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Leading a purposeful, positive, productive culture

happy creative team writing on stickers at officeHow much attention does your organization’s culture enjoy each day? If your business is like most across the globe, culture isn’t even on the radar.

Yet culture – the quality of the work environment, how people treat each other, the norms that guide daily behavior and activities – is growing in importance. According to Deloitte’s 2016 Global Human Capital Trends report, “few factors contribute more to business success than culture.” Their research indicates that 87 percent of business leaders believe that culture is important. 54 percent believe culture is very important – nine percentage points higher than their 2015 study.

Culture is a business issue. It drives everything that happens in your organizations, for better or worse. Why don’t leaders make culture a priority? They don’t know how. They’ve never been asked to manage culture. Deloitte’s study found that only 28 percent of respondents believe they understand their current culture well. Only 19 percent believe they have the “right” culture!

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Culture matters! Whether you’re a small business owner, team leader, department head, regional executive, CEO of a multi-national, or anything in between, you need to spend time and energy on culture.

If leaders want a purposeful, positive, productive culture – where team members thrive and LOVE to come to work – leaders must invest time in examining their current culture and refining that current culture.

My proven culture refinement process helps leaders understand their current culture, define their desired culture, and close gaps to make their desired culture a reality.

The process starts with discovery. I interview all senior leaders and often next level leaders to learn how the culture – of their leadership team and of the overall organization – operates today. I review employee survey results and performance trends. I analyze this information and craft an interview summary and recommendations document that all leaders review in advance of our face-to-face kickoff session.

While these interviews are happening, leaders read select chapters of my book, The Culture Engine, and complete the worksheets in the back of those chapters to prepare for our kickoff.

During our two-day face-to-face “culture refinement process” kickoff session, leaders discuss the interview summary and recommendations, noting their top three most urgent gaps to address. They share their personal servant purpose, values, and behaviors, typically learning that many on the team share the same purpose and values.

They then begin defining their desired culture by formalizing their organizational constitution: their servant purpose (who the company serves and ‘to what end’ besides making money), their values and behaviors (measurable behaviors that indicate they’re modeling their values), their strategies, and goals.

As most organizations have some form of strategies and goals in place, those elements are easy. The other elements – servant purpose, values, and behaviors – are foreign to most organizations and leaders. Crafting those is hard work! Finishing those will take time after the kickoff session.

For example, one leadership team I’m working with set aside two hours each Monday morning to work on their servant purpose, values, and behaviors. After three meetings, they’ve crafted a solid servant purpose, defined three of their five values, and specified three measurable behaviors for each of those three values. They’re making great progress!

And, the CEO told me, the team is behaving much differently than before the kickoff. “There’s less ‘me’ and more ‘we,'” he said. They’re engaging in this challenging work together. They’re debating ideas while honoring their peers. They’re making sure every voice is heard – not just the confident extroverted voices.

They’re treating each other with trust, dignity, and respect, in every interaction. All in three weeks’ time.

A purposeful, positive, productive culture won’t happen by default. It only happens by design. What are you waiting for? Your desired culture is within reach.

Do people treat others with trust, respect, and dignity in your organization, in every interaction? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Photo © Syda Productions – Adobe Stock. All rights reserved.

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

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


vimeo_logoDon’t miss a single video segment in Chris’ new “Culture Leadership Charge” series or any of his video clips. Subscribe to Chris’ Vimeo channel.


podcast_subscribeListen to over 300 of Chris’ Culture Leadership Podcasts on Libsyn or subscribe via RSS.


itunes_subscribeListen to over 300 of Chris’ Culture Leadership Podcasts on iTunes or subscribe via 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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Hire great leaders with these tips

Manager Congratulating Member Of Staff In Meeting

You put your business and culture at risk with every hire. If the leaders or team members you bring into your team do not embrace your organization’s common goals and shared values, then trust, respect, and dignity are eroded.

What happens when team members feel distrusted, discounted, or dismissed? They quit and leave, or – worse – they quit and stay.

Team member productivity drops. Self-preservation jumps. Cooperation diminishes. Doing the minimum seems like a good way to cope.

That’s no way to run a successful, sustainable business.

What is the most important hiring decisions you make? Who to put “in charge” of a team. A bad leadership hire – a self-centered, prideful individual – destroys team spirit, cooperation, and creative service. A brilliant leadership hire – an individual that demonstrates authentic care, grace, humor, and accountability – creates a purposeful, positive, productive team culture.

