Be Courageous In Addressing Mis-Aligned Behaviors

Over time, this proactive observation will reveal things that get in the way of employee performance and passion. Lousy policies and systems will come up. Supervisors who yell or don’t listen will be apparent (as will those who do!). The quality of relationships between & among bosses & team members will be obvious.

Once leaders become aware of these issues, they must demonstrate the courage to fix them. It is MUCH easier to address issues a leader knows about. The trick is to get leaders to regularly immerse themselves in their current corporate culture, tweak things that aren’t working, and celebrate the things that are working.

What ways do you or your leaders “keep fingers on the pulse” your organization’s corporate culture? What’s the impact of leaders NOT paying attention to the work environment? Tell us in the comments section below.

Get your FREE EXCERPT from my new book, #POSITIVITY AT WORK tweet, written with the delightful Lisa Zigarmi. View our video on why we wrote the book, understand the research on positivity in the workplace, and more!

Photo © iStockphoto.com/prodakszyn


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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