It is what it is! The Concept of Perfection

In early 2000 I was one of the first employees of Scott Blanchard‘s Coaching.com enterprise. Executive coach experts Madeleine Homan and Linda Miller helped our team craft a fabulous process and web platform which enables Blanchard coaches to help clients learn, grow, and prosper. I learned a great deal in my two years with that business! This blog’s topic has made a tremendous impact on my effectiveness as a consultant and executive coach.

In coaching, the concept of perfection aims at getting the leader to understand that their behavior, decisions, and actions are logical, rational outcomes of their beliefs and thoughts. The situation they find themselves in, right this minute, is driven by their behavior, decisions, and actions over time. This is a cause > effect circumstance; the cause (the leader’s beliefs and thoughts) lead directly to the effect (the leader’s behavior, decisions, and actions). As a coach, you can easily see how the resulting effect is entirely driven by the underlying cause. The results are “perfect.” You wouldn’t expect to see any different behaviors, decisions, or actions, given that leader’s core beliefs and thoughts.

In my consulting work with senior leaders and executive teams across a variety of industries, the concept of perfection is a powerful tool to help leaders assess their organization’s culture. A company’s culture evolves over time based upon the beliefs and thoughts of it’s leaders (cause) which logically leads to consistent behavior, decisions, and actions demonstrated by members that live in that culture (effect).

Look around the organizational culture you live in. If you experience caring leaders who demonstrate respect and trust for their staff and who celebrate successes and wins along the way, then the underlying beliefs and thoughts are being played out in that culture. It is perfect!

On the other hand, if you experience leaders who take credit for your work, who pit employees against each other, and who rejoice in “catching people doing things wrong,” then the underlying beliefs and thoughts are being played out in that culture. It, too, is perfect!

If you experience “less than positive” behaviors, decisions, and actions in your organization’s culture, understand that people are acting exactly as you would expect. If you want more positive behaviors, decisions, and actions, you have an opportunity to begin work to change the underlying beliefs and thoughts of leaders in your organization. That, however, is a topic for another day!

How does the concept of perfection play out in YOUR organization (or community or family)? Share your thoughts on this powerful idea in the comments section below.


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The music heard on Chris’ podcasts is from one of his songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005-2016 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). He played all instruments, recorded all tracks, and mastered the final product for your listening pleasure.

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, Chris will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, Chris only recommend products or services he uses personally and believes will add value to his readers. Chris is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Executive “Team” or just a “Group”?

In my 20 plus years as a consultant, I have worked with dozens of executive teams. One interesting thing I discovered: many of those “teams” aren’t teams at all.

Most executive “teams” are a group of individual senior leaders who meet on a regular basis to battle each other for limited resources: funds, people, time, praise (that’s a topic for another blog), etc. They leave their meeting and evaluate how they did in the game: did I “win” today? Did I secure the resources I wanted and beat out my senior leader colleagues today? Each individual senior leader tracks his/her score and the game begins anew the next meeting (more accurately, the next day).

When companies using our proven culture change process are successful at creating their desired high performance, values-aligned organization, this single consistent best practice stands out: the executive team must be actively committed to the culture change and to each other. If the executive team does not act with “one voice, one heart, and one mind,” the culture effort is doomed from the start.

To unlock the potential of your organization’s executive team, consider these four best practices:

  1. Clear Purpose: The executive team must define it’s reason for being – beyond their relationship as direct reports of the president/CEO. The purpose statement clarifies why the team exists, who their primary customers are, and what they’re trying to accomplish as a team (provider of choice, employer of choice, etc.).
  2. Team Goals: What strategic goals is the executive team trying to accomplish? Clarifying executive team goals helps define what a good job looks like at the end of their fiscal year. Performance goals might include employee work passion targets, customer service excellence, financial success, etc.
  3. Values & Norms: Values defined in behavioral terms describe HOW team members should behave as they pursue their team goals. All effective teams create agreements around what a good citizen of the team looks/acts/sounds like. Values are typically too vague and lofty to guide day-to-day actions, so behavioral definitions solve that issue. Team norms emerge from the valued behaviors – norms are practical guidelines that ensure values are lived in team member interactions.
  4. Accountability: With the team’s purpose, goals, and values formalized, the most important practice comes into play: holding team members accountable for these agreements. Accountability is not the sole responsibility of the executive team’s leader (typically the president/CEO) – it is every team member’s responsibility. Accountability conversations are not drawn out conflicts – they are conversations that inquire about a valued behavior or norm, asking for insights about demonstrated behavior that seems to be outside those agreements. They are sincere efforts to understand behavior and guide members to embracing their agreements.

When these four agreements are in place, decision-making is easy. Executive team members easily understand their role in furthering the team’s purpose by cooperating, communicating, and focusing on the greater good.

