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The One Thing Great Bosses Pay Attention To

SCE-CultureLabX-041416I love speaking about the power of positive workplace cultures. I had the chance to present to the Denver chapter of CultureLabX recently.

As I was building my slide deck for this presentation, adding updated research and examples of terrific cultures, I came to an uncomfortable conclusion. More on that in a moment.

I’m very careful about what organizations I recommend. A company culture can turn from great to grotesque if senior leaders aren’t diligent about the quality of their work environment every single day. An effective, inspiring, productive work environment requires constant tending and nurturing by leaders.

In my book, The Culture Engine, I feature a number of companies with high performing, values-aligned cultures. Two of those companies have experienced rough waters recently. My uncomfortable conclusion? I can’t recommend those two companies anymore.

Let me explain.

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The first is Southwest Airlines. They are a very good company. They continue to outperform nearly all of their competitors. Their culture remains strong; their employees love working for Southwest. Many customers wouldn’t fly on any other airline. The company’s employee rating on Glassdoor.com – 4.2 out of 5.0 points – is exceptional.

I fly Southwest at times.

The issue I have with Southwest Airlines is that they have been fined twice in the last two years by the FAA for maintenance violations. In addition the airline faces a $12 million fine over improper aircraft repairs dating back to 2006.

A culture that allows less-than-excellent maintenance to occur does not earn my recommendation.

The second is Zappos. Zappos is a very good company, as well. They have a very unique culture and have been a top performer since before Amazon acquired them in 2009. They had been recognized as one of Fortune’s “Best Companies to Work For” for eight years in a row. This year, they missed the list.

In addition, nearly 30 percent of employees have left the company (in part due to a buyout offer) in the past year.

Why? Three years ago CEO Tony Hsieh implemented an organization structure called “holacracy.” In essence, holacracy is a system that replaces hierarchies and managers with self-managing teams. The problem? Employees don’t have confidence in the direction of the company anymore.

Zappos’ Glassdoor.com rating is 3.8, down from the mid-4’s a few years ago. Reading through comments of recent employee reviews one finds the holacracy experiment getting poor marks.

“A multi-million dollar company isn’t a high school economics project. It needs strong leaders and a clear direction to succeed.”

“No managers has really shaken things up – and not for the better.”

“Have a little more forethought about obvious questions that will arise from new initiatives. Morale is low because specific concerns have not been addressed.”

A culture that frustrates employees with a poorly implemented new structure and little clear direction does not earn my recommendation.

How can leaders gauge the quality of their work culture? What should leaders pay attention to?

The one thing great bosses pay attention to is the quality of their organization’s work culture. They invest time and energy every day in learning what’s working and what’s not. They spend 70 percent of their time listening to team leaders and employees.

That knowledge allows great bosses to quickly refine a dumb policy that pits people against each other or to promptly praise a team’s innovative response to a challenge or to redirect a leader who isn’t serving his or her team members effectively.

Great bosses listen, learn, and refine the practices of their workplace culture daily to ensure that everyone – employees, customers, leaders, vendors, etc. – is treated with trust, respect, and dignity in every interaction.

Don’t leave your team or company’s culture to chance. Pay attention to what’s working and what’s not. Nurture your desired culture with a servant purpose, values defined in behavioral terms, and clear goals.

How well do your leaders nurture a powerful, positive work culture? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Photo of me presenting at Denver’s CultureLabX © Patrice Lynn. All rights reserved.

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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.


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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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Four bad workplace behaviors you need to stop tolerating now

Boss yelling at his employees at a briefingIn the middle of a busy afternoon, two senior leaders engaged in a screaming match in the office.

They cursed and yelled at each other in full view of 30 employees.

Their behavior was disrespectful and appalling. It was uncomfortable and embarrassing to watch.

I asked the company president about the argument. He said, “I know. It happens all the time.” I asked, “Why do you tolerate that bad behavior?” He replied, “I told them to stop.”

I stated the obvious: “Telling them to stop has not caused them to stop. You’re tolerating incivility and disrespect, which erodes performance, engagement, and service.” The president knew all that. He was frustrated and didn’t know how to make his senior leaders behave.

