Building a Culture of Excellence
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There is much talk about building corporate culture, but the great resignation has further emphasized the truth that, while many companies may want to build a strong culture, they really do not know how. On a deeper level, we believe that most companies do not even know what a strong culture looks like and what is at the root of their cultural challenges. This is not a sweeping indictment on corporate culture, but rather a starting point to move towards cultural excellence within organizations.

The Problem:

What is the root of the cultural issues within organizations? Here are some interesting stats I recently read that highlight the issues we see in workplaces:

  • 91% of employees believe their boss lacks emotional intelligence. (Inc.)
  • 63% of employees do not trust their boss. (Forbes)
  • 50% of all adults have left a job to get away from a bad boss (Gallup)
  • Less than 1/3 of employees are engaged at work, and the biggest factor in employee engagement is their manager (Gallup)

It is impossible to build a culture of excellence if these statistics are present in your organization.

 At the core of the cultural ills within organizations is a failure of true and authentic leadership. 

Therefore, solutions to culture that are championed only by human resources and not embraced by the organization’s leadership team (and individually down to every front-line manager) will never be successful.

No matter how many corporate events, team building activities, happy hours, days off, or branded mugs you give employees, these will be unable to compensate for poor leadership behavior from an employee’s manager. This is now even more true with remote work where other organizational touch points are minimized and pay, work duties, and manager become even more important.

What Excellence Looks Like:

Culture is simply the collective norms (positive or negative) of a diverse group of people. 

A culture of excellence is the glue that holds together diverse types of people and allows them to press forward through difficulty and uncertainty with integrity and alignment to create something of value. 

I have found that sometimes we may mistakenly view the visible signs of a great work culture as the goal itself. For example, within a great work culture, oftentimes people enjoy spending time with each other over a meal, may joke and playfully tease others, and may ask questions about a co-worker’s personal life. These are what I would call “peacetime signs” of a great culture; however, the catalyst for these visible signs is always earned trust between people leading to authentic relationships. To have these “peacetime signs” present in your organization, trust must be forged through intentional leadership in challenging circumstances. 

It Starts with You:

A culture of excellence is forged when a leader (not necessarily the boss) decides stand on courage and integrity to:

  1. Ensure that the needs of the teammates are being met. This comes through getting to know people personally to understand their specific needs. It might even look like crying with your employees as they go through a difficult situation. 
  2. No longer tolerate cultural inhibitors such as gossip, hypocrisy, disrespect, clutter, and mediocre quality. This comes through addressing these issues generally and head on. People want to work in a great environment, but it takes leadership in establishing the boundary line to help people achieve the culture they desire.
  3. Create opportunities for team members to work together on difficult tasks and projects that are outside their comfort zone. This comes through delegating authority and creating opportunities for people to stretch themselves. As people pull together through challenges, trust and confidence are built collectively.

When a leader executes these three items, cultural excellence ensues and the visible “peacetime signs” of a great culture naturally follow. Conversely, when organizations try to skip these steps and build culture through fun alone, you have a structure with no foundation, and the resulting culture will be unable to weather the storms of business and life.

Let’s rise above and lead.

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