How your culture can make you winner or loser

The topic with the culture is very strong these days.  Companies talk about making flexible cultures to meet different generations in the workplace demands and expectations. Business consultants work hard to help those same companies in the process and introduce more automized tools to change several components at once and speed up the process of re-building and re-adapting company culture to the changing environment.

I difficult situations many leaders make the most obvious mistake, they put results in the front line and dismiss ethical behavior in the team.  This boost results, but may seriously harm morale in the team.

Years ago, I have worked with a very strong sales leader.  He always managed to achieve results with his team.  One month hs team has accepted a very challenging goal.  At the end of the 3rd week, they were on the 65% fulfillment of the goal. I have visited the office where the team made their morning meetings and heard something very strange. \The sales leader was standing in front of the whole team, talking about the importance of the goals and why they need to achieve them. And then he shouted it out: “You must reach the goal at any cost.  Make whatever it takes. Don’t be nice with the clients,  just make them buy at any  cost.” I was shocked because two of the company values were connected with how we win as a company together with our clients and how we win as a team with high morale.

I just entered the speech with  the words: “But don’t forget to  do  everything according to the values and standards we know between our clients.” Then the sales team of more than 50 people left the building, planning to achieve the goal.

I have taken the Sales leader in his office and gave him the feedback he never expected,  talking about values, company identity and reputation between the clients. I had also talked about impressions we make and how these impressions can distance some of our long term and loyal clients away from us and cause them to think if they have to do business with us in all categories of products we sell, or replace us as a supplier in categories they have more choices in.

He didn’t believe that this can ever happen, but my words proved to him the same week when he struggled to achieve volume sales in one of the main categories of products we sold on the market.

Then we talked again,  I visited the clients that have declined to help us last month, we apologized about our sales team behavior last month,  explained that our company follows values that don’t allow us to react like the behavior last month and that that behavior was produced more from a panic then structured plan.

All of the clients accepted our apologizes and the next 2 quarters the sales team took the company price for the best selling team twice.

What we learned with the sales leader from this situation was a valuable lesson that all leaders must learn.

We managed to structure several rules for supporting company value that has been expanded as a major company priority across all location we were operating and were transformed into internal company workshop, conducted regularly with the senior and mid and low-level leadership teams.

The rules and major milestones in the workshop  we created are shreds here:

Read company values every time you have doubts about how to act!
Company values are a standard coming from the employees.  When having a doubt on something they must do people need to learn to refer to the values to analyze if their actions and plans meet them?

Build and communicate plans and actions based on values may leaders talk about values but when they start acting you see how their actions are in contrast with the values.  To make values strong you need to explain your plan and action through the values,  but not downgrading them. In my experience and profession, I have always explained what am I planning to do with an extract from the values statements.  That not only makes values look stronger but also makes people accountable to the behaviors they communicate.

Live the values
When you are a leader who does not live the values communicated you are working against those values. Live the values means to implement those values in your everyday life.  Don’t separate personal from professional life.  In a world full of communication and information tools it will be easy for a company employee to spot that you are different in your personal and professional life presence.  That can easily be accepted as hypocrisy and will not only weaken the power of the values,  but also the level of thrust to your actions and decisions.  Live the values mean to be authentic in your plans, decisions, and actions, by following values behaviors.

Teach  values
Teaching a new skill is hard work, but as a leader, it is your responsibility to do it.  To ensure that values are widely accepted in your team and company you need to teach them by example.  Teaching values means to explain to the newcomers in your team why are things done in a certain way,  what behaviors are acceptable and what is not and why. Teaching is not a one-time act.  You will need to make it conscious process, to ensure that people in your team and company have the knowledge, level of understanding and are building right approach of criticism to the deviations that may occur in behavior and actions compared to the values standards.

Give feedback  in line with the company  values
One of the hardest areas for every leader is giving feedback on employees.  To boost your feedback giving effectiveness, you need to make the process connected with something strong. This strong element is values. When you prepare a feedback look at the examples,  behaviors, and actions you will talk on as compared to the values you teach on and support as a model of behavior. A value-based model of feedback is the guarantee that you are evaluating according to a widely communicated and clear standard.   You will lower the level of resistance and will increase the level of acceptance of your feedback. Together with that, you will also benefit as a leader in two other areas,  boosting the values acceptance rate within the employee and planning for future growth and change with the employee,  based on high ground. Any other approach is weaker and can lead you in dead-end or a situation to be accused that you are behaving on a personal basis.

Reward values-based behaviors in your culture
It is our human nature to look at most of the things first from the negative side.  We often see mistakes, but forget about positive examples in other person behavior and actions.  As a leader, you will need to constantly work to change that.  To boost your company value-based culture development and upgrade you will need to point on positive examples for value implementation.  To make this process more alive,  and closer to the employee’s hearts and understandings you may start looking for those examples inside the company. The one thing you must take into consideration is that those examples must come from all company layers and not be limited in several of them.  That will additionally boost values acceptance and understanding of the impact of the value on the company culture-building process.

Punish  bad behaviors
Making a positive impact on rewards is a good idea,  but an excellent idea will come to show that you don’t ignore bad behaviors.  You know the saying: “What is not said has never happened”. The silence about bad behaviors can lead to a cultural discrepancy of silent tolerance.  Some leaders in very large companies do that mistake by tolerating bad behavior from high-level leaders.  If you want your company culture and the values you communicate to be accepted from all people,  you need to make them an internal standard for all employees,  no matter the hierarchy level,  position, etc. People on all positions in the company must see that rules are for everyone and there are no exceptions –  from the lowest position person to the CEO. And adding to that,  that there is no fear to point mistakes of people standing above you in the hierarchy without thinking of negative consequences.     

No matter how you think about values and culture, they are both elements of one and the same goal – building a high performing team.  A high performing team, who is values-driven and shares same understanding on several topics and areas builds a unique culture that can serve for boosting company results by involving everyone not only as human power but also as an emotionally connected driver for ensuring company success and growth.


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