Executive Corner – Measure Your Culture
Michael Clegg | 01/04/2023
Four or five years ago, I was referred to a podcast called Focus 3. It was a leadership podcast by Brian and Tim Kight. I discovered they were teaching something very similar to my leadership style. When I started studying them, I realized the “Performance Pathway” perfectly fit what I was already teaching.
When I meet with clients, the question that is most often asked is, “how do we change our culture?” or something very similar. I ask them how they define culture so that I can see where their foundation lays. It’s essential to balance what is currently in place with the “Performance Pathway.” Once I answer their question, it sounds something like this.
“Let’s start with what culture is NOT. Culture is NOT ping pong and pool tables. It’s NOT your great incentive programs and how much vacation time someone gets. Those are nice perks, but they are NOT culture. Culture is a set of values and expectations. It should set the tone of defining the type of behaviors you expect so that you get the desired results or “OUTCOMES.” Culture’s job is NOT to make you feel good. Culture’s job is to set expectations.”
Culture usually generates discussion with clients. Even when clients know some of these things, the question I get “EVERY” time is: “how do I measure our culture.” My response is short and to the point.
“Culture is measured by what you tolerate. Tolerate disrespectful behavior. That’s your culture. Tolerate tardiness. That’s your culture. It’s that simple. What exactly are you tolerating that you shouldn’t?”
As CEO of Q Works Group, I take our Core Values very seriously. Our leadership team measures our employees to those values. We worked on defining these values as a team a few years ago. It took us a few months to get through this process. People support what they help create. In the years following that exercise, we have developed the behaviors that we expect to drive those values. We grade every employee on this.
GRADING SCALE: + | – | +/-
+ : employee demonstrates that value
– : employee does not demonstrate that value
+/- : employee demonstrates that value sometimes
You define the behaviors because you must be clear about what you expect. For example, Kaizen (Continuous Improvement) is one of our values. One of the behaviors associated with this value is “always look for areas of improvement.” If grades are a minus (-) in this value, I can share with them that I don’t see any areas they seek to improve. Then we can put together a plan and help them continue to develop. That’s leadership. A leader’s #1 responsibility is to strengthen those around them by developing them. Employees have a choice to do what is expected or be employed elsewhere. We use our values to make decisions. Not just to monitor behaviors. It takes the “personal” nature of difficult conversations out of play. It makes it about the behavior. NOT the person. We make hiring decisions and use these values to determine strategic and tactical paths. We go to the values if there is a question we don’t know.
If you work in an organization where your core values are pinned on a poster on a wall somewhere, but you don’t know what they are…… You likely don’t have a great culture. Be a change leader and ask a senior leader about it. Invite me to talk to your leadership team. There’s a simple and easy process to start or rekindle the values discussion.