Changing daily practices is about creating new habits: clarifying desired practices, evaluating current practices, then closing any gaps. Research says that developing new habits requires demonstration of new behaviors for 21 days – and there’s no time like the present to start!
Are the stories being told within your organization today the kind of stories that clarify your desired culture? Storytelling is one of the most effective and impactful methods for communicating the desired culture of your organization to its members. For centuries, tribes of all kinds have utilized storytelling to support their desired culture. In man’s early history, those stories were told around the campfire each evening, with tribe members going to sleep with a clear image of preferred tribe behaviors, values, and norms in their minds.
During a session with a culture change client, the organization’s president had an epiphany: “For 30 years I thought my job was to manage processes and results. This culture change journey has helped me redefine my job – to manage people’s energy.”
Cornell University professor Dr. Tony Simons’ powerful article, “The High Cost of Lost Trust,” appeared in the Harvard Business Review in 2002. In that piece, he described his team’s efforts to examine a specific hypothesis (“Employee commitment drives customer service”) in the US operations of a major hotel chain. They interviewed over 7,000 employees at nearly 80 properties and found that employee commitment drives customer service, but, most critically, a leader’s behavioral integrity drives that and more.
Over 30 years ago I had a conversation with a teenager that caught me completely off guard – and reminds me of a valuable principle to this day. While I have a very well-honed skill for catching people doing things wrong – if I want to be an effective leader, I need to catch people doing things right. I work on this every day, with clients, peers, and bosses – greatly because of the jumpstart this conversation gave me.
As a leader, your credibility is maintained, day by day, when you do what you say you will do. For example, if you announce that, from this point forward, every team member will be expected to demonstrate our team’s valued behaviors, you have set a standard. Educating team members about desired valued behaviors is important, but, without accountability, those valued behaviors are just one more set of expectations that your employees can ignore.
Every business needs a captain, a person that sets the stage for all actions and all relationships that take place within the work environment. If you, as a leader, do not set the stage by defining and aligning practices to clear performance standards and values expectations, people will be left to “figure it out on their own.” This leads to widely varying practices – not aligned, proven practices. That lack of clarity and alignment erodes consistent performance, service, and results.
If you have never experienced successful culture change personally, as a team member in general or as a leader, you may not be prepared or know how to proactively manage your team’s culture. The culture of your team (or department or division or plant or region or whole company) is the engine that drives your team’s success – or its lack of success.
Sometimes people choose very distinct personas – that is, they choose to play a particular role for a period of time (or even their whole careers)
If leaders are able to reframe their role and responsibility as that of servant leaders, productivity will grow and engagement will grow.