Saturday, April 9, 2011

Five Questions Every Leader Must Ask About its Corporate Culture

 If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have told me ‘A faster horse’.
- Henry Ford

Analyzed by Main Street, the Better Business Bureau recently released their Top 10 list of the most complained about companies of 2010. As reported, consumers in the United States and Canada filed 1.1 million complaints against businesses last year, a ten percent increase from the year before.

The financial and automotive industries experienced the biggest year-over-year growth in the complaints, but it was the companies selling everyday products like electronics that garnered the most complaints overall. As for the most complained about companies, the top five include television – cable and satellite, cell phone service and equipment, auto dealers, banks, and collection agencies.

In his book, 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney, Lee Cockerell says, “The Disney Institute defines a corporate culture as the system of values and beliefs an organization holds that drives actions and behaviors and influences relationships. Whether you recognize it or not, your organization has one. So the question isn’t whether you have a corporate culture but what kind of culture do you have.”

The culture of your organization is a reflection of the values and beliefs embedded within the system. It is embraced on all levels by those who understand that the organizational culture rises and falls on leadership. Cockrell added, “No matter what industry you’re in, one of your challenges as a leader is to evaluate the structure on an ongoing basis and not be afraid to break the mold. Remember, a great leader never settles for good enough.”
What is the status of your organizational structure? Is it sound? Is it thriving? Are there cracks in the structure? In order to assess the structural strength within your organization, consider these five questions as you look for structural damage.

Have you grown complacent? While complacency is a sure sign of structural damage, it is often hard to diagnose. It has been said that the first symptom of complacency is satisfaction with things as they are and the second symptom is rejection of things as they might be. It makes people fear the unknown, mistrust the untried, and abhor the new.

In order to get an honest appraisal of whether your organization is complacent is to invite feedback not from the ‘yes men’ from within but from trusted advisors with fresh eyes from the outside. The strength of your structure must be grounded in reality.

What are you doing right? When evaluating organizations often the first temptation is to ask or look for what is wrong. While it is important to have that information, why not begin with the premise of what you are doing right? Evaluating the culture of your organization begins with the gifted and skilled people who are the face of your organization.

You would not be the success you are without strong leadership skills and talented people around you. Begin your evaluation by looking at what you have been doing right all along.

How can you do better? Armed with this information, look at ways in which your organization can be stronger, more efficient, and more productive. Make feedback and review a standard organizational procedure. Again, complacency can be your downfall when you believe that there is nothing more you can do to improve. Structural damage is a risk when you stop asking how.

Are you listening to your people? While there are many variables when it comes to structural damage within your organization, a common thread of the damage can be traced back to a lack of listening to your people. A leader does not need an ear to the ground or spies, he needs face time. It is through relationships that trust is established and organizational strength is built.

What happens if you don’t change? Structural damage is simply the collateral damage of a leader who has grown complacent, stopped improving, stopped listening, and has not built relationships.

Cracks in your organizational structure appear slow and over time and can be very subtle. But the strength of your structure is reflected in the pride of your people, the service you deliver, and the character of your organization reflected by the values you espouse.

How is your organizational structure?

© 2011 Doug Dickerson

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Not Feeling the Love? Reclaiming Morale and Loyalty Within Your Organization

The best morale exists when you never hear the word mentioned. When you hear a lot of talk about it, it’s usually lousy.
- Dwight D. Eisenhower

The proverbial curtain was pulled back recently exposing the state of morale among employees and the news was not good. USA Today reported ( the findings of the 9th Annual Study of Employee Benefits Trends revealing that employee morale is at a three year low.

What makes this report even more disturbing is the revelation that most employers are “precariously unaware of the morale meltdown.” Ronald Leopold, MetLife’s vice president of U.S. business states, “Businesses are understandable focused on expenses. But they’re taking they’re eyes off the ball with the human capital issue, notably what drives employee satisfaction and loyalty.”

The study also found that fed-up workers are seeking greener professional pastures: Slightly more than one in three hope to find a new job in the next 12 months. The report states that impending exodus could wallop employers who have to pay for recruiting and training replacements, as well as deal with lost productivity as they seek personnel.

The report concludes that resignations could fall if bosses take on low-cost actions such as offering career advancement advice and thanking deserving workers, this according to Kevin Sheridan, chief engagement officer at consultant HR Solution. He adds that employees “want to know they’re reporting to someone who cares about them as a person and cares about their engagement level.”

Frank I. Fletcher said, “No man can deliver the goods if his heart is heavier than the load.” And this is the leadership challenge within many organizations today. Striking a balance between what is economically advantageous for the bottom line verses what the best thing is for the people who operate the business.

Here are three considerations for employers who care about their people. While this is not a cure-all prescription, it is a start. Here are the first steps toward reclaiming strong morale.

Listen to your people. A troubling revelation of the study was that most employers were unaware of their morale problem. This disconnect is disturbing. Within an organization this leads to two drastically different versions of corporate identity and direction.

When leadership is proactive about listening to the frontline people who make things happen, morale issues can be dealt with before they become major problems. A proactive leader will also take listening to new levels by not relying on the archaic “open door” policy.

Smart leaders will not wait until employees are so disgruntled they come to see him. By then, it is quite possibly too late. Doesn’t it make more sense to listen, respond to, and solve problems before they come through the door? This happens when leaders get out from behind the desk to get among the people and listen.

Encourage your people. As mentioned in the study, businesses took their eye off the ball as it related to human capital issues and employee satisfaction and loyalty. John Maxwell says, “You can’t move people to action unless you first move them with emotion. The heart always comes before the head.”

Encouragement is the fuel that drives your business. It is an awareness of the sacrifices your employees make because they have bought-in to the vision and purpose of the company. Encouragement is the expression of your human capital IQ; it is the sharing of common values with like- minded people who also took a risk by following you. Encourage them.

Respect your people. Herbert Casson said, “In handling men, there are three feelings a man must not possess –fear, dislike, and contempt. If he is afraid of men he cannot handle them. Neither can he influence them in his favor if he dislikes or scorns them. He must neither cringe nor sneer. He must have both self-respect and respect for others.”

Many variables come into play as it relates to strong morale or low morale within an organization. Strong leaders who listen to and encourage their people will inevitably have strong morale. Strong morale begins with mutual respect for the gifts, talents, and contributions of each team member. Loyalty is the product of leaders understanding the value of human capital.

How is your morale?

© 2011 Doug Dickerson