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How is Your Culture Engine Running?

share_12What critical success factors do you monitor closely in your business? What “select few” metrics do you watch carefully to ensure your organization’s health?

Most leaders I have worked with tell me they primarily watch performance metrics. Customer service rankings come in a distant second.

Both of those factors are important. Organizations must be profitable and must have loyal, happy customers.

Over three decades of research and experience have taught me that there is a third factor that deserves a leader’s focus and attention: the degree of workplace inspiration in your organization.

The fact is that the health of your organization’s culture – the extent to which your work environment consistently treats team members with trust, dignity, and respect – has a huge impact on team performance and customer service.

The culture of your team (or department or division or plant or region or whole company) is the engine that drives your team’s success – or it’s lack of success.

Unfortunately, most leaders do not know how to proactively manage their team’s culture. They’ve never been asked to do that. Most have not experienced successful culture change. Even fewer have led successful culture change.

What leaders need is a how-to guide to crafting workplace inspiration, an approach that helps leaders make values, citizenship, and teamwork as important as performance.

My new book, The Culture Engine, offers a proven, step-by-step framework that helps leaders define a healthy team culture with an organizational constitution – and then helps leaders align plans, decisions, and actions to that constitution.

An organizational constitution specifies your team’s purpose, values and behaviors, strategies, and goals. It creates “liberating rules” that help leaders and team members understand exactly how they are expected to treat each other and their customers.

For example, when your team’s “integrity” value is defined in observable, tangible, measurable terms, it is easy to see when leaders and team members are modeling those behaviors, when they are living your team’s desired values in every interaction.

Culture change is not a quick fix. It takes time – but the time is well worth the effort. Our culture clients consistently enjoy 40 percent gains in employee engagement, 40 percent gains in customer service, and 35 percent gains in profits, all within 18-24 months.

Pay attention to how your “Culture Engine” is running. It’ll do you, your team members, your customers, and your company GOOD.

What do you think? What is the condition of workplace inspiration in your team, department, or division? What do your bosses pay attention to most – performance, service, or culture? How did your best bosses create a safe, inspiring work environment? Note your thoughts and insights in the comments section below.

Add your experiences to two fast & free research projects I have underway: the Great Boss Assessment and the Performance-Values Assessment. Results and analysis are available on my research page.

My new book from Wiley, The Culture Engine, is available NOW. Get your free sample chapter here. Subscribe to my weekly updates to get free resources, insights, and news on upcoming events.

Subscribe to Chris’ Updates for Free Resources, Insights, & News!

Photo used under Pinterest Copyright from Chris Edmonds on Pinterest.

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 my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play 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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Out of Tune

F5L-mandolin-study“Change is the only constant in life” – Heraclitus, the pre-Socractic Greek philosopher

We experience this all the time in our workplaces, families, and communities. Yet we’re often surprised when things aren’t as we expect them to be.

In my free time, I’m a working musician. Summer is the Jones & Raine band’s busiest season.

One recent show was outdoors at Copper Mountain. Typical of Rocky Mountain summer weather, we enjoyed chilly winds, steady sprinkles, then the clouds would clear and we’d be in the hot sun for ten minutes. The cycle continued all afternoon.

I’d tuned my instruments before our set began and off we went. We move fast with little time between songs. The drawback is that, particularly outdoors, temperature and humidity wreak havoc on tuned strings. By the time I grabbed my 8-string mandolin for a song at the end of the hour-long set, it was no longer in tune.

“Musical” is not what I’d call the noise that emerged. When the first verse came around, I muted the mandolin and tuned as best I could in 20 seconds. It was better – but not fully in tune. I limped through the song.

In our workplaces, we expect everything to run smoothly. Yet just as temperature and humidity affects instrument tune, many variables can cause “out of tune-ness” at work.

Unclear goals. Personality conflicts. Changing customer demands. Selfish peers and bosses. Unfair expectations. All of these impact the quality of work done and the quality of the work environment.

If leaders make the assumption that everything is fine, they will miss the not-so-subtle cues of performance misses, team frustration, and poor service experiences for customers.

Leaders must be fully present and fully engaged to ensure the team – and every player – is playing “in tune.” They must notice gaps and issues, and promptly engage the team in resolving those gaps and issues. They must also notice and validate great team citizenship and cooperation so players understand how they are to work together to meet goals and WOW customers.

That’s what effective leadership is. It’s not purely about setting goals and monitoring results, though both of these are important leader behaviors. Leadership is about both creating workplace inspiration (with clear purpose, values, and behaviors) AND setting the course (strategies and goals) – every interaction, every day.

