How To Create Environments Where People And Results Flourish
By Tiziana (Tiz) Benvenuto
|ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tiziana (Tiz) Benvenuto is a Certified Management Consultant, Leadership Coach and a Barrett Values Centre Certified Practitioner in the Cultural Transformation Tools®.
During over nearly 30 years of assisting profit and not-for-profit organizations as a chartered accountant and certified management consultant, Tiz became increasingly aware of the significant impact of leadership on operational effectiveness, organizational results and, more importantly, people’s sense of purpose and belonging.
She can be reached at Tiz@RealResults.ca
Quality management focuses on product and service quality, and also on the means to achieve it.
The International Standard for Quality Management (ISO 9001:2015) adopts several quality management principles intended to guide quality management professionals towards improved performance and satisfied customers. These management principles are summarized as:
- Customer focus of meeting requirements and exceeding expectations
- Leadership through unity of purpose
- Engagement of people at all levels of the organization
- Coherent interrelated processes
- Ongoing focus on improvement
- Evidence based decision making
- Relationship management with all stakeholders
Most of these principles point specifically to the connection and interaction of people. At the root of human connections and interactions are behaviours and motivations. The reason that leaders are interested in what motivates employees is that motivation leads to commitment, commitment leads to engagement, and engagement leads to high performance. High performance speaks to the means of delivering product and service quality.
So, if you want to build a high performing organization, you need to understand employee motivation and how to provide employees with what they are looking for. What they are looking for depends on two main factors—the level of psychological development they have reached, and the demands placed on them by their current life and work circumstances.
One of the most effective ways to understand employee motivation is to understand what is most important to them personally. People operate from needs and emotions. What is important can be captured in the understanding of values.
Understanding values is the key to understanding behaviours and motivations. The values lived in an individual’s life are the identifiers of who they are at a point in time. The values lived in the workplace are the Cultural Capital that is competitive advantage. Who you are and what you stand for as a collective in an organization is just as important as the quality of the goods and services you sell.
Values are non-contextual and neutral making them an ideal data source. Values underpin who we are, how we do things and what we have… in business, in relationships and throughout our lives. They are the principles we use for making decisions. They motivate our actions and behaviours. They can be positive (respect, trust, openness) or potentially limiting (blame, bureaucracy, control). Our true values are not those words we aspire to be, but those that our behaviours show us to be. So many people are not even conscious of the disconnection between what they say and what they do.
So why take a values-based approach? Because focusing on values allows us to craft a clear and precise picture of our organization’s present and future dynamics, without preconceptions. This precise picture facilitates action plans based on accurate insights and tuned into existing circumstances. In fact, values are so fundamental to an organization’s dynamics, they are actually a lead indicator of potential trouble areas. The seeds of issues can be identified long before they express themselves in an organization’s culture, which gives leaders a tremendous advantage in addressing them.
Creating Workplaces That Flourish
Organizations typically measure and manage goals, strategies, outputs, and outcomes. Outputs and outcomes are tangible and easy to measure and manage. Beneath the surface lie our values, beliefs, attitudes, and prejudices. These are the factors that make the difference between sustainable and unsustainable efforts, mediocre and impressive results, and success and failure. These factors define the uniqueness of every workplace culture. Building authentic, resilient cultures based on deeply felt values shared across the entire team creates the kind of energy that is simply unstoppable. Values-based organizational cultures are not simply good for business, they are good for humanity, too.
It is important to note that culture is a reflection of the values, beliefs, and behaviours of the current leaders and the legacy left behind by past leaders – 100% of the time. If you want to transform the culture, you either have to change the leaders… or the leaders have to change. Organizations don’t change – people do.
So how does one create a flourishing culture? Here are high level steps to enhancing any workplace, at any time:
- Confirm leadership commitment to culture
- Learn what employees:
- value personally
- are currently experiencing in the workplace
- desire more of to be more effective at work
- Implement high impact change
Commitment to Culture
Cultural transformation begins with the personal commitment of the leader and the leadership team to the transformation process—which necessarily includes a commitment to personal change. Without this commitment to cultural and personal change, there is no point in proceeding with a cultural transformation initiative. Without this commitment, organizations remain stuck in employee disengagement, reduced effectiveness or creativity, minimal team or organizational development, risk management issues, and lacklustre results.
With leadership commitment, fostering an environment for revisiting stated vision, mission, and values is possible. Are the vision and mission statements short, easily memorable, and inspirational? Do they reflect a higher purpose and give focus and direction to the organization, so everyone is working towards the same goals? We can assume so, but we won’t know until we ask.
Espoused values are the organization’s set of common principles that define how people in the organization should interact with each other and with the outside world. These values should be single words or small phrases that are easily memorized and support the vision and mission. Are espoused values alive and well in organizations? Unfortunately, there are many instances where company values are merely a nice part of a polished communication plan. So, again, we can assume so, but we won’t know until we ask!
Leaders who commit to culture progress are open to learn what is most important to all employees - personally and in their desired workplace. By learning what employees experience day to day, leaders can assess if stated company values are actively serving their purpose.