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What do great leaders do? They act daily on their primary responsibility to remove team members’ frustrations. They genuinely enjoy their team members. They laugh with (not at) team members. They celebrate team members’ efforts and accomplishments, not just at work but in the community and at home, too. They give credit rather than giving blame. They lovingly hold team members accountable for results and service. They don’t tolerate rude, aggressive, or self-serving behaviors by anyone on their team.

If all your leaders operated like this, how would it help your business? My experience and research indicates that an aligned culture with caring leaders boosts employee engagement by 40 percent, customer service by 40 percent, and results and profits by 35 percent.

That’s a powerful, positive impact.

How can you hire more genuine, caring, inspiring leaders? During your interview process, don’t focus exclusively on past accomplishments or accolades – focus equally on these tips:

Values and Behaviors – Ask leader candidates to describe their personal life values – principles that guide their day-to-day living. Ask for examples of their behaviors – plans, decisions, and actions – that model their life values or principles. Ask how they handle people they meet and interact with who hold very different values and behaviors. How kind are they? How aggressive are they?

Leadership Philosophy – Ask leader candidates to describe their leadership philosophy. What are their reasons for being a leader? What results are they striving for from their team? Who do they serve – and how? What does that candidate expect of team members? What can team members expect of the candidate? Ask yourself, “Is servant leadership a core foundation of their philosophy?”

Relationships – Ask leader candidates how they gauge the quality of their relationships with team members they’re leading. Which are the candidates’ most important relationships at work? How do they handle disagreement from team members? What do they do regularly to build and maintain positive, professional relationships with team members?

These are not “normal” interview questions or conversations. You might find that candidates are not prepared to answer these questions – you might stun them into silence! However, if you don’t inquire about these important foundational ideas, you may find you’ve made a hiring mistake – again.

Your business, your staff, and your customers all deserve the best leaders you can attract. Try these ideas out with your next leadership hire – and let me know what you learn.

Would these tips improve the quality of your hiring of leaders? What has been the impact of great/OK/lousy leader hiring in your past organizations? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Photo © Monkey Business – Adobe Stock. All rights reserved.

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

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


vimeo_logoDon’t miss a single video segment in Chris’ new “Culture Leadership Charge” series or any of his video clips. Subscribe to Chris’ Vimeo channel.


podcast_subscribeListen to over 300 of Chris’ Culture Leadership Podcasts on Libsyn or subscribe via RSS.


itunes_subscribeListen to over 300 of Chris’ Culture Leadership Podcasts on iTunes or subscribe via 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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Heads or tails? Three keys to better decision-making

Tossing Euro coin, heads or tails you decideHow good a decision-maker are you? Every day, you make decisions that impact your quality of life, your well-being, your effectiveness, your relationships, and more.

What influences our decision making approach? Some humans make decisions based on logic and analysis (Carl Jung’s “thinking” preference of personality) while others make decisions based on feelings and the impact on significant others (Jung’s “feeling” preference).

Humans vary in the pace of their decisions. Some are very fast – they “pull the trigger” on decisions quickly – while others make decisions “at a snail’s pace.” Some humans prefer to engage in discussion with others before coming to a decision while others prefer making decisions independently.

Circumstances impact our decision-making approach. We might take more time and engage others more if we’re making a decision when things are going well. Under pressure, we may change our decision-making approach entirely.

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Let me share a decision I made awhile back. In college in the early ’70’s, my car was my Mom’s old station wagon. It was not a cool car by any stretch of the imagination. It was reliable, steady, and boring. When the head gasket blew, requiring expensive repairs, I made a decision: I’m going to sell it and buy a sports car.

I made a feeling-based decision, because the facts should have caused me to walk away from that sports car. It was older than my station wagon. The side windows didn’t roll up because the mechanisms were broken. The heater didn’t work. The driver’s seat had been replaced by a much taller seat that put my head at eye level of the top of the windshield – I had to duck to see out the front.

I ignored all of those realities. I loved the way that car looked, the way the engine sounded, and the way it handled. So, I bought it.

It was not a good decision. It cost me time and money to make it safe and reliable. I was glad to get rid of it in my senior year.

I’ve made a number of good – and bad – decisions over the years. I’ve learned that leaving decisions to chance does not increase the effectiveness of those decisions.

To make better decisions, consider three ideas: benefit, values, and impact.