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Bad behavior in our workplaces is all too common. Workplace civility expert Christine Porath has found that 98 percent of employees she has interviewed over the past twenty years have experienced uncivil behavior at work. In 2011, half of respondents said they were treated badly at least once a week.

You get what you tolerate. If you enable bad behavior – by ignoring it, by demanding it stop then doing nothing when it continues, by modeling bad behavior yourself at times, etc. – bad behavior occurs more frequently.

If you demand civility – ensuring everyone is treated with trust, respect, and dignity in every interaction – civil behavior occurs more frequently.

Here are the “top four” bad workplace behaviors that you need to quash, right now. They are listed from the “somewhat benign” to the “most damning.”

Demeaning, Discounting, and Dismissing – The three “D’s” happen so often and so casually at work, it seems like they’re not that big of a problem. However, the three “D’s” are gateway behaviors to much worse (as we’ll see in a moment). This combination has no beneficial impact on the players, the work, or the business. The three “D’s” are always used to “prove” that the deliverer is smarter, better, more capable, etc. then the receiver. In positive workplaces, ideas can be debated loudly and assertively AND people are treated civilly and kindly, no matter what.

Lying – This one is often known as “lying, cheating, stealing.” What happens when people lie, when they take credit for others’ work, when they say they’re done but haven’t started, when they “bend the rules” to accommodate their desires? They get found out – their lie is exposed to the light of day. Lying to protect a colleague is still lying. Telling an untruth – no matter how small – erodes confidence and performance.

Tantrums – Now we’re getting to mad skills, meaning “one is highly skilled at demonstrating one’s anger!” Throwing a hissy fit is selfish and self-serving. It makes the issue all about the tantrum-thrower rather than about root cause: missed promises or lies or a lack of skills, etc. Yelling, cursing, throwing things, slamming doors – we’ve seen it all. These actions mask the underlying problem(s). If left unaddressed, everyone who works with the tantrum-thrower is forced to accommodate the brute’s whims, walking on eggshells every day.

Bullying – this is by far the most harmful of bad workplace behaviors. The Workplace Bullying Institute defines bullying as abusive conduct that is threatening, intimidating, and humiliating. Their 2014 study found that 27 percent of American workers have current or past direct experience with abusive conduct at work. 72 percent are aware of workplace bullying. The most troublesome finding? 72 percent of employers deny, discount, rationalize or defend bullying. Bullying in any form destroys workplace trust, respect, and dignity.

These four bad behaviors ruin any chance of a positive, productive culture. Don’t tolerate them – quash them.

Which of these bad behaviors is present in your workplace? How have leaders addressed them? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Photo © berc – 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.


Don’t miss any of Chris’ posts, podcasts, or updates – Subscribe Now!

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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What’s Your Organization’s Values Operating System?

Trust Concept in BusinessWhat values does your organization hold dear?

Every organization has values, just as every human has values. Some organizations have values that encourage an “I win, you lose” dynamic. Some embrace a “service to others” environment. Some emphasize “results, results, results” while others embrace a family and teamwork dynamic.

We see a wide range of values demonstrated in organizations, large and small, around the globe. Values are the foundation of an organization’s culture – for better or worse.

The challenge is that most leaders – senior executives, directors, small business owners, team leaders, regional heads, etc. – do not pay attention to the health and quality of their organization’s culture.

They’ve never been asked to do that. They may not know how. The vital metrics that leaders are typically held accountable for are performance metrics. It is rare for leaders to be held accountable for the quality of their work environment or for happy, engaged employees.

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Yet where employees are happy – treated with trust, respect, and dignity in every interaction – productivity grows.

For example, Parnassus Investments’ Workplace Fund – a mutual fund that invests in large American firms with outstanding workplace cultures – outperformed the S&P Index during the recent global recession with a 10.81% return compared to the S&P’s 3.97% return!

Focusing exclusively on results or profits can be a slippery slope, as Volkswagen and Turing Pharmaceuticals discovered last year. What is fascinating is that both of these organizations have published formalized values. Volkswagen’s values specifically note “environmental protection.” Turing Pharmaceuticals’ code of conduct specifically notes “treating each other and customers and patients with the respect they deserve.”