The Wisdom in the Workforce
Employees have their own values when they walk in the door, and they are influenced everyday by the values they experience at work. People perform better when they can bring their whole selves to work. Interestingly, many people rarely take the time to contemplate their behaviours to affirm what their values really are. By asking employees what is important to them personally, they benefit by becoming clearer about what motivates them, and they may also identify areas where they want to develop further.
Understanding the values currently at play amongst a workforce is essential to put a desired culture into action.
Current and Desired values
If you want to change your culture, you must measure employees’ perceptions of the current culture and be open to their desired culture. This allows the leadership group to find out what is working and what is not working and to take actions to introduce changes that align with employees desired cultural values. As this is done year by year, the level of values alignment increases, dysfunction decreases, and the level of employee engagement increases.
Relating Personal, Current and Desired Values
High performing cultures are not formed by policy, procedure and measuring KPIs. High performing cultures have values alignment, mission alignment and low levels of fear. These are cultures where employees are able to bring their beliefs and values to work and where there’s a shared view, throughout the organization, that they have the right culture to be high performing.
When personal values are aligned with what employees are experiencing, an organization is experiencing values alignment and people show up fully and willing to share their discretional energy with their organization. This personal alignment must begin with leadership first. When the current culture is aligned with the desired culture, an organization is experiencing mission alignment.
In aligning values, employees would define the behaviours of their unit in the context of their specific values. Once employees in a particular unit have agreed on a set of behaviours, they should individually and collectively commit to them, and be accountable for supporting each other in living the agreed behaviours. The purpose of values alignment is to instill the espoused values and behaviours into the executive and employee population. This allows for an opportunity to explore their own most important values and practice the concept of values-based decision making.
By comparing workforce personal values to current and desired culture, leaders can more easily see the causal shifts that are needed to improve outputs and outcomes. Assessing values gives all employees a voice. Working with the results, exploring deeper meanings, and implementing necessary changes gives all employees the sense that leadership is listening. Since the changes proposed will be alignment with the desired culture that employees have articulated, there tends to be very few problems in getting the employees to accept changes they influenced.
Implement High Impact Change
Change is inevitable as culture evolves. Changes might include restructuring of structures, policies, procedures and incentives in order to fully reflect the espoused values, the vision, and the mission of the organization. In large-scale organizations, the process of structural alignment can take up to two-to-three years to implement. In smaller organizations, it can be done in less than a year.
Leadership development is also a happy outcome in culture transformation, for the simple reason that change starts at the top with C-suite individuals and permeates throughout the leadership team. Remember, organizations don’t change – people do. Current leaders maintain current culture explicitly and implicitly. To move towards a desired state, leaders must be open to their enhancing their own growth.
Strategy shifts are likely to result from what is learned about the desired culture. As with any change, clear communication to everyone, along with the benefits the proposed changes are expect to bring will facilitate the necessary shifts.
As culture and strategy improve, so does employee engagement – making teams more productive and positively impacting everything from attracting talent to customer satisfaction to profitability.
THRIVING CULTURE + EFFECTIVE STRATEGY = FLOURISHING ORGANIZATION
I.K. Hofmann GMBH Case Study
I.K. Hofmann GMBH is a temporary employment agency. They employ blue-collar workers, business people, and engineers, and place them in other companies. Mrs. Hofmann, the CEO, recognized the importance of culture and decided to implement a values-based management program. She hired a consultant to measure the values of the Management Team in February. They implemented a values assessment of all the internal employees one month later.
They gathered the top managers to discuss the results. Employees desired more open communication, teamwork, and cooperation. They held several workshops to gain clarity, solicit additional feedback and create strategies. The values assessment results and subsequent dialogue helped to clarify the organizational and restructuring changes that were needed.
In response to what was learned and confirmed, leadership:
- Created a management group made up of regional managers and the top managers from Hofmann’s headquarters
- Created a training focused on how to use the values
- Gathered region-by-region and asked employees to share their day-to-day experiences
- Asked employees to prepare their thoughts on how values could help current problems experienced within the organization.
- Picked the best solutions based on the values within the groups of 10-30 people
- Encouraged values-based conversations between employees and managers.
The consultant worked with the management teams in every region to create action plans based in values with specific target dates. These action plans were based on conversations about their region’s assessment results with people throughout the business, from the staff on the floor through to management.
Hofmann conducted another organization-wide values-based assessment at a later date to highlight progress since initial assessment.
Hofmann has dramatically increased their income and they recognise that culture plays a significant role in this success.
- The average growth in this industry sector was 25%. Hofmann grew by 90%.
- Hofmann rose in ranking from position 11 to 6 among all temporary employment firms (Luenendonk-Report).
- Sales are expected to reach € 500 million, up from € 310 million.
- The company won major business awards like the quality award, Ludwig-Erhard-Preis (most valuable German decoration).
- Hofmann was among the Top-100-corporations with Great Places to Work.
Some organizations put off efforts to optimize culture, because it is not part of their hard data set. Yet everyone agrees that the culture of an organization strongly influences its sustainable success.
Focusing on values allows for a profound understanding of an organization’s present dynamics – so that transformation decisions are based on accurate insights and tuned to unique circumstances and goals.
Carrying out an regular values-based assessments reveals the needs of employees and monitors the extent to which they feel aligned with the culture of the organization, and the extent they feel the organization is on the right track.