The perennial question is, “How do we improve the performance and productivity of our workforce?”
I’ve had many conversations with business leaders who tend to lead with, “how do I…?”
Leaders either inspire, motivate, develop, and challenge people, or they derail peak performance by micromanaging, controlling, and dominating people. Peak performance is propelled by people who want to perform. Organizational change and transformation flow is easier when people support the organization’s direction.
For example, I worked with a CEO of a large financial services company. His pain points were internal competition and silo-building. The salespeople pitted against each other for clients. Before long, because the clients had to deal with multiple sales representatives who did not work cohesively, some of the company’s best clients took their business to competitors.
Many organizations are structured along product lines.
As a result, kingdoms and silos are easily formed within organizations.
Internal competition is created because each company division’s success is based on individual goals rather than collaborative goals. This leads to work-arounds and inefficiencies, even if the organization has good processes and methodologies.
If the premise is that culture starts and ends with leadership, what should a CEO do? What should you do as a leader of a department or team?
Most organizations want to apply new values, rules, policies, and procedures to get people to act in alignment with the organization’s strategic direction and goals. However, new rules or new inspirational posters on the walls will not change the culture. Behavior changes culture.
Leaders must be the change they want to see inside their organization.
Daniel R. Denison conducted a five-year study of 34 organizations. He found that organizations with a participative culture not only perform better than those without such a culture, but the margin of difference that widens over time suggests a possible cause-and-effect relationship between culture and performance. (Bringing Corporate Culture to the Bottom Line. Research Gate. D. R. Denison.)
Furthermore, Denison demonstrated that people perform better when they feel a sense of belonging and participation in their culture. This means that soft behaviors such as developing trust, inclusion, and empowerment tangibly impacts organizational performance.
The ABC’s of Conscious Culture Change
Conscious Culture change requires work on both the systemic side of the organization and the human side of the organization.
There are five steps of Conscious Culture change. Two-thirds of conscious cultural transformation involves methodologies, processes, efficiencies, and definition. One-third of conscious cultural transformation has to do with conscious leadership behavior.
Leaders must learn to be conscious and aware of:
Creating an aspirational vision of the future requires a deep exploration of the business values. An aspirational vision must define exactly what the company stands for. Some companies are known for their controlling environment, whereas others are known for their creative culture. A good example of an aspirational vision and culture is Tentree, a company known for its high-quality organic clothing and environmental awareness. For every item purchased, 10 trees are planted. This helps to create a sustainable vision for the future, making employees proud to work for them, leading to a productive work environment.
But let’s say you are the leader of a department rather than a C-Suite executive, how do you create an aspirational vision that inspires? I worked with a leader who decided it was her role and duty to figure out how to shave an average of 5 hours a week off her manager’s regular worktime. Typically, the manager of her department worked 55-60 hours per week. Her efforts were initially unfruitful. However, when the team talked about how to shave 5 hours a week off for everyone, there was a transformation. Collaboratively they were inspired and accomplished their goal. They became more efficient and creative and became better leaders. Within 18 months, 90% of the team got promoted.
Once you set the direction and people are inspired to create and work towards your desired future, it’s crucial to benchmark your organization.
The discovery process must include identifying the strengths and gaps in both the processes and in your people. This way, you know your starting point in order to implement the vision you are creating. It is imperative to participate in honest and transparent discussion with bosses and peers, and prepare honest reports about the internal nature of the organization.
You know the direction, your starting point in the culture and the capabilities of your leaders.
Now you must create the initiatives and projects using collaboration and alignment to ensure you get the results you desire. Creating and aligning at the people level involves discovering a variety of solutions. See Ted Powell’s Blog: Why Is it So Hard to Make A Decision? where he discusses the need to discover and dialogue together to start the creative process.
As leaders, it’s important to engage, delegate, and empower employees.
This allows them to utilize and refine their creative problem-solving abilities, which will keep them engaged. If leadership micromanages every step, then the organization is only as good as one brain. People want to be challenged, they want responsibility, and they want to know they can make a difference. Giving away power through engagement is a key leadership skill and allows a collective of influences to exert control over an organization, which will benefit it in the long run.
Very few things go right the first time.
It’s therefore important to review the organizational transformation from the perspectives of 4th overall culture and leadership. What’s working? What isn’t? What needs to be changed? Leaders must consciously lead this type of environment. Evaluation doesn’t mean just figuring out what went wrong, it also means figuring out what went right and learning from it all.