Benefit – Who will benefit? If you win and others lose, that won’t increase trust, respect, and cooperation in your workplace, family, or community. Find solutions that help everyone move forward – towards contribution and results, civility and sanity, and cooperation.

Values – Is the decision aligned with your values? By formalizing your servant purpose (who you serve on this planet and to what end) and your values (the principles you live by), you can assess your decisions based on those values. If a decision requires you to go against your commitments or to violate your integrity, that’s not a decision you should embrace.

Impact – Conduct an “after action review.” How did your decision impact those on your team or family or community? Was it fair to all those impacted by the decision? Engage all those impacted to learn their perceptions. Refine future decisions based on what you learn – to ensure only positive impact.

Would these three ideas improve the quality of your decisions? How do you ensure that your decisions are fair, beneficial, aligned with your values, and generate positive impact? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Photo © fotofabrika – Adobe Stock. All rights reserved.

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

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


vimeo_logoDon’t miss a single video segment in Chris’ new “Culture Leadership Charge” series or any of his video clips. Subscribe to Chris’ Vimeo channel.


podcast_subscribeListen to over 300 of Chris’ Culture Leadership Podcasts on Libsyn or subscribe via RSS.


itunes_subscribeListen to over 300 of Chris’ Culture Leadership Podcasts on iTunes or subscribe via 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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The single most important thing employees want

IMG_0584The fifteen year old boy sat quietly while his father described how the teen needed to be more pleasant, to do his chores, to put down his smartphone when speaking to adults, etc.

It was a conversation that had occurred a number of times before. When the father finished his list of issues, the teen asked, “Dad, is there anything I do right around here?”

Most of us remember being on the receiving end of those conversations when we were younger. We might even realize that we’ve delivered those conversations to teens in our lives! We humans have a strong tendency to judge other people for doing things wrong more than we validate other people for doing things right.

Business leaders have the same human tendency. When I speak around the globe, one of the questions I ask is, “How many of you get enough praise on the job?” On average about 10 percent of audience members raise their hands. These players are doing good things at work, but nobody notices. Too few leaders praise or encourage.

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If you want a powerful, positive, productive work culture, it starts with the most important thing employees (and all humans) want: authentic care.

Employees know if their leaders are self-serving or are in service to employees and customers. They see it in their leaders’ every plan, decision, and action.

When a leader genuinely values his or her employees, it’s obvious in the way those employees are treated, in every interaction. The servant leader listens, learns, thanks, laughs with, trusts, and encourages team members, every day. In that caring environment, employees are much more likely to stay with that company, to proactively solve problems, to praise and encourage each other, to serve customers kindly, and to work cooperatively to meet the company’s goals.

Here’s an example. I traveled to the Dominican Republic recently to keynote Mercado’s “Best Companies to Work For” conference. The event was held at the Embassy Suites hotel in Santo Domingo. I spoke to hotel general manager Leonardo Ramirez about his company’s employees and culture.

Leonardo is a servant leader. When the property opened in 2014, he realized he needed to attract and retain talented, committed employees who felt cared for and valued. If he and his leadership team could create that environment, excellent customer service would follow.

Turnover rates in the hospitality industry are miserable. One recent study estimated annual hospitality turnover at 30 percent, more than double most other industries.

Leonardo goes above and beyond to demonstrate authentic care for hotel team members. When the hotel was being painted at the end of construction, Leonardo arranged for the paint crews to go to team members’ homes to paint the inside and outside of their houses – at no charge to the team member! A plaque was placed on the exterior, noting that this was the home of a proud Embassy Suites team member.

Team members are provided with sheets, pillows, and blankets from hotel stock. Team members have free wi-fi at work – and are trusted to use their smartphones to communicate with family and friends so long as that doesn’t interfere with their work responsibilities.

Each year, Leonardo asks team members to share a personal goal for the year. The crew sits around the pool, discuss their personal goals, and write them down for Leonardo. One woman’s family is remodeling their home and struggled to fund the concrete blocks needed. Leonardo had a pallet delivered to her home, at no cost.

Team members work hard for Leonardo and for their peers. The photo above shows a team member ensuring that all tableware in the conference ballroom was lined up exactly across all tables. They work together because they feel cared for.

The Embassy Suites hotel’s turnover rate is 1.5 percent. That’s remarkable in an industry where 30 percent is the norm.

Don’t leave the quality of your work culture to chance. Demonstrate authentic care in every interaction – and demand the same from all team members.

