S. Chris Edmonds
This article originally appeared on ICMI.
The leader’s job is to sustain a respectful culture that removes employee frustrations while delivering promised results. It’s not easy to reach those heights given the demands on leaders today. Also, the pandemic has isolated many leaders and staff, which makes teamwork much more difficult.
Ensuring that good comes first for employees - making them feel respected and valued for their contributions, ideas, and support of their peers - is more important today than ever before. How can you create a purposeful, positive, productive work culture across a dispersed and disconnected workforce? By investing time, energy, and passion in holding yourself accountable - and holding others accountable for both results and respect.
Here are two proven practices that effective leaders use to create and sustain a culture of accountability which inspires every player to treat others with respect while delivering expected results for your customers and your company.
Leaders must be role models of your desired culture. They must embrace your company’s servant purpose, values and behaviors, treating others with respect in every interaction while enabling creative consistency to generate results.
Why is modeling so powerful? Employees are naturally hyper-observant of every plan, decision, and action taken by their leaders. Employees scrutinize leaders’ behavior, and judge how well leaders demonstrate new rules, policies, behaviors, and practices - every minute.
Yes, this scrutiny is unrelenting, and can even be unfair. It is, however, the reality. Leaders must not expect anyone else in their organization to embrace their desired culture until every leader builds credibility for that culture by positive modeling.
If you expect results, you don’t assume the performance expectations you have shared will be delivered by default. You have metrics that you monitor religiously to understand current performance compared to defined expectations.
How many performance metrics do you monitor? In my work with call centers, I’ve seen companies measure call volume, call duration, customer satisfaction, hang ups, and more. Most organizations measure additional targets like sales, market share, net promoter scores, etc.
Monitoring these measures helps leaders know how their teams are performing to standard.
The other side of the coin is that if you expect respect, you must measure the degree of respect that is demonstrated daily - internally and externally, with peer relationships, leader interactions, customer engagement, even supplier relationships.
When I ask leaders how they measure respect - how they measure the degree to which leaders and employees demonstrate the company’s defined values and behaviors - they have far fewer metrics they monitor. Some leaders believe it’s impossible to measure values.
I would argue that by defining values in observable, tangible, behavioral terms, you can measure whether or not players are modeling your desired values. For example, if one of your company’s values is integrity, you might conduct an employee survey that includes this question: “My direct leader acts with integrity in every interaction.” It seems like an appropriate question, but what exactly do you mean by “integrity”? If you ask twenty people in your organization what integrity means, you might get ten different answers - or twenty different answers.
Respondents will answer this rather vague question from their personal definition of integrity - and responses will likely cover a wide range. The results you get to a question like this are not actionable.
By defining values in behavioral terms, you are able to conduct employee surveys with questions that are specific and measurable. One client’s integrity value includes this behavior: “I do what I say I will do.” That behavior is observable, tangible, and measurable.
Their employee survey question for this behavior states, “My direct leader does what she says she will do.” That question doesn’t require respondents to define any terms; they’re able to rate their boss on this specific valued behavior.
By measuring employee perceptions of leader behaviors, you can get a reliable, actionable profile that describes what a leader does well, values-wise, and what a leader does not-so-well.
Leaders must model delivery of expected results and they must model respectful treatment of their peers, staff, and customers daily. By measuring demonstrated results and by measuring demonstrated respect, you create a culture of accountability for both.
S. Chris Edmonds is a speaker, author, and executive consultant with his firm, The Purposeful Culture Group. He has authored or co-authored seven books, including “The Culture Engine.” His next book, Good Comes First, will be published by BenBella Books on September 21, 2021. His videos, posts, and podcasts are available at DrivingResultsThroughCulture.com. Follow Chris on Twitter, LinkedIn, and iTunes.