What do you think? When your leaders have let a team get “out of tune,” how did it impact team performance and engagement? How did your best bosses help keep the team – and its members – “in tune?” Note your thoughts and insights in the comments section below.

Add your experiences to two fast & free research projects I have underway: the Great Boss Assessment and the Performance-Values Assessment. Results and analysis are available on my research page.

My new book from Wiley, The Culture Engine, is available NOW. Get your free sample chapter here. Subscribe to my weekly updates to get free resources, insights, and news on upcoming events.

Subscribe to Chris’ Updates for Free Resources, Insights, & News!

Photo used under Pinterest Copyright from Chris Edmonds on Pinterest.

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 my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play 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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The Leader’s Influence

4752463128_679877aa3f_zA recent 24/7 Wall Street article shared the top six-figure jobs in the US. Surprising (to me), six of the ten entries were managers of people. Managing people is a big responsibility, with a huge impact on team performance and team member engagement.

Leaders of others have either a positive or negative impact on team member productivity and engagement. A leader’s impact is rarely neutral! My best boss, Jerry Nutter, used to say, “A leader either helps, hinders, or hurts.”

The 24/7 Wall Street report indicates that people managers are paid well. Is the investment in people managers paying off for US companies? Let’s look at two factors – productivity and engagement.

A recent Wall Street Journal article reported that productivity growth in the US has declined by more than half since 2011. Historically (since 1948), annual US productivity grew at a 2.5% rate. Since 2011, that rate has fallen to only 1.1%.

The article points out a variety of contributing factors. One significant takeaway from this data is that people managers are not inspiring greater productivity in the US workforce.

On the engagement front, Blessing White’s 2013 Employee Engagement Research Report found that US engagement grew from 33% in 2011 to 40% in 2012. That’s very good news. However, it means that 60% of employees are not engaged. Team members do not believe their current work environment treats them with trust, dignity, and respect.

This data leads us to an undeniable conclusion: many well-paid people managers have a less-than-stellar impact on team member productivity and engagement.

How can leaders shift this tide? My research and experience tells me that leaders need to reframe their role and responsibilities as that of servant leaders. Their entire “reason for being” is to help team members build the right skills, to help team members apply those skills in service to team goals and team customers, and to create a safe, inspiring work environment for everyone on the team.

Leaders must coach well, listen well, redirect when needed – and trust team members. Engaged, talented team members deserve the responsibility and authority to act independently, in the moment. Engaged team members that are learning needed skills aren’t ready for independent action – they need mentoring and guidance to build needed skills.

If leaders are able to reframe their role and responsibility as that of servant leaders, productivity will grow and engagement will grow.

Team members, customers, and company stakeholders will all benefit, together.

How have your best bosses created workplace trust, dignity, and respect? How have your servant leaders helped you grow and thrive at work? Please share your insights, comments, and questions in the comments section below.

Add your experiences to two fast & free research projects I have underway: the Great Boss Assessment and the Performance-Values Assessment. Results and analysis are available on my research page.

My new book from Wiley, The Culture Engine, is available NOW. Get your free sample chapter here. Subscribe to my weekly updates to get free resources, insights, and news on upcoming events.

Subscribe to Chris’ Updates for Free Resources, Insights, & News!

Photo used under Creative Commons from https://www.flickr.com/photos/infusionsoft/.

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 my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play 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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Don’t Bump The Fishbowl

Gold fish in aquariumI was reminded recently of a Nutterism that really fit the struggles one of my culture clients is experiencing.

A little background is necessary. Jerry Nutter was my best boss ever. I spent 5 of my 15 years in YMCA management under Jerry’s tutelage – and I still reap benefits today.

Jerry had a way of expressing truths about people management that were a bit folksy. Us members of Jerry’s team called these “Nutterisms.”

The Nutterism that came to mind was “don’t bump the fishbowl.” When a goldfish bowl gets bumped, the fish are NOT happy. They scurry behind the fake plants (or the plastic castle) and huddle together in fear. Their world has been shaken (literally). They don’t know what’s coming next. They are unable to go about their business anymore – they can only huddle, and watch, and wait.

Leaders bump their employee’s fishbowls all the time! Leaders may not intend to disrupt employee’s work lives, but actions such as these do “bump the fishbowl”:

  • Announce changes but provide no context and no opportunity for questions
  • Make structural or staffing changes with no context and no opportunity for questions
  • Take credit for team or team members’ ideas, efforts, or accomplishments
  • Micromanage – attempt to control how team members do the work, even if team members are more skilled at the work than the leader is
  • Provide frequent critical and negative feedback; rarely validate team members’ efforts or accomplishments

What happens when team members have their fishbowl bumped? Typically, they scurry around and huddle together in fear. Their world has been shaken. Few are able to go about their business anymore – they huddle, and watch, and wait.