Change your executive “group” to an aligned executive team and you’ll reap the benefits: less drama, less conflict, more aligned action, better productivity, and more fun!

Rank your executive group on it’s “degree of teaming” using a 1-5 scale. Share your experiences & scores in the comments section below.


Subscribe to Chris’ mobile updates, texted right to your smartphone! Text VALUES to 72000 or head here.


Chris’ new “Culture Leadership Charge” series and the rest of his video clips can be found on YouTube. Subscribe to Chris’ YouTube channel.


vimeo_logoChris’ new “Culture Leadership Charge” series and the rest of his video clips are also available on Vimeo. Subscribe to Chris’ Vimeo channel.


podcast_subscribeSubscribe to Chris’ posts via RSS.


itunes_subscribeListen to or subscribe to over 300 of Chris’ Culture Leadership Podcasts on iTunes.


The music heard on Chris’ podcasts is from one of his songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005-2016 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). He played all instruments, recorded all tracks, and mastered the final product for your listening pleasure.

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, Chris will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, Chris only recommend products or services he uses personally and believes will add value to his readers. Chris is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Undercover Boss? I’d prefer a Side-by-Side Boss.

I’m pleased that the recent CBS television show, Undercover Boss, has garnered some attention. Though the approach is a bit dramatic and underhanded – kind of a senior level “secret shopper” but more of a “secret employee” – I appreciate that senior leaders in these companies are learning about the work lives that their employees experience.

In the high performance, values-aligned organizations we study, senior leaders don’t see the “live in your employee’s shoes” opportunity as once-in-a-career but as a regular occurrence. Rather than throw stones at the Undercover Boss concept, let’s look at tweaking it a bit.

How can senior leaders truly appreciate which policies and procedures help or hurt or hinder employee performance and work passion in their organizations? Don’t go undercover – go side-by-side!

Employees know a great deal about what systems and norms enable effective performance and great customer experiences . . . and which policies and procedures inhibit them doing the right thing the right way the first time. Senior leaders need to honor their employee’s knowledge and savvy-ness by learning from from their staff members, side-by-side.

Senior leaders: get out of your offices, out of those endless meetings, and away from your spreadsheets!

Seek out a few employees who would be willing to have you shadow them for two hours on a given workday. Schedule appointments with them. Let’s say Bill is your first appointment; stand by Bill and observe him doing his job. At the end of that two hours, take Bill out for coffee or soda, and ask what gets in his way on a day-to-day basis. Inquire about how you can improve his work environment so he can perform better and serve customers perfectly. Act on his suggestions as soon as you can, and schedule your next “side-by-side” appointment with a different employee, in a different department.

Do this two times a week. Over the course of a year, you’ll meet over 100 employees and learn a bunch about their work environment. And, by acting on their suggestions, you’ll make significant workplace improvements that will inspire better performance, higher service delivery, and increased employee work passion.

How cool is that?


Subscribe to Chris’ mobile updates, texted right to your smartphone! Text VALUES to 72000 or head here.


Chris’ new “Culture Leadership Charge” series and the rest of his video clips can be found on YouTube. Subscribe to Chris’ YouTube channel.


vimeo_logoChris’ new “Culture Leadership Charge” series and the rest of his video clips are also available on Vimeo. Subscribe to Chris’ Vimeo channel.


podcast_subscribeSubscribe to Chris’ posts via RSS.


itunes_subscribeListen to or subscribe to over 300 of Chris’ Culture Leadership Podcasts on iTunes.


The music heard on Chris’ podcasts is from one of his songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005-2016 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). He played all instruments, recorded all tracks, and mastered the final product for your listening pleasure.

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, Chris will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, Chris only recommend products or services he uses personally and believes will add value to his readers. Chris is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Creating a High Performance, Values-Aligned Culture

The media has had a field day with the collapse of ethical leadership in many large corporations over the past few years. Companies have had their executives pilloried in the business press for behavior that rewards the few at the top while penalizing employees and customers.

In our studies of effective organizational cultures, we found abundant evidence that leaders who are clear about their company’s reason for being (purpose) and who define what “good corporate citizens” look like (values) are able to deliver and sustain both performance and employee satisfaction over time. The creation of a purposeful culture—one that holds employees accountable for exceeding performance expectations while modeling the organization’s declared values—is critical for business leaders in today’s marketplace.

Two Blanchard colleagues, Garry Demarest and Bob Glaser, and I developed a proven culture change process to help senior leaders create a high performance, values-aligned culture.

Developing a high performance, values-aligned culture requires three integrated steps. They are:

  1. Defining the organization’s purpose and values,
  2. Defining performance expectations, and
  3. Leveraging these declarations with accountability systems.

In simpler terms, culture creation is about consequence management—making plain both the outcomes needed and the appropriate ways to accomplish those results, and providing immediate consequences (positive or negative) for every staff member.

