While math has never been my strong suit, here's a simple formula that you can use to create high performance: CC = V x LS.
CC stands for Company Culture. Culture defines the way all employees interact and how work gets done. Essentially it's the product of two things — Values (V) and Leadership Style (LS).
Values are the organization's promise to its constituents — employees, customers, shareholders and communities. The problem in most organizations is either they don't have clearly stated values or, if they do, no one takes them seriously.
An organization without clearly understood values is like a sailor without a compass. It's hard to stay on course. Without values, any behavior can be deemed acceptable, which can get very dicey. Values serve as anchor points, creating behavioral objectives for everyone.
Just as everyone has performance objectives, so, too, should they have behavioral objectives. Unlike performance objectives that vary by position, behavioral objectives are common across all positions. As an example, if a company value is "Give each other the benefit of the doubt," then every employee in the company, irrespective of level, should be held accountable to live that way. Accordingly, when the occasional mistake or misunderstanding happens, an employee's mindset moves from blame and flame to accept and correct.
Time and energy aren't wasted gossiping. Hard feelings aren't created. Instead, support and cooperation become the rule.
Conversely, if there is no such value in place when the mistake occurs — well, you know what can happen. Vitriol spills far too frequently across the corporate landscape.
In practice, creating clear and enduring values is not easy. Consistently aligning everyone's behavior with established values is harder still. Developing values can be an arduous process because they need to mean the same thing to everyone.
Take this illustration of "Being respectful." Your interpretation means that you treat everyone with deference and admiration. My interpretation is less substantial. I won't raise my voice if I'm angry.
This wide variance creates problems, because your perception is that I'm not living the value, but in my mind, I am. When the variance persists, skepticism seeps in, which is usually followed by cynicism if no corrections are made. Cynicism leads to a collapse of the effort.
So after the values are created, constantly refining them is a next critical step. This is where the LS factor of our formula comes into play. LS stands for leadership style.
Leaders are the culture carriers of the organization. More than anyone else, leaders at every level must model the values for all to see. Add to this that leaders must be the ones to constantly discuss and clarify the values within their teams. Again, this is no easy task, as leaders must balance generosity with accountability.
Once everyone has a precise definition of the values, people should be recognized when they act in accordance. If a member is not behaving in a way that is consistent with a value, the leader must give feedback and brainstorm ways that help the team member adjust. Organizations rich in feedback are rare gems, but when leaders have the courage to address a values breach, everyone is better off for it, because interactions become predictable and positive within and across business functions.
One tactic that can ease the pressure on a leader to keep behavior lined up with the values is to preemptively discuss how violations will be handled. If the leader can nail down an approach agreed upon by all members before someone's behavior strays, starting the discussion can be easier.
A great vision requires great effort. All of this work begets a huge payoff, for when relationships are strong and teams are unified, work flows happily and easily to completion.
Practical Tip — At your next team meeting, give everyone three 3-by-5 cards and ask each member to individually write the three values s/he believes the team operates by. Collect the cards and display them for everyone to see. Analyze the answers looking for similar patterns. Use this as the starting point to create your values.
Once you determine the values, keep discussing them to gain clarity. Also, talk about ways to recognize each other for living them and how you can hold each other accountable.
Joe Bertotto is principal of the Strengths*Life Project. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.