Managing Results is Half the Leader’s Job. The Other Half: Managing Workplace Values
How well is your business performing today? Whether you're a healthcare practitioner, health food and product retailer, or manufacturer, I’ll bet you know exactly how your business is performing. You track sales, results, profits and more, every day.
How well is your business operating today? In other words, how do people treat each other in the pursuit of results? You may not know, exactly.
When I ask these questions of senior leaders of small businesses, plants, retailers, multinationals, etc., they give me the same response. They know their company's results — they track it closely. They don’t know the health of their work environment — the quality of their work culture.
The reality is that our organizations aren't great places to hang out in. A 2016 study by The Conference Board of Canada found that only employee engagement scores have remained stagnant since 2010. Responses indicate that only 27 percent of Canadian workers are highly engaged. A similar report found that only 21 percent of workers feel strongly valued at work.
You’ve invested years in building skills — and a business — that addresses healthcare needs. As a solopreneur or multisite (and state) operator (or anything in between), you know quality work helps keep the enterprise afloat. But quality work isn’t the only key to your business thriving. You need to make sure the quality of your work environment — i.e., the degree to which everyone is treated with trust, respect and dignity in every interaction — is as important as quality results.
You’ve experienced great bosses in your industry … and you’ve experienced lousy bosses. You’ve even experienced great team members and subcontractors … and lousy ones.
To thrive in this economy means you and every team member must deliver high-quality services, foods and products efficiently, delightfully and kindly, every time. One frustrated team member can demean, discount or dismiss a colleague or customer in an instant — with huge costs to engagement, service and results.
Potential employees and potential customers do their homework today — on you, your business, your services, your foods and your products. We’re living in the age of the “testimonial economy." There are few secrets: great leaders (or lousy ones) and great businesses (or lousy ones) can be found out in a heartbeat online.
Technology and social media make it very easy for employees and customers to rate their experiences on sites such as Glassdoor, Yelp, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and more. A great service experience can go viral, sharing an employee’s or a customer’s positive experiences with a click and a comment. The same is true of lousy service experiences — they can go viral just as quickly.
The best thing you can do is create a business where everyone (employees, customers, vendors) is treated with trust, respect and dignity in every interaction. You must create a culture where values — i.e., how people treat each other — are as important as results, every day.
The challenge is that most leaders have never been asked to manage the quality of their work culture. They mostly don’t know how. What they do know is managing results. That’s what gets measured, monitored and rewarded, so that’s what those leaders do.
Yet results are half of the equation; values are equally important.
How can business owners and leaders create a purposeful, positive, productive work culture? They must craft an organizational constitution, then align all plans, decisions and actions to it.
An organizational constitution specifies your company's servant purpose — it’s “reason for being” besides making money. Your organizational constitution then formalizes your desired values and defines them with observable, tangible, measurable behaviors. It also includes performance expectations in the form of strategies and goals.
Making values as measurable as results takes some thinking. Identifying the right values and the right behaviors is vital.
An example will help. One client defined their integrity value as “acting with virtue, sincerity and truthfulness.” To ensure everyone in their company knew exactly how to model their integrity value, they defined three specific behaviors:
- I'm honest in everything I do.
- I keep my promises; I do what I say I will do.
- I take responsibility for my actions and learn from my mistakes.
Those behaviors are how this company’s leaders and team members demonstrate integrity. There's no question about how integrity is to be “lived” in the organization.
Let’s look at how Starbucks defines its servant purpose, values and behaviors. The coffee chain's purpose is to “nurture the human spirit.” Its values include creating a culture of warmth and belonging, growing the company and each other, treating everyone with dignity and respect, and being accountable for delivering promised results.
Ritz-Carlton takes a similar approach. The hotel chain's servant purpose is founded upon the motto, “Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.” Its service values — called “Gold Standards” — are formally defined, monitored and emphasized daily. Anticipatory service is the Ritz-Carlton's unique differentiator. Every team member is charged with building strong relationships, creating customers “for life.”
Defining your desired culture with an organizational constitution is, to be honest, the easy part. Aligning all plans, decisions and actions to these new expectations is the hard part. Leaders must live the new servant purpose and valued behaviors, every minute. Only then will their organizational constitution be considered credible by team members — and worthy of embracing it by those team members.
It’s not science fiction. It’s what happens today in world-class organizations like WD-40 Company, Ritz-Carlton, Starbucks, Assurance, Madwire and others I’ve studied. It’s real and it’s rather astounding.
I can prove it. When leaders align practices and behaviors to their desired organizational constitution, three things happen within 18 months of implementing the change. Employee engagement goes up by 40 percent. Customer service goes up by 40 percent. Results and profits rise by 35 percent.
Don’t leave your company's culture to chance. Make values as important as results.
S. Chris Edmonds is a speaker, author, and executive consultant who is the founder of The Purposeful Culture Group. Chris is the author of the Amazon best-seller "The Culture Engine" and five other books.