Feel How to Keep Culture on Track

September 24, 2012 — 4 Comments

iStock_000018271188XSmallI love old sports cars. Performance cars are very different, model to model – some have flat-out speed, some corner like slot cars, some have lively steering, etc. Few cars have “everything desired” – each model has strengths and compromises.

Autocross racing intrigues me – it’s track racing made accessible to enthusiasts like me. Early on, a peer coach helped me understand how to get the best performance and most satisfying experiences while racing.

He said, “It’s not about pure speed. It’s about feeling the car ‘in the moment,’ every moment.” The best drivers are very attuned to the subtle weight shifts that signal where and how a car is poised on the track. Driving straight is easy. When you’re passing cars or turning to find the most efficient line through a corner, the car’s subtle weight shifts give you clues about how it’s handling.

Feeling the nuances of weight transfer, and leveraging that weight transfer for efficiency and speed, is much more art than science.

Proactive Culture Management Requires “Feel”

Managing your team or organization’s culture is also more art than science. Vital culture elements – clear performance expectations, clear values standards, and accountability for both – don’t make a team’s culture perfect. Just like a track car’s weight shifts in the race, your team’s culture shifts, moment to moment. To ensure your culture is serving your organization, customers, and employees equally well, you must learn to “feel” the subtle shifts that provide clues about how your culture is operating. Where you see clues of aligned behavior, celebrate and praise. Where you see clues of “less aligned” behavior, redirect the culture back “on track.”

Here are the top three “culture shifts” I coach leaders to pay attention to:

  • Values Demonstration – Are valued behaviors modeled daily, no matter the temptations to short cut a process or gain an unfair advantage? Stay attuned to values by observing leaders working with team members and team members interacting with each other and with customers. Promptly praise raise aligned behavior and redirect mis-aligned behavior.
  • Promises Kept – Are commitments made by the team and by team members diligently honored? Any promise not kept is an unhealthy action that can lead to further eroding of your team’s integrity, as well as the integrity of individual team members. Every day, observe and inquire about team members doing what they say they will do.
  • Celebrate Progress & Accomplishment – Do team members praise and encourage each other, day to day, or are they more interested in catching others doing things wrong than in doing things right? A validating culture looks for and celebrates things done well and going well.

Please join in THIS conversation! What are the culture shifts YOU pay attention to? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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S. Chris Edmonds

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Chris is a sought-after speaker and executive consultant with his own firm and with @kenblanchard. He is the author of Leading At A Higher Level and three other books, and a @jonesandraine band member.