In Volkswagen’s case, the behavior of engineers to install software to cheat on emissions testing is clearly in violation of their values. In Turing Pharmaceuticals’ case, the code of conduct document is dated January 27, 2016. I cannot find references to a code of conduct in the company previous to that date. It seems that last year’s pricing debacle prompted the creation of this code.

The absence of formalized values in an organization – or the absence of accountability for published values – can be interpreted to mean that any path – including lying, cheating, or stealing – is OK.

You don’t “assume” that everyone in your organization knows their performance standards and delivers them without any discussions, do you? Performance clarity and accountability requires formalized goals and targets, with dashboards and metrics monitored closely, every day.

You must not “assume” that everyone in your organization knows how you want them to treat other people at work, either. Values clarity and accountability requires formalized values and behaviors, with interaction quality monitored closely, every day.

To ensure citizenship is as important as performance, you need a values operating system – a VOS – in the form of an organizational constitution that is lived and demonstrated by everyone in your organization daily.

An organizational constitution is a formal statement of your company’s present day service purpose, values and behaviors, strategies, and goals. This statement defines what contributions are needed and what citizenship is needed from every player, every day.

Most organizations have strategies and goals defined; these represent your company’s performance standards and expectations. Very few have values defined in observable, tangible, measurable terms – which is the only way you can build a values operating system in your organization.

Crafting and communicating your VOS – through your organizational constitution – is the easy part. The more complex part is aligning all plans, decisions, and actions to your VOS.

When employees are treated with trust, respect, and dignity in every interaction, they’ll treat your customers like gold. They’ll proactively solve problems. They’ll demonstrate pride in their work. And – they’ll deliver performance gains of 30 percent or more.

Don’t wait. Formalize your values operating system with an organizational constitution and align behavior to it every day.

What is your organization’s values operating system like today? Does it inspire cooperative interaction and proactive problem solving or not so much? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Photo © Olivier Le Moal – 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.


Don’t miss any of Chris’ posts, podcasts, or updates – Subscribe Now!

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 Cost of Waiting

Crossed fingers!A bit of a wait won’t hurt, will it?

With fingers crossed, you rely on luck and hope. Let’s say you’ve decided to defer getting your furnace repaired. “It’ll last another year,” you tell yourself.

It might last, and it might not. Getting it fixed now might cost money and inconvenience (workers in your home, the mess that is made, etc.). Waiting might mean no heat in the dead of winter – and no one available to fix it promptly.

We humans defer a lot of important things. Investing in our retirement. Changing the oil and filter in our car. Apologizing for a mistake. Losing weight. Exercising.

We when we put things off, we hope that things won’t get worse. We might even hope that things will “fix themselves,” without any change or intervention on our part.

That never happens. I never lost weight when I kept eating fatty foods and didn’t exercise!

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What happens when we wait? Logical consequences happen. Logical consequences are things that naturally occur in work and life. If you do (or don’t do) “X” then “Z” naturally occurs. There are good and bad logical consequences.

What is a logical consequence of deferred furnace replacement? You saved money but you froze a couple of nights. Logical consequences of an unhealthy diet? Diabetes, heart trouble, obesity, and worse.

One business issue that is too frequently deferred is dealing with a lousy culture. Business leaders reach out to me because they’ve read my book or my articles, listened to my podcast, or heard me speak. They know their business culture is unhealthy. They’ve tried a number of things but nothing changed. They know they need outside expertise to guide them to a safe, inspiring, productive culture.

My job is to educate leaders on my proven process. My approach outlines specific phases that business leaders must drive. They can’t delegate the responsibility for culture refinement to anyone else.

Most embrace this responsibility. They let me serve as a behind-the-scenes coach so they can define, live, and enjoy their desired culture. Engagement, service, and results grow.

I’m unable to inspire some leaders. One or two potential clients a year learn what’s required and say, “No, thanks.” Most decide to wait.