Change is constant. Leaders don’t need to insulate their team from change, but they need to reduce the negative impact of change.

So, how can leaders keep from “bumping the fishbowl?”

Plan. Map out a strategy – then explain the strategy. Be open and honest, consistently. Help team members understand what the issues, problems, or gaps are that need to be addressed. Tell them what you’re thinking of doing to resolve these issues.

Listen. Ask for their ideas and insights. Incorporate their good ideas. Reiterate that these changes are to address identified gaps and problems – and stress how their ideas are being embraced.

Implement and Adapt. Put plans into place and engage team members to learn if there is any unintentional “bumping” going on. Adapt the plan to gain the most benefit for everyone – team members, company, and customers.

How have past leaders of yours “bumped the fishbowl”? What team member reactions have you seen that I missed? What did your great bosses do to reduce the negative “bumps”? Please share your insights, comments, and questions in the comments section below.

Add your experiences to two fast & free research projects I have underway: the Great Boss Assessment and the Performance-Values Assessment. Results and analysis are available on my research page.

My new book from Wiley, The Culture Engine, is available NOW. It features a number of Nutterisms! Get your free sample chapter here. Subscribe to my weekly updates to get free resources, insights, and news on upcoming events.

Subscribe to Chris’ Updates for Free Resources, Insights, & News!

Photo © istockphoto.com/bloodua. All rights reserved.

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 my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play 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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5 Tips from Lee Sklar

10308554_10152120369101430_3067860134782587280_nI’m a working musician on the side. I’m blessed to be a part of a talented, values aligned band that loves making music that makes people dance and smile!

I see (and have written about) a lot of parallels between music teams and business teams. A recent MusicRadar interview by one of the finest musicians on the planet, Leland Sklar, really rang true for me.

Lee has played bass on over 2500 albums for artists as varied as BB King, Phil Collins, James Taylor, Hall & Oates, and Lyle Lovett. He’s a sought-after studio and tour musician. And, he’s a genuinely nice guy. His world view is interesting & entertaining, and he engages willingly with fans on social media.

What’s Lee’s approach? What does he do – to get hired again and again – that countless other musicians don’t do? Lee says, “It’s not about bringing your chops (skills) to the date – it’s what kind of energy and professionalism you bring with you and how you improve the creative process.”

By tweaking Lee’s language a little for business application (with his permission – thank you, Lee), let’s apply his insights to the question, “How do you make yourself a valuable, sought-after business team member?”

Learn As Much As You Can
“It behooves you to bring as much facility and versatility” to your work opportunities as you can. Refine your skills constantly. Toss rusty, less valuable skills while building needed skills nimbly. Be proactive – don’t wait to be asked.

Learn The Language & The Tools
In the music world, musicians that can sight-read sheet music have a huge advantage over musicians that can’t. Every business has frameworks, systems, and approaches that it prefers. Be adept at your company’s language and tools. Study. Speak up with suggestions. Inquire why. Be skilled at your company’s foundational methodologies.

Personality Counts
“Be somebody that people get along with.” Be nice. Be a positive person in every interaction. Be engaged – if the team is reviewing progress and performance, don’t text or email; be present & offer insights. Be enthusiastic! Be the person that moves things forward, nicely. “Be the person you’d hire if it was your business.”

Stay Healthy
You can’t effectively serve anyone else if you’re not 100% healthy – spiritually, mentally, and physically. Take good care of yourself so you can contribute genuinely, happily, and consistently. Drugs and alcohol incapacitate you. “If you go on stage and you’re messed up, you’re disrespecting your fellow musicians and audience members.” Eat right. Sleep right. Exercise. Repeat daily!

See the World
“Anything you can do that makes you a better person will be reflected” in the work you do. Don’t sequester yourself! Take advantage of opportunities to see different companies. Go to customer sites to learn how they use your company’s products and services. Talk with people. What you learn, see, and hear can help you see the world from their eyes . . . and adapt to serve better.

What is your experience? What tips would you add to this list? Please share your insights, comments, and questions in the comments section below.

Add your experiences to two fast & free research projects I have underway: the Great Boss Assessment and the Performance-Values Assessment. Results and analysis are available on my research page.

My new book from Wiley, The Culture Engine, is available NOW. Get your free sample chapter here. Subscribe to my weekly updates to get free resources, insights, and news on upcoming events.

Subscribe to Chris’ Updates for Free Resources, Insights, & News!

Photo © Courtesy of Leland Sklar. All rights reserved.

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 my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play 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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