Leaders, Change What You Pay Attention To

At a recent corporate culture keynote, my audience responded enthusiastically to a “best practice” recommendation.

I shared Blanchard’s culture change model and facilitated small teams in drafting sample behavioralized values for their organization.

Our culture change model requires that companies be very disciplined in setting expectations on two fronts: performance and values. These particular leaders have worked hard to increase performance clarity. As with most of our culture clients, though, they have not created clear values standards. Our discussions and activities helped increase their understanding of the importance of values clarity.

The tough part of culture change isn’t setting expectations; it’s holding all staff accountable for those performance and values expectations.

My “best practice” recommendation: leaders must change what they notice. Every day.

What Do Leaders Pay Attention To Today?

Most leaders in organizations have been trained to look at performance metrics. Organizational systems have been designed and refined to present up-to-the-moment data about performance metrics. Those metrics typically include:

  • Widgets out the door
  • Quality of products and services
  • Financials, including revenue, expenses, and net profits
  • Waste, scrap, and/or recovery
  • Labor costs
  • Raw materials costs
  • Market share
  • Customer satisfaction

These are important metrics to track as they all contribute to or erode financial success and the long-term viability of the enterprise.

However, they are not the ONLY metrics leaders must observe closely. And, suggesting that leaders spend 50% of their time and attention on things OTHER than performance metrics causes consternation (and worse) in audiences I speak to.

Why? Most leaders have not experienced an organizational culture that requires values alignment as well as high performance. Without relevant role models or “on the job” training for managing values AND performance, organizational leaders don’t know what to “do differently” to do those things effectively.

Pay Attention to These Metrics, Too

These values metrics provide insights into how well the employee population believes that their company trusts, respects, and honors them, day in and day out.

  • Employee morale
    Do employees believe the company is a good place to work? Do they recommend  that others work there (or stay away)? Do employees apply discretionary energy to their work tasks and opportunities?
  • Employee perceptions of the company’s culture
    Do employees believe that the organization has their best interests at heart? Does the corporate culture enable staff to share hopes and dreams about the future? Are they happy about working in the company?
  • Employee perceptions of the company’s leaders
    Do employees believe leaders are credible, behave with integrity? Do employees believe what leaders tell them? Do employees rally around leaders during times of stress or do they disconnect?

How do you measure traction in these metrics? Wander around your workplace. Ask questions. Listen. Conduct regular employee surveys. Hold leaders and staff for values expectations.

To free up time, energy, and space to observe these values metrics, leaders must delegate some of what they’ve been doing to stay on top of performance metrics to trusted, talented staff. Very capable staff are ready to provide data that enables leaders to keep track of performance standards and accountability.

Great bosses create safe and positive workplaces that inspires high performance and values alignment. Results reported by our culture clients indicate consistent gains in employee work passion, customer devotion, and financial profits.

What do you think about “changing what leaders notice”? Add your comments below.

Learn more about my new book, #POSITIVITY AT WORK tweet, written with the delightful Lisa Zigarmi. View our video on why we wrote the book, get a FREE excerpt (and automatically be entered in our monthly contest for the entire ebook), and more!

Photo © iStockphoto.com/JackValley


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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  • http://triuneleadershipservices.com Mark Deterding

    Chris, another outstanding message on the importance of being intentional about focusing on the culture you desire as a leader and using values metrics to help guide the journey. I’ll never forget the day you told me that I would need to shift my focus to 50-75% of my time being spent on driving culture and employee engagement progress. It was rather daunting, but it proved to be the best direction I have ever received.

    There is nothing more rewarding as a leader than seeing lives positively changed as people understand the impact that they can have on others by creating a positive environment for their people to thrive in.

    This is what worthwhile work is all about for a leader. Thanks for all you do to continue to advance efforts in this area!

    Mark

    • http://performance-values.com Chris Edmonds

      Thanks, big Mark! Great to hear from you – I value your perspective as you lived this journey “in the trenches” building values-aligned organizations!

      Cheers!

      C.

  • http://www.rickmaurer.com Rick Maurer

    Chris –

    Bravo. Fine post. I think it was Yogi Berra who said, “you can observe a lot just by watchin’.” I think your advice to pay attention to what you notice is absolutely right. My background is in gestalt psychology and awareness is key. My colleague, Jacquie McLemore, and I recently ran a gestalt program for people keenly interested in making a difference in their organizations. With the help of a coach, participants went back to work with the task of noticing. The coach helped them keep from trying to do something different and simply stick with the task of paying attention. Most found that simple task to be exciting. It was like they had taken blinders off and were seeing their workplace (and their part in it) for the first time. They noted how helpful those observations were when they did start to try to influence others.

    • http://performance-values.com Chris Edmonds

      Thanks for your insights, Rick – we’re on the same path, trying to help leaders pay attention to what they pay attention to!

      Cheers!

      C.

  • Jim Trunick

    It seems in many organizations the mission statement of a corporation may say trust and professionalism, and I’ve seen posted in some companies, global values around their hallways saying collaboration and integrity…….how do they measure those cornerstone values? Employee surveys, and surveying customers helps and yet rewards are often for individual performance, financially and with promotion. Maybe just more recognition of successful collaboration, or of learning from a mistake would go a long way. And to have people actually do these things, requires additionally training, and practice with proper coaching !!!

    And leadership is not the soft skill, rather the real skill. And for employees should be measured in the eyes of our customers…..( still like “creating raving fans”, from ken’s writings).

    And when asked by my nephew for his master thesis about keys to success, I said….. It’s really all about how you feel Sunday night before you go to work on Monday morning.

    • http://performance-values.com Chris Edmonds

      Welcome to this fine community, Jim! I so appreciate your insights –

      Our proven culture change process has “decoded the mystery” of how to measure values alignment – which in best practice companies is as diligently measured & monitored as performance is.

      You’re absolutely right – a leader’s real skill is found in how them inspire not just performance but great citizenship in themselves and in their staff.

      Cheers!

      C.

  • http://mentorfreak.com Craig Booker

    Such a great article! Performance is often a result of the organization’s morale, perception of company future and company leaders. This is too true. Most leaders don’t get it. It’s not just how well the company is doing. It is more important how the people of the company are doing. If your people feel good about coming to work everyday, then it will reflect it in your metrics. Thanks Chris!

    • http://performance-values.com Chris Edmonds

      Great points, Craig! These concepts are powerful if leaders embrace the foundational ideas – “it’s all about your people & how they view your organization, your leaders, the opportunities.”

      Cheers!

      C.

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