Five Essentials of a Winning Culture
In an environment of an ever changing workforce and (sometimes daily) changes in technology, the one thing that can and must remain constant in a successful organization is a healthy culture. Organizations are talking more about culture now than any time in the past. In recent years there has been rigorous debate on exactly how important culture is in an organization and what effect it actually has on performance, productivity, and the bottom line.
In his book, The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business, Patrick Lencioni addresses the importance of a healthy organizational culture: “The single greatest advantage any company can achieve is organizational health. Yet it is ignored by most leaders even though it is simple, free, and available to anyone who wants it.” The well-known researcher and author in the field goes on to say, “Organizational health will one day surpass all other disciplines in business as the greatest opportunity for improvement and competitive advantage.”
The great thing about organizational health is that it does not discriminate among organizations since it is all about the people. I have worked with large companies down to smaller clinics with three to five employees and the same principles apply across the board- take good care of your employees, they will in turn take good care of your patients, and everyone wins!
Through my work with various organizations I have found the following five principles essential in building and maintaining a winning culture in your office or clinic. The reality is that they require very little financial investment, yet can have the largest impact on success.
I. Build Trust: Trust is many times taken for granted until it is broken. When it is broken it can take a very long time to regain. Here are three things you can do to make sure you are building trust: (1) make sure your guiding documents (Handbook, Policies, etc.) reflect the culture you desire; (2) make sure pay is fair and free of inconsistencies. People talk and know how much others are paid even if you ask them not to; and (3) do what you say you will do (walk the talk).
II. Culture Starts at the Top: The leaders at the top of any organization are responsible for the culture they desire. These leaders must: (1) model the desired culture, not mandate it. If you want your employees to behave and act a certain way, you must first behave and act in that exact way. I call this “trickle-down” behavior; and (2) build a sub-culture of leadership by developing current leaders and having a surplus of leaders who live and model the culture.
III. Focus on People, Not Processes: When your people are treated with dignity and respect and feel valued they will perform at levels that will surprise you. As a result, your processes will actually improve. Here is how you can begin to focus on your people right away: (1) define the value proposition. That is, define what the meaning of their work is. People love to know that what they do is actually making a difference; (2) create an exciting work environment. Find some things to do in your office or clinic that will make the atmosphere fun and enjoyable.
IV. Speak as One: Every leader at every level must speak with one voice. Communication is key. The message from the top must be consistent and frequent. Your people need to know exactly what is going on and how to perform their jobs to your expectations. Speaking as one both limits confusion and allows everyone to be as productive as possible.
V. Protect the Culture at all Costs: In a winning culture everyone acts and behaves in a way that supports the culture and helps to make it stronger. Protecting the culture requires that you: (1) build strong team relationships through training and development; and (2) incentivize those who refuse to fit into the culture to find gainful employment elsewhere. Allowing someone to stay who does not fit the culture will have a negative impact on the rest of the team.
If you begin with these five essentials you will be well on your way to establishing and maintaining a culture in your organization that will result in high morale and productivity among team members, greater levels of satisfaction, and overall greater success.