After an exceptionally challenging 2020, many business leaders are seeing root issues come to light in their organization that can no longer be sidelined. The most significant – realizing their company culture is dead or on life support. Company values may exist in theory or concept; however, the company culture does not reflect the leadership behaviors and interactions that represent these values. If this rings true for you, and you need to breathe new life into your company culture – it is time to perform “Cultural CPR”.
So, what does the Cultural CPR process entail? It’s a simple, but comprehensive formula to revive your workforce’s morale and integrity by ensuring you as a leader are taking all necessary steps toward cultivating, fostering and protecting a company culture that is consistent with your organization’s values and belief system.
CPR = Consciousness + Practice + Results
Now that you are familiar with the formula, let’s dive into the details of each uniquely crucial component of the Cultural CPR process.
C = Create Cultural Consciousness
Cultural consciousness is the state of being awake and aware of one’s organizational culture, with an emphasis on the values that shape the behaviors and interactions between individuals within an organization. You cannot expect your workforce to understand what you believe are the core values and principles that should guide your business unless you teach them (or remind them).
Effective communication is at the root of any teaching and learning process. You must integrate your company values purposefully and consistently in your organizational conversations. Furthermore, you must include the benefits of a robust culture in the ongoing discussion with your team. When they understand how your organizational values and beliefs impact their own work experience, they will become more accountable for the behaviors and interactions that embody a stronger culture.
While over-marketizing your company culture can appear disingenuous, to create cultural consciousness your company values, belief statements, and standards of behavior should be documented and shared throughout your organization. Meetings should begin and/or end with thoughts on what you believe as an organization, or how employees exhibited core values critical to your organization’s success. The intrinsic value of your culture should be talked about, discussed, and emphasized.
To assess your organization's cultural consciousness, ask yourself these ten questions:
- Is developing your company culture part of your daily work?
- Do you or your team’s actions reflect your company’s cultural values?
- Is the strength of your culture profoundly crucial to you or your organization?
- Have you consistently made your culture a priority?
- Can members of your team (including front-line employees) state your company values?
- If you ask five members of your team to explain what your company values mean, would you get an accurate definition?
- If you ask five members of your team to explain what your company values mean, would you get a consistent definition?
- Are the behaviors associated with your company's values clearly defined?
- Do you, or members of your team, understand the behaviors that represent the values that serve as the foundation of your company culture?
- Have you communicated expectations regarding these behaviors and associated interactions that influence your company culture?
If you answered “no” to 2 or more questions, it is likely that your cultural consciousness is slipping, and you should take proper steps to ensure every member of your team recognizes and acknowledges the defined values that must shape their behaviors and interactions between themselves and others within your organization.
P = Promote Daily Practice
As an organizational leader, people within your business look to you as an example of how to behave and interact with others. Moreover, you and your entire leadership team set the standard for what is considered acceptable behavior. It is that simple. They look at what you do. They listen to what you say. They take all your actions into account and then — consciously, or subconsciously — decide whether you demonstrate leadership integrity.
Some well-intentioned companies will go as far as establishing, defining, and even communicating their organizational values, detailing how to behave and interact with one another. However, these organizations have failed in “operationalizing” or practicing these values or, in other words, fostering the learning of core values and behaviors that lead to optimal business performance by way of better engagement. Practicing company culture requires daily education, observation and rehearsal to improve how individuals interact with one another when performing throughout the day. It requires discipline and commitment. A simple method for practicing your culture every day is to teach, assess, and repeat.
Step 1: Teach Your Team to Embody Your Culture
Teaching your employees how to behave in alignment with the company’s culture begins by confirming their understanding and recognition of a simple truth: Their interactions with each other are the embodiment of your company’s values and are paramount to improving how they engage with each other and improve performance outcomes for the business. You can achieve this critical learning outcome by providing clear examples of how specific communication approaches promote and encourage or detract from certain behaviors, thus, positively, or negatively impacting results.
