“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” (Aristotle)
Organizational cultures are the collection of interactions and processes that become habits over time. Whether you’re a solopreneur or an organization of thousands, your culture is based on these habits. You have the power to change that culture. There’s a “fork in the road” with each process. As the leader, you have several choices to make.
1) Focus – Maybe you don’t realize you’re trying to be all things to all people. Or you’re used to working only on the “fire drill of the day” (or hour). Either way, your staff could tire, lose interest, and get burned out. Set a vision and strategy and demonstrate good time management.
2) Keep your eye on the road – not the roadblocks – There will always be distractions – headlines, customers, suppliers, employees, competition, technology – you name it. Don’t get in the habit of complaining or making excuses for them. Your goal is navigation and progress. So go over, under, around, or right through those roadblocks. Others will follow your lead.
3) Communicate – How can you expect people to act on your vision and standards if they haven’t heard it from you? Every employee should know how their job role, work processes, and service standards fit into the bigger picture. Communicate regularly and often until you know it’s understood. Don’t assume.
4) Evaluate Your HR Processes – Have you hired the right people, trained them appropriately, and assigned performance objectives? Is compensation based on the results you want? Good people get frustrated with confusion, micro-management, and enabling “dead wood” employees. That frustration can spread.
5) Solicit Employee Input – Listening to – and even more importantly, acting on – employee feedback is key to engagement. When employees know their opinion is heard and valued, you’ll get their best work and probably more of it. If you ignore your people, don’t be surprised if they ignore you.
6) Use Problem Solving Processes – Dysfunctional cultures have too much respect and even fear for their biggest problems. I’ve seen nagging problems become part of the company culture and even reach “lore” status. Finger-pointing and endless meetings that go nowhere only perpetuate the hopelessness. Use the appropriate processes and tools to break problems down to size. Solving a problem is one of the best ways to prove that your team “can-do.”
7) Manage Risk Vs. Create The Problems Of Tomorrow – Mistakes and misinterpretations find their way into the best plans. The good news is – most are preventable. Invest a little more time now to consider what could go wrong later. You’ll gain more staff buy-in and respect, not to mention a greatly increased chance of success. And success generates more energy than short-sighted failure!
8) Accentuate The Positive – Positive cultures give the benefit of the doubt. They learn from and forgive mistakes. The more positive the leader’s outlook, the more likely the staff will step up to tackle the next problem. In a negative, blaming culture, action is too risky and problems fester.
9) Recognize And Celebrate – There’s an entire library on this subject, so no excuses here. Remember the basic “thank you” and “good job” – they’ll never go out of style. Or use a creative approach for each unique individual. Just watch employees perk up when you lead by example and catch people in the act of doing something good.
You can prevent procrastination, excuses, fear, and burnout from infecting your entire organization. Your leadership choices can produce the best environment to energize your culture and ignite that “can-do” spirit.