In his shocking book, Dying for a Paycheck: How Modern Management Harms Employee Health and Company Performance – and What We Can Do About It, author Jeffrey Pfeffer recounts the research he and colleagues have done to examine the management practices that establish the expectation that employees must work themselves to death – literally – to advance their careers. Pfeffer, Professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford Graduate School of Business, firmly establishes the connection between dysfunctional workplace practices and both employee health and organizational performance. It isn’t a pretty picture.
Recently I was made to wait two weeks to get an important prescription filled. Two weeks! And I live in a first-world country and have decent health insurance. After a week of receiving pre-recorded apology updates from the pharmacy, I called both the doctor’s office and the pharmacy, and discovered the doctor’s office hadn’t received any of the faxed pre-authorization requests the pharmacy was sending every morning. Knowing that, I asked the pharmacist to directly call the doctor’s office and ensure they completed the authorization form for insurance. I finally got the medication and felt better within a day,
but now I am looking for another doctor because of this debacle!
Poor customer service is always a reflection of a negative culture. The root cause of my unfortunate experience was the poor organizational culture at my doctor’s office, reflected in their unresponsive administrative personnel and poor customer service processes. Here is the formula:
To say it succinctly, employees treat customers in a manner consistent with how they are treated. If management yells at employees, they are in turn likely to be surly with customers. If management does not give the employees the tools, empowerment or training to serve the customer well, the customer will suffer. And when the customer suffers, so does loyalty and satisfaction and that negatively impacts customer retention, which negatively affects profitability. It’s a vicious cycle.
All professional women, and the men they work with, need to read a very timely and informative book called How Women Rise by Sally Helgesen and Marshall Goldsmith. I was so excited to discover this book that I read it in one sitting. It is an important contribution to the understanding of how women can adapt their behaviors to get ahead in a male dominated workplace.
Authors Helgesen and Goldsmith are a star-studded partnership. Since publishing her best-seller The Female Advantage in 1990, Helgesen has been a sought-after leadership coach, author and speaker. Goldsmith is known as “the world’s preeminent executive coach” and is the author of several New York Times bestsellers, starting with What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. These two heavy-weight authorities have great advice for women that’s based on their decades-long experience observing and coaching both women and men.
Like it or not, the #MeToo movement has changed everything. Company executives can no longer leave their culture to chance or they may find their company featured in the news in the wrong way. Creating a positive, responsible culture that holds all team members accountable to the company’s values and standards of conduct is the best prevention of the abuses of power revealed by the #MeToo movement. In today’s atmosphere, all leaders must evaluate their organization’s culture and identify areas of vulnerability and potential problems. And evaluating your culture will also identify the strengths of your culture, from which you can build an even better one.
The good news is that you can objectively measure your company’s culture. The bad news is that not all so-called culture assessments truly measure it. Some of these assessments that purport to evaluate organizational culture are instead measuring the climate of the organization. To understand this, let’s start with definitions of organizational culture and organizational climate to help make this distinction.
Organizational Culture is a combination of values, beliefs, and behavioral norms (meaning the way a team member must behave to fit in). Values and beliefs are hard to measure. You may think that values are easy to perceive – after all, most companies have their values posted on the wall! To the contrary, what we are referencing are not the values that are declared but the actual values that are exemplified by the actions of the leaders and team members. Although most organizations espouse positive values, the way people actually behave can exemplify a different set of values. For example, a company may declare integrity to be a core value, but the best sales people pad their expense reports with a few personal purchases while management turns a blind eye. Beliefs, though truly invisible, are the foundation of any culture. An example of an organizational belief is “money is scarce, so we can’t take any risks with our money”. Certainly, actions can refer to beliefs, but it is very difficult to tease out the underlying beliefs of a company.
I dimly remember my high school graduation, but two people and their stories stand out to me: The valedictorian of the class was a nerdy, bookish guy who went to an Ivy League school and majored in science but is lost (to me, anyway) in obscurity. But our class president, who was charming and friendly to everyone, was elected to state senate years later. My point is this: Both my personal experience and scientific research show that emotional/social intelligence, or the ability to positively manage your own emotions and relationships with others, is more important to your professional and personal success than is your intellectual intelligence. Emotional/social intelligence is the biggest predictor of performance in the workplace.
That makes sense. People who can identify and regulate their own emotions, can empathize with others and manage social relationships to positive outcome are going to get along better with others, be better liked and be considered a “people person” who is more likely to excel at management.
Emotional intelligence can be separated into four quadrants of skills that looks like this:
Notice that the top two quadrants pertain to your own emotions, and the bottom two have to do with your awareness of others. The reason that the arrows point away from the first quadrant is that the strength of your Self-Awareness is foundational and affects your abilities in all other areas. Think of it this way: if you can’t recognize and manage your own feelings, how can you recognize them in others?
Dr. Daniel Goleman popularized the concepts of emotional intelligence in the mid-1990’s with his seminal book, Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ (1994). For leaders, I prefer his subsequent book, co-authored with Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee, called Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence (2002), which documents how a leader’s emotional intelligence sets the tone for the rest of the team. This best seller can be a bit nerdy for some, with its academic citations and neuroscientific arguments. (I’m a little nerdy, so I loved reading this book!) It is definitely not a quick read. For that reason, in our group coaching we will read Emotional Intelligence 2.0 (2003) by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves, which provides good background EQ information and also contains strategies to help with the four quadrants of EQ as depicted above.
Goleman offers several competencies that a highly emotionally intelligent leader should possess. We will discuss these in our group coaching meetings, so it is important that you know a little about them.
Leadership question: How often can you, as a leader, lose your temper? You may think that losing your temper is never a good thing, or you may think that losing your temper as a viable motivational act. Neither is ideal: As an executive coach, I advise losing your temper once a year for optimal impact. If you do it more often, you become a bully. Losing your temper when it really matters makes a huge impression on those around you when it is an unusual occurrence.
These three strategies, if focused on, will add rocket fuel to your emotional intelligence and increase your leadership effectