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Do I always have to stay on top of my culture? What happens if I don’t want to or have time to?

an UNMANAGED culture never gets better – it ONLY gets worse!

I know that sounds harsh but it does not lessen the importance of this fact.

The Weeds Seem to be Taking Over!

On the first sunny day of spring, I always get the urge to venture outside and spend time in my garden. That is… until I see all the weeds that have taken root since last time I was there. So I weed and weed and weed until I get the last of those #*^@%^# [fill in your own expletive]! I tell myself when I am done, “Thank goodness, this will be the last time I will have to do that nasty chore!”

By now you are laughing at me because you know if you have visited a garden, that WEEDS HAPPEN! Seeds and roots left by the ones I just pulled and new airborne ones will dive in as soon as I go back inside for a glass of iced tea. Silly of me isn’t it!

Yet, the same is true of your corporate culture. You think you have the best culture:   one where every employee lives up to your highest ideals and where the customer is well taken care of and where all the decisions made are smart. Right?! Now, who is being silly?

OFFICE POLITICS HAPPEN!

Every day your employees face temptations to take shortcuts, seek competitive or political advantage, and overlook something critical due to time constraints. Now if only one employee did something that damages your firm’s integrity and reputation once a day, could you live with that? What if each of your employees only did one culture damaging action a day, could you ignore that? What if every employee upset one customer every hour of every workday, could you sleep peacefully at night?

Don’t overlook the new employee, not yet been indoctrinated into your cultural norms, who immediately does something contra to your “perfect” culture?

Like my weeds, these little dings that tarnish your corporate culture are always in the “soil” or blowing in the “wind.” That is why every smart Fast Forward leader monitors his/her culture daily looking for and quickly removing any “weeds.”

A Visible Believer Tool

How do I ensure we all live up to our cultural ideals?

When I advise my clients on revitalizing their culture, one of the exercises I take them through is a fun activity called, “That’s Admirable!” From this, we create a remarkable tool that allows you to fine-tuning change in employees’ behaviors so they support your updated cultural ideals

Step 1

Ask every employee to create a list of five to seven traits that they admire in a coworker but do not provide them with any suggestions. Let them use their own thought processes provide enough pressure so they have to create their list quickly – give them no more than 20 minutes. Ask them to complete this: “I admire a coworker who is…” being very specific and using words that can be noticed through a visible behavior.

Step 2

With the employees present (or a subgroup that represents all employees), compile the separate lists together combining the common descriptors. If there are any that are vague such as “nice” seek details from the employees on how the trait can be demonstrated with a behavior. Nice might become “courteous as demonstrated by listening before interrupting me.”

Step 3

Compare your compiled list (which will be long) to your Culture Statement (see March Culture Clips).

i.e. “The employees of Ronco support and enhance a Culture that respects and practices these Norms:

We Value…

  • Accountability
  • Commitment to quality and accuracy
  • Demonstrated honesty and integrity in our actions, decisions, and words
  • Flexibility
  • Privacy and confidentiality
  • Open Communications
  • Openness to new ideas and innovations
  • Respect for each other
  • Superior customer service
  • Trust”

 

Next, ask the employees this question; “Of these traits, we admire in a Ronco coworker, which ones will support this ideal culture?” Take each visible behavior and place it under the “we value” characteristic. Some will fit in line with more than one. For example, “straight shooter” will fit under accountability, honesty, open communications and trust. The more places a behavior fits, the more likely it will make the final cut.

Through whatever method you decide to use – Delphi, majority vote, a process of elimination, etc.—hone your list of behaviors until you have ten to twelve. These are the ones that every employ can respect and believes will really foster the updated cultural ideals.

Step 4

Place these visible behaviors printed onto a 3 by 5 card. The card will read:

Our Ideal Ronco Employee

“I admire a coworker / team member / employee who …

  • is Tolerant of differences
  • is a Straight shooter
  • is On time
  • is Proactive in seeking your potential problems
  • is Courteous and Respectful to me and others
  • Provides me with timely feedback
  • Supports me in my work
  • Follows through on his/her commitments
  • is Fun-loving and helps create a relaxed workplace
  • Places the needs of his/her customer first.” 
Step 5

Print enough cards for every employee plus extras. Laminate the cards and hand them out to every employee. Ask each person to carry it around with them. [Some clients have printed their list on the back of the employee ID cards.]

Place the extras around the firm, in all meeting rooms and wherever employees congregate. Place one on every company bulletin board.

Step 6

Teach employees to use it as a tool for enlightening a coworker who fails to live up to these traits. This empowers your employee to start removing a “weed” as soon as one is spotted. Remind employees to also give kudos and thanks whenever they see an employee practicing these behaviors. Ask each employee to make sure that he/she models the behavior.

Give out “on the spot awards” or kudos to employees who show you their card during meetings and other firm assemblies. Even if they forget to look at it, the employee will carry the card if there is a spontaneous reward attached. This increases the chance that they will use it to model new behaviors.

Step 6 ½

In next month’s Culture Clips, I will give you the next tool that provides you the insights into what your culture is really like – making the invisible visible.

In the end…

As always, I am available to provide you with tools, ideas and support you will need to undertake a successful culture transformation.