What are the logical consequences of allowing an unhealthy business culture to continue, unabated? Trust, respect, and dignity continue to erode – between leaders, team members, peers, and customers. Vital information is withheld. An “I win, you lose” environment means that money is left on the table; the few with the best information win, while many others fall short. Results are inconsistent.

Getting things done right in that unhealthy culture takes time, energy, and patience. It’s exhausting – not exhilarating.

Waiting to refine a bent – or broken – organizational culture allows the difficulties to continue, to deepen, to become even more entrenched.

That’s no way to run a business.

Our best bosses figured out ways to ensure our team environment was healthy, inspiring, safe, and productive. There is no reason for you to wait to fix yours.

How healthy is your business culture? What are the strongest features of your culture today – and which are the most frustrating for you? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Photo © djoronimo – Dollar Photo Club. 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.


Don’t miss any of Chris’ posts, podcasts, or updates – Subscribe Now!

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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Write It Down, then Act on It.

Closeup of writing hands in a rowI was shocked and appalled. The oft-quoted 1953 Yale Study of Goals was an urban legend. It never happened.

The mythical Yale study “proved” that people who write down their specific goals for the future are far more likely to be successful than those with unwritten goals or those with no formal goals at all.

For a rational thinker like me, that study was pure gold. It validated a systematic, formal approach to goal setting and goal accomplishment.

The only problem is that the study was never conducted. A 1996 Fast Company article completely debunked the Yale study.

And, a new day has dawned on the premise of that Yale study. Dr. Gail Matthews of Dominican University was intrigued enough by the concepts that she engaged in conducing the research herself.

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Dr. Matthews engaged 267 participants from around the globe in her study. Participants included a wide range of businesses, organizations, networks, ages, and backgrounds. Randomly assigned groups were given different activities for their workplace goals.

The group that performed best – 33 percent more successful in accomplishing their stated goals – did five things as part of the study. They formalized their goals in writing. They then assessed their goals on the degree of difficulty, importance, skills and resources available to accomplish the goal, their commitment and motivation, and their accountability for delivering on those goals.

Third, they drafted action commitments for each goal. Fourth, they shared their goals and action commitments with a friend. Finally, they sent that friend a weekly progress report throughout the four week study.

Dr. Matthews’ study proved that formalizing goals, creating a thorough plan for delivering on those goals, then engaging in accountability practices vastly increases goal accomplishment. The Yale study lives!

Goal accomplishment and delivering promised results (and profits, if you’re a for-profit organization) are certainly important in our businesses. Leaders are charged with inspiring team members to deliver results.

The challenge is that delivering results is exactly HALF the leader’s job.

The other half? Creating a safe, inspiring work culture. A culture that treats everyone in the organization with trust, respect, and dignity doesn’t happen by default – it only happens by design.

Just as Dr. Matthews’ study proved how to increase workplace goal accomplishment with a formal goal accountability system, my research proves how to increase workplace inspiration and respect with a formal values accountability system.

Leaders must make values as important as results. And they can’t just “tell” people to behave nicely. Without an integrated system, values don’t stand a chance up against dozens of metrics on performance dashboards throughout your business, watched by everyone weekly (or more frequently).

Just as with Dr. Matthews’ research, values accountability begins with leaders crafting a written statement of what values the company stands for and what actionable behaviors are required for people to model those values. Once values are defined in behavioral terms, leaders must model those behaviors in every interaction and invite everyone else in the organization to do the same.

My proven approach for this powerful combination of performance and values accountability is an organizational constitution. When leaders formalize their team’s present day purpose, values and behaviors, strategies and goals, then live them, coach them, and align all practices to them, amazing things happen. Engagement goes up by 40 percent. Customer service goes up by 40 percent.

And – just as you’d expect – results and profits go up by 35 percent. These gains consistently occur within 18 months of engaging in my culture refinement process.

By all means, focus on performance. And spend 50 percent of your time proactively creating values clarity and values alignment. Your team will thrive.

How well do your colleagues and teams deliver on their performance goals? Does your organization have formal values and behaviors? How do those values impact your day-to-day work environment? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Photo © psphotography – Dollar Photo Club. 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.


Don’t miss any of Chris’ posts, podcasts, or updates – Subscribe Now!

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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