For instance, let’s say your organization values commitment. The traits of dedication, resolve, decisiveness, and attentiveness are behaviors that exemplify that value. These exampled traits can guide your team leaders in their daily interactions and teach them how they embody that value. You may provide even simpler examples like showing up to a critical meeting on-time and consistently. This is a straightforward reflection of how a person shows dedication to a deemed essential process. Furthermore, these behaviors reflect a level of attentiveness to the individuals asked to participate in that process.
Step 2: Assess Your Team’s Interactions
Assessment of how individuals interact with one another in a manner that aligns with the company values is critical to practicing your company culture. You can use the outcomes of this assessment as the benchmark. It will show that individuals within your organization recognize how their behaviors and interactions successfully align with the culture you are working to foster.
For example, you may dedicate one hour each day with a subordinate leader to observe how they engage with their front-line employees in the work environment. During this observation, you will want to evaluate how their actions and decision-making align with and support your company’s value system.
During your assessment of how your leaders behave and interact with one another, you will want to answer the following:
- Did the interactions between your leaders and employees exemplify your core company values?
- Was there an apparent awareness of the company value system that informed how individuals interacted with one another?
- Were there direct or indirect references to the company values, beliefs, or associated behaviors during the interactions?
- Did your employees reciprocate or emulate the appropriate practices that are indicative of your company value system?
- When faced with a challenge, did you observe your leader’s application of your company values system as part of their decision-making process?
Step 3: Repeat, then repeat again.
Findings from your assessment of leadership interactions should provide you with insights on additional developmental opportunities for your team. This step intends that everyone works to realize a company culture that fulfills the organization’s mission, vision and purpose. You must apply these considerations to the feedback you provide to everyone in your organization. The goal is to discuss areas of opportunity and offering insights, warranting a repeat of the process. Practicing your culture is a never-ending process of self-reflection, education, feedback, and application. It is a journey that will significantly improve employee experiences and overall productivity.
R - Results
Creating ownership and accountability surrounding your company culture must begin with correlating behavioral expectations of your leaders with outcomes. You achieve this by measuring how your leaders engage with employees within the organization and the specific effect on driving positive business results. By establishing visibility around a leader's failure to exhibit the behaviors that align with your company values, and the implications of these failures, you prompt proactive action to address them. Leaders will need to “step up.” The same applies to identifying positive leadership behaviors and practices that align with your company’s values.
Indicators to consider when measuring the results of your cultural practices:
- Has the frequency and quality of the interactions between leaders and employees changed? For example, has it improved?
- Has the quality of your leader’s decision-making improved? For instance, did the leadership address the root-cause of issues?
- Has your front-line team’s productivity shifted in alignment with the change in the level of leadership engagement, either positively or negatively?
Measuring cultural performance outcomes and the impact that these outcomes have on your business requires a correlation to specific performance indicators. When measuring results of your cultural performance, consider the tangible and intangible variables influenced by your leader’s behaviors and interactions — including productivity, employee or customer retention, sales acquisitions, safety incidences, employee engagement scores, and more.
Now that you’ve taken in the three essential elements of Cultural CPR: Consciousness + Practice + Results, it’s important that you do not look at your new focus on breathing life into your company culture as a one-time initiative. Cultural CPR is an ongoing journey and needs steering at the required points of inflection. It also requires continuous reinforcements and role modeling from the leadership team. Ensure that you keep them engaged by showing them the impact created by the values, behaviors, and interactions on performance.
Like any CPR exercise, the intent is to revive and maintain “breath” or “life” in your company culture until it can breathe on its own. That means the efforts to revitalize your company culture will not stop here. However, it is a start on a positive journey to power your culture!
At POWERS, we believe that culture drives performance, and we work closely with businesses across all industries to address the above issues and more. If this piece resonated with you, and your organization requires Cultural CPR, we encourage you to continue the conversation and get in touch by connecting with Dr. Donte Vaughn here or Randall Powers below.
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