Some organizations attempt to define their culture by establishing elaborate purpose and values statements, and then publishing these statements far and wide—posting them in the workplace and on company web sites. However, the most effective approach is to draft straightforward declarations of purpose with values defined in behavioral terms, which enable values metrics to be established. Few organizations go to these lengths. Without a behavioral definition of values, confusion reigns when staff members try to hold each other accountable for those values. An example might prove helpful.

“Integrity” is a value embraced by many organizations. One company did an admirable job of defining it for their staff: “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.” This value is clearly defined, but evidence of behavioral definitions of this value is missing. Worse, there is evidence of inconsistent accountability for demonstrating these values. History proves that these issues lead to some very costly decisions in the executive ranks at this organization. The company? Enron.

Making Values Measurable

In contrast, one of our clients worked harder to make their “integrity” value actionable. They defined integrity as: “Each commitment we make is a promise. We do what we say we will do by keeping our commitments to our peers, our customers, and our stakeholders. We honor our team members, customers, and shareholders by acting on our company values, demonstrating these valued behaviors daily.” The leadership team then defined the “behaviors that model our commitments to our commitments” as the following:

  • I make promises and commitments in the present, keenly aware that I’m guaranteeing my performance on that promise.
  • If I hold any doubts that I can deliver on a deadline or requirement, I communicate with all key partners what I can and cannot commit to at that point in time.
  • I hold team members accountable for the commitments they have made, seeking immediate performance when a deadline has been missed. I listen fairly and work to help my team members keep their promises.

If you were a staff member in this organization, you would have little doubt about how you must behave with integrity, day-to-day, with internal and external customers.

Clarify Performance Expectations

The second step in creating a high performance, values-aligned culture demands that performance expectations be clear for each contributor in an organization. Ken Blanchard says, “All good performance starts with clear goals,” yet it is amazing how unclear goals are in many organizations. Organizations can help contributors gain an understanding of their performance expectations through formal planning forms or more informal discussions with leaders and customers. The critical outcome is for everyone to agree on standards for key goals. This step reduces confusion, clarifies targets, and focuses efforts for everyone.

Hold All Staff Accountable for Performance and Values

The most important step at this stage is to create accountability systems to ensure performance is delivered using the agreed-upon valued behaviors. Such systems include performance management, feedback tools, incentives, and recognition and rewards. Leaders must reward staff members who are performing well and who are modeling the valued behaviors, while redirecting those who don’t. Over time, consistent application of these consequences will lead to a critical mass of staff and leaders who are high performing, values-driven assets.

Feedback tools provide valuable insight into the perceptions of staff members and leaders. We created an assessment tool that offers quantitative feedback to leaders about the extent to which their organization is modeling the best practices of a high performance, values-aligned culture. Confidential responses are gathered from leaders and their direct reports, and are then presented in a profile format to measure differences between employee and leader perceptions. One item in the assessment states, “Team member behaviors indicate strong alignment with the team’s purpose and values.” Scoring is based on level of agreement with the item, from 1 (strongly disagree) to 6 (strongly agree). In one client organization, a division leader we’ve been working with ranked this statement as a 6, while his 14 direct reports ranked this statement across the spectrum (1 through 6), with an average ranking of 4.1. The difference of nearly two points clearly indicates that the valued behaviors are not as strong as the leader believed. Thus, insights gained from these assessments help leaders modify systems or behavior in order to increase accountability for performance and values.

The process of creating a high performance, values-aligned culture requires consistent attention by company leadership and day-to-day reinforcement by managers throughout the journey. It can take 18-24 months from the process kickoff to achieve the demonstrated values-aligned behaviors across the organization. Each step taken progressively builds understanding of performance expectations and commitment to behaviorally-defined values, and accountability systems will reinforce the commitment of the organization to creating a purposeful culture. While this is not a process to be approached casually, the increased employee commitment, company performance, and satisfaction derived from working in a values-driven culture more than compensates.

To what degree is your company living a high performance, values-aligned corporate culture? Share your insights in the comments section below.


Subscribe to Chris’ mobile updates, texted right to your smartphone! Text VALUES to 72000 or head here.


Chris’ new “Culture Leadership Charge” series and the rest of his video clips can be found on YouTube. Subscribe to Chris’ YouTube channel.


vimeo_logoChris’ new “Culture Leadership Charge” series and the rest of his video clips are also available on Vimeo. Subscribe to Chris’ Vimeo channel.


podcast_subscribeSubscribe to Chris’ posts via RSS.


itunes_subscribeListen to or subscribe to over 300 of Chris’ Culture Leadership Podcasts on iTunes.


The music heard on Chris’ podcasts is from one of his songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005-2016 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). He played all instruments, recorded all tracks, and mastered the final product for your listening pleasure.

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, Chris will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, Chris only recommend products or services he uses personally and believes will add value to his readers. Chris is 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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