How do your leaders demonstrate authentic care for team members? How often do leaders praise compared to chastising? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Photo © Chris Edmonds Photography. All rights reserved.

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

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


vimeo_logoDon’t miss a single video segment in Chris’ new “Culture Leadership Charge” series or any of his video clips. Subscribe to Chris’ Vimeo channel.


podcast_subscribeListen to over 300 of Chris’ Culture Leadership Podcasts on Libsyn or subscribe via RSS.


itunes_subscribeListen to over 300 of Chris’ Culture Leadership Podcasts on iTunes or subscribe via 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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What dysfunctional bands teach us about work culture

AdobeStock_48903240Is one of your favorite bands dysfunctional?

Most bands are dysfunctional to some degree; many to a great degree. The pressures of writing, recording, touring, performing, doing interviews, being away from family and home 24/7 – without a break? That’d bring out the worst in any human.

The list of bands that have experienced meltdowns or breakups is long, including the Beatles, the Temptations, the Eagles, Journey, Arrested Development, Guns ‘N Roses, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Supremes, Aerosmith, Blink-182, Destiny’s Child, and many more.

As a working musician, I’ve seen “band members behaving badly” up close and personal. All organizations, including bands, experience a day-to-day work culture that either operates well or poorly in helping that organization succeed while retaining inspired, talented players.

What gets in the way of band and workplace harmony?

There are three primary drivers of dysfunctional behavior in groups: ego, validation, and demands.

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Egos run amok erode trust, respect, and healthy relationships. Ego drives selfish pride and arrogance. Ego causes people to say great things about themselves and mean things about others. It causes players to take credit for others work. It causes players to exclude others and only include people that support their huge egos.

Incivility is entirely too common in our workplaces around the globe. Researcher Christine Porath found that 98 percent of employees have experienced uncivil treatment at work.

Validation is a basic human need. We want to know we’re contributing to something meaningful. We want to feel strongly valued – yet only 21 percent of employees do feel strongly valued at work (TinyPulse).

If we get the validation we seek, we are more likely to proactively solve problems, to validate others through praise and encouragement, and to invest in cooperative teamwork. If we don’t get the validation we seek, we withhold information, we set up others to fail, we take credit and give blame.

Demands in a band grow exponentially with the band’s success. Most musicians didn’t get into music to be famous or wealthy. Most musicians are inspired by the art, the communication of ideas, the feeling of inspiring others through music.

The demands that touring, performing, etc. place on band members are incredibly stressful. We face similar demands at work – long hours, increasing workload, covering for someone who has not done a job well (or at all), working hard while being paid less than others in similar roles, etc. These demands sap our spirit, our energy, and our ability to respond “at our best.”

If we learn anything from these dysfunctional bands, it’s that we must be intentional about how we want people to behave – how we want people to treat each other – at work.

A powerful, positive, productive culture – in a band or at work – doesn’t happen by default. Leaders must specify how people are expected to treat each other – by outlining behaviors that will maintain civil relationships day to day.

In our Denver-based band, we have an organizational constitution that describes how every band member is expected to behave. Our expectations include things like being prepared, skilled in our instrumental and vocal parts so we perform effectively together. Loading gear in our trailer, unloading on site, setting up the stage (PA, lighting, effects, etc.). Tearing down the stage after the show requires everyone’s attention, even after 12 hour days . . . all while being kind and graceful with our bandmates.

With such specific behavioral expectations, we all know what’s required of us – and we proactively model those behaviors. When a bandmate doesn’t behave according to expectations, we can inquire what’s going on and re-direct where needed.

Workplace leaders must do the same thing: be very specific about the behaviors they wish people to demonstrate to ensure trustful, respectful treatment in every interaction. Once those expectations are formalized, it’s easy for everyone to embrace those behaviors – and be kind, validate others, and give credit where its due.

Gather talented, engaged players. Honor their efforts. Challenge them to perform together. Don’t let them carry any burdens with anyone. Praise and encourage ideas, efforts, and accomplishment.

You just might make beautiful music together!

How well does your work team manage egos, validation needs, and demands? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Photo © beeboys – Adobe Stock. All rights reserved.

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

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


vimeo_logoDon’t miss a single video segment in Chris’ new “Culture Leadership Charge” series or any of his video clips. Subscribe to Chris’ Vimeo channel.


podcast_subscribeListen to over 300 of Chris’ Culture Leadership Podcasts on Libsyn or subscribe via RSS.


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