Preventing Optimal Performance In Your Organization

Richard Pryor, one of the most influential and uncompromising black comedians in a sea of white suppression during a time of racial unrest that spills over to this day, famously delivered that line at the Latin Casino in 1975. Today, many organizational leaders quietly, and some not so quietly, deliver the same line behind mahogany paneled doors as do many cubicle-dwellers under their breath in their soul-draining 5′ by 5′ Dilbert domain. At some point, you have to ask yourself, how long will we tolerate organizational performance that doesn’t meet expectations?

The problem is most organizations don’t go deep enough to reach the true root cause in the way of extraordinary outcomes. Why should you even bother – when many organizational overhauls, transformations or “Culture Sculpting Solutions” are implemented by high-priced suits fail upwards of 70-80% of the time. Maybe you’re still ‘bouncing along the bottom for walleye’ to appease HR’s need for “engagement” and keep focusing on surface solutions – from a new organization chart, setting new priorities, or communicating more forcefully about the importance of achieving the current goals. It’s just not enough! And truthfully, your people, your team members, every employee can sense the stench of a dead woodchuck lurking around the corner.

I was in an Audi A8 the other day, and I had to ask, “How do you start this thing?”

You may already know how to get started on the road to changing to a high performance culture, but do you have the courage to stick with it? Someone has to start the process and make the initial volley for the organization. In an earlier article, Culture – It’s What’s For Dinner, what some call a “shift in culture” or a “transformation” are merely a change in the climate of the organization – superficial wastes of time, effort and resources (re: stench of our dead woodchuck).

Where do you start?

If you’re bold enough and have the courage to take on the challenge, then look inside to how the organization gets work done. This IS your culture! Even though, your organization has adopted a common set of values and beliefs, traditions, norms and language, it is how work gets done around here that sets the tone and pervades what your culture truly is; and as professionals, it’s how we behave towards one another and with each other. How’s it working for you?

If you were to start over where would you begin? Would you adopt the culture you have today? Would you align your talent strategy with your organization’s strategy to ensure the desire culture delivers on your vision as the leader? I don’t know about you, but I’m willing to drive that A8 over “Woodie” on the road towards success.

An alternative and perhaps more humane beginning would be an explicit, concise statement of the cultural decision made by the leader – one who’s an Elegant Leader with Voltage helps move the organization forward. Taking a look into hiring practices to ensure alignment to the businesses strategy is required. Improving the onboarding process, if one exists (more on this topic next week). Adjusting personnel policies so they align with the desired culture and are not recriminatory. Carving standards in stone, thus why we call them standards, and adding the term non-negotiable is irrelevant. Stop pussy-footing around the Management Weaselspeak and be accountable – for you Wharton and Stern types – ensuring a sustainable reinforcement plan is deployed. Determine or amend existing metrics to measure the attributes that support the desired culture as what gets measured, gets done. Finally, provide employee-directed roles of what to do NOT how to do it. There’s 6 Steps FREE to get you started – you’re welcome!

You can’t push the start button by yourself and expect everything to change, and I’m certain you don’t expect it to. You do need the help of those up, down and across the organization. There’s likely to be “heroes and legends” who can carry your torch; those who model what you’ve set as the desire example – THE standard. They are your celebrations and your stories! They are the conduits of change to help you take just 5 Steps Forward:

  1. Articulate Your Purpose and Why – know what you know and rebuild or renovate your community with a clear, concise and powerful (means simple) language to communicate to the entire team
  2. Hire For Fit – many people understand this concept, yet so many ignore or fail to follow through here – Hire their emotional, technical and practical fit. It’s about capabilities and potential. Everyone takes their bad behaviors with them from job to job!
  3. Set Clear Expectations – leaders set the bar and don’t stop there. New situations will always be evolving. Articulating purpose and continuous reinforcement are the principles and accountability is the most important preference to getting it done. This doesn’t mean to keep moving the goalpost either.
  4. Continuous Feedback – everyone must understand, practice and live by the standards and they need to be caught doing it right and be appreciated for that ability not whipped with the Ugly Stick of Failure or fed a “poop-sandwich.” (Great job on modeling X, but boy you sure hosed up this and such.)
  5. Lead with integrity – you have one shot at this every day, every hour, if you don’t take charge of the culture, then employees will develop their own and all of its convoluted mess. And in many of the “transformations” we’ve been brought in to “fix”, duplicitous leadership is what we commonly find.

It’s clear your organization needs to turn around performance. The issues go much deeper than strategy and financial performance. You have talented people, even a few Rockstars, but for whatever reason, you struggle with moving things forward. The values witnessed in action are not in alignment with the organization’s stated values, and you’re not satisfied with the overall culture of the organization.  What’s required are meat-on-the-bone answers to today’s ever-changing business landscape that can be implemented immediately. We help organizations get to the root cause of high performance – going deep into the habits, routines, and behaviors that permeate how things get done in the organization – to help you define the way you want your culture to be in the organization, and create discipline up, down, and across the organization assuring the highest levels of performance.

If you are open to support that’s with you, your stake-in-the-ground in creating constantly improving levels of performance and results in your organization, we have a methodology and unparalleled set of tools to help you succeed. We have been doing this work for 20 years with leading CEOs in a practical, effective and compelling approach and would be honored to start a conversation with you. We break through the critical human and cultural integration challenges that obstruct your company’s ability to breakthrough boundaries. The challenge to leverage the best attributes of all legacy cultures and operations, while being fully inclusive of all talent preserving the core and enhance your organizational capacity for collaboration, innovation, and productivity gains that drive business results with agility.

At The Culture Whisperer, we look forward to and welcome your thoughts, questions and comments. For more articles or to connect here on LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ or on our website and ask about how you can take advantage of Creating a High Performance Culture today! Feel free to email directly scott@brookestoneassociates.com

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