A manager once said to me: “We used to have an awful culture. People blamed each other when mistakes were made, there was favoritism from leaders, low engagement from employees, people didn’t feel valued, and it was a punishing rather than learning-oriented culture. Every day was a struggle and felt like a battlefield coming to work.”
“That sounds awful,” I replied. “How is it today?”
“So much better.” He continued. “We brought in a training program that focused on values and we removed some of the most negative leaders. Today, people are kind to each other, more respectful of each other, and there is much more focus on employee development and engagement. Favoritism is gone, and people feel more valued.”
“And, what was the impact on your business?” I asked. “Would you consider your organization high-performing?”
The leader said, “Well, we are performing better than we did when we had a negative cultural environment, but I can’t say that we are high-performing!”
“How do you know that your business isn’t high-performing?” I continued to explore.
“We aren’t as profitable as we need to be, and our competition still gets higher customer satisfaction scores. We are improving through lean and agile process improvement, but it’s not having the significant impact we were hoping for.”
Having a negative culture directly causes poor business results — no question about it.
However, while improving your culture to remove the negativity will initially improve business results, it won’t result in a high-performing business.
Seven Steps to Directly Link Your Culture To Your Business
Step 1: Redefine your focus of culture from values to execution (behaviors). This is demonstrated by the collective habits at all levels and functions of your organization.
Step 2: Clarify your breakthrough business strategy and priorities. Identify those few initiatives that would take your business to a completely new level of success.
Step 3: Redefine expectations at different levels (not job positions) of your organization, from executive to individual contributor. Starting with individual contributors, answer the following question: If individual contributors were optimizing their execution in order to achieve those breakthrough strategies and priorities, how would they be showing up differently and sustainably in terms of engagement, teamwork, mindset, behaviors and attitude?
Step 4: Define 5 to 10 optimal team habits for all levels, functions and cross-functional groups. This is an engaged process to describe the optimal way the team would work together to produce the highest-performing results, given the constraints of their work environment
Step 5: Create a baseline measurement for each team habit. Using the same engagement process, each team will determine their current level of effectiveness for each team habit.
Step 6: As a team, agree on the top one to three team habits for focused improvement. Based on both, which team habits are most critical for improving business results, and which will build stronger, more trusting relationships?
Step 7: Monitor and address challenges, and continue improving and reinforcing the new habits of behavior, attitude and action.
The Biggest Discovery
By focusing on execution, not only do business results improve but so too do employee satisfaction and retention.
This article was originally published in a longer format on Forbes.com – the original can be viewed here.