Five Degrees of Workplace Culture

Guest post from S. Chris Edmonds:
How healthy is your workplace culture? Is yours a safe, inspiring,
productive culture or far from it?

I recently spoke to leaders in two different organizations about the
difficult dynamics in their work environment. Both organizations are
experiencing “senior leaders behaving badly.”

The behavior is disruptive, aggressive, and exhausting for anyone that
interacts with these leaders. Tantrums happen frequently. These leaders’ teams
demonstrate inconsistent performance and poor service (to internal and external
customers). When challenged to improve results or service, these leaders pop a
cork, even cussing up a storm, which diverts attention from the core
performance and service issues.

These dynamics cause stress, frustration, and heartache. Worse, the bad
behavior by these leaders has been tolerated by the top leaders of their
organizations – so it continues, unabated.

If leaders want a high performing, values-aligned culture, they must be
intentional about the quality of their workplace culture. They must design
their desired culture through an organizational constitution, which specifies their team or
department or company’s present day purpose, values and behaviors, strategies,
and goals. Once defined, leaders must align all plans, decisions, and
actions to that constitution.

Crafting an organizational constitution then aligning practices to that
constitution takes time, energy, and attention on the part of leaders, every
day. Leaders must demonstrate their values and behaviors in every interaction –
and coach everyone else in their organization to do the same.

The problem is that leaders spend greater time and energy on their
organization’s products and services than they do on it’s culture, yet culture
drives everything that happens in their organization, for better or worse.

Leaders have never been asked to manage their team’s culture. They don’t
know how. Yet the benefits of aligning practices to an organizational
constitution are impressive:
40 percent gains in employee engagement, 40 percent gains in customer service,
and 35 percent gains in results and profits, all within 18 months of applying
this framework.

To reap these gains, leaders must assess the health of their current team
or department or company culture. My book, The Culture Engine,
presents five levels or degrees of workplace culture health. They include:

  • Dysfunction
    – This is the lowest quality level, indicating a culture of low trust,
    inconsistent performance, and consistent frustration when trying to
    get things done.
  • Tension –
    This level indicates that trust is slightly better but below standard.
    Performance is slightly better but remains inconsistent. Disagreements
    occur regularly, but overt conflict is not as common.
  • Civility
    – This is the middle ground and represents the minimum standard of culture
    quality. At this level, leaders and team members are treated with
    respect. Interactions are formal and professional. Performance
    is consistently good. Disagreements about ideas are conducted calmly
    without denigrating the leader or team member’s commitment, skills,
    or role.
  • Acknowledgement
    – This quality level is reflected in the active recognition and expression
    of thanks and gratitude for effort, accomplishment, service, and
    citizenship. Team members do not wait for acknowledgement from
    leaders – they proactively thank each other. Customers are treated
    respectfully. The phrase “thank you” is heard a lot.
  • Validation
    – This quality level demands the active valuing of team members’ skills,
    ideas, enthusiasm, and talents. Leaders frequently delegate authority
    and responsibility to talented, engaged team members. Productivity is
    consistently high. Cooperative problem solving and team work is the norm.

The research proves
that teams that implement and align to an organizational constitution enjoy a
validating culture. That quality level is reflected in consistent team
member engagement, customers being WOW’ed daily, and exceeding performance
expectations over time.

To what degree is yours a validating culture? Add your comments below.

S. Chris
 is a sought-after speaker, author, and executive consultant. After
a 15-year career leading successful teams, Chris founded his consulting
company, The
Purposeful Culture Group,
 in 1990. Chris has also served as a senior
consultant with The Ken Blanchard Companies since 1995. He is the author or
co-author of seven books, including Amazon best sellers The Culture Engine and Leading
At A Higher Level
 with Ken Blanchard. Learn from his blog posts,
podcasts, assessments, research, and videos at
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