One of the most common issues entrepreneurs are facing, is the need for a cultural shift. I had such a discussion recently, with a client that needed to do exactly that. He was dealing with various challenges in regards to accountability of his senior managers, sales performance levels, focus, speed, delivery and meritocracy, within his company.
The first step I needed to take, was to make a diagnosis; I needed to explore the way he was running his business. Therefore, I decided to spend some time with him, observing his management practices, as well as his personal process. He proved to be a very competent individual, having a great vision and a highly analytical process, as well as a great sense of what success looks like, in terms of products and services that his company was offering. On the opposite side of the spectrum, he was a partial communicator who would not share information, he would exercise favoritism to senior employees who supported him throughout the years and he would often reconsider and alter the company’s strategy. This manifested itself through the fact that he would quite often take up initiatives and then drop them, as soon as his enthusiasm was over and as his executive team strongly pushed back at any effort for change.
According to Carolyn Taylor, culture change expert, there are 6 Culture Archetypes, that speak for themselves: Achievement, Customer-Centric, One Team, Innovative, People-First and Greater-Good. It was evident to me, that my client wanted to pursue a cultural shift towards the Achievement culture or Winning Culture, as I prefer to call it. In theory this is a great idea; however in practice it requires hard work, commitment and organisation. What does a client need both on a professional, as well as on a personal level, in order to support such a Transformation?
My definition of what a Winning Culture looks like, is that it is a context within which, all the individuals and the formed teams are expected to deliver what they have agreed on. This includes all levels of hierarchy, across the company. In order to create such a culture, the following characteristics need to be present:
Starting from the top down, everyone is held accountable for their results. The context within which people can operate, is clearly defined, explained and understood. For example, a sales person is accountable for delivering results, by following the commercial policy, defined by the company. In this view, accountability is twofold. It includes both the “what”, which is the result and the “how”, which is the policy. The same applies for managers, that know how to hold people accountable. In a Winning Culture environment, lack of control or occurring challenges cannot be used as excuses for non-delivery and people engaged in such a culture, know that. For people on all levels of hierarchy, it is all about their personal responsibility and any effort to defend, deny, shift blame or justify themselves, does not apply.
Transparency is highly valued within a Winning Culture. Accurate data is needed, in order to assess risk, measure success and facilitate strong decision making. Anyone involved in such processes must have access to this information.
Reward system, which is designed based on what has been agreed on and how it should be delivered. This applies to all employees across levels. It should also be a fair system, which allows no room for low performers, prejudice and favouritism. This kind of reward system also attracts high achievers.
Speed of Execution
When the above characteristics are present, Trust, in high levels, is also present, within the organisation. Speed and Focus on delivery crucially depend on the level of Trust, that people feel to and from the organisation. ‘Keeping your word’ is fundamental. When someone says “let’s do this”, it is considered a promise and people will hold that person accountable for it. That is why leaders should be very careful, about what they undertake. Otherwise, they risk overpromising and underdelivering, which impacts their level of influence. When a decision is made, it is done. Everyone involved is responsible, as well as accountable for the result.
Based on the above, the new behaviours that my client needs to adopt, in order to move forward and establish a Winning Culture within his company, are:
Communication with Clarity
Strategic priorities, mission and vision should be agreed on and clearly communicated across the organisation.
Targeting and decision making
Targeting and decision making should take place after rigorous debates on the available data. When a strategic decision is made, debates are over, the action plan is followed through by everyone and everyone involved, starting from top down, is accountable for the delivery.
There are clear consequences on non-delivery, which apply to everyone. No excuses. Individuals keep their promises.
Last but not least, another significant behaviour and, probably the most important one, which is highly valued in a Winning Culture environment and allows people to focus on their deliverables, is the element of No-Surprise. In my years-long experience, over and times again I have recognised that when the element of surprise is actually present, it may become a deal breaker and risk all the results, that we have been trying to achieve, by adopting the aforementioned values. Above all, the value of Trust is compromised. This is why it is extremely important and imperative, when something is not working well or even if there is a mistake that needs to be fixed, it should be communicated in advance, it should be brought up and discussed, it should be dealt with, proactively and not reactively.
Concluding, I should note that a culture is never of one type; it is always a blend of different types, including values of all spectrums. In order to achieve a Transformation and an Evolution into a “new” culture of any type, the leader needs to be willing to “put his money where his mouth is”, as V. Antonas often mentions when delivering his “PRAID Leadership Model”. The Transformation and Evolution of a company culture, requires the leader’s personal growth, by exhibiting the desired behaviours themselves in order to Lead by Example. This is always proven to be the only way to abolish unwanted behaviours and establish the desired ones. The leader needs to design a strategic plan and follow through it and should do this in the pace, that allows the company integrate it. Finally, the leader knows that Transformation and Evolution are a lengthy process and require great commitment, consistency and effort.