Reinforcing Desired Culture Requires Cultivating Good Habits


Chris Edmonds is the founder and CEO of the Purposeful Culture Group, which he launched after a 15-year career leading and managing teams.
Changing daily practices is about creating new habits: clarifying desired practices, evaluating current practices, then closing any gaps. Research says that developing new habits requires demonstration of new behaviors for 21 days – and there’s no time like the present to start!

Identifying how to create and sustain a purposeful, positive, productive work culture requires a conscious strategy of deciding what not to do as much as what to do. This frees up time to do the important things required of a servant leader.

One of our most successful culture clients told me, “There is nothing more important for me to do than to talk about and reinforce our desired culture!” Early in their change process, he spent about two hours per week focused on their desired culture; as the process evolved over a year, he found he spent about 10 hours per week proactively managing their desired culture. He certainly watched key performance metrics but he spent much more time focused on respect and relationships.

You do not need to spend more time with your staff at this stage, but you do need to change what you discuss and what you emphasize with them.
In a recent session with a different client’s senior leadership team, the group finalized the “ready to share” draft of their organization’s desired purpose, values, and valued behaviors. This process is a lot of hard work, but they stuck with it and developed a very solid statement.

Once they publish this purpose, values, and behaviors statement, expectations and scrutiny from all staff will increase; this team understands that. As we finished the day, I explained the best practices for them, as senior leaders, to emphasize both performance and values with their direct reports. I described how, in day to day conversations, during field visits, etc. these leaders must change the way they discuss expectations with their staff: “You do not need to spend more time with your staff at this stage, but you do need to change what you discuss and what you emphasize with them.”.

I asked one member of the team who is responsible for field operations to serve as an example. He typically spends 2+ hours on field visits meeting with facility managers. I explained, “You must shift your focus with that facility manager from primarily discussing balancing performance discussions to how well they and their site leaders demonstrate and reinforce the organization’s desired values.” The blood drained from his face – he said, “I don’t think I can do that! I’ve been doing these meetings the same way for years – I don’t know how to change them.”

Typically leaders have well-developed habits for managing staff and expectations. Some of those habits serve them well – and some don’t. During a culture change initiative, leaders need to:

  • clarify and share specific expectations (as this team is doing with their newly defined purpose, values, and behaviors)
  • demonstrate a commitment to the purpose, values, and behaviors by acting on them and emphasizing them consistently.

If a leader’s current habits are not developing a values-aligned organization, he or she must change daily practices through the development of new habits. Desired habits will enable leaders to live the espoused values of the organization and to coach and celebrate others doing so each day. Consider finding a mentor or coach who can help you understand how others perceive you, whether you are being consistent with values-aligned behaviors, etc.

With dedicated effort, your new habits will be comfortable and will generate immense synergy in your organization with a balanced focus on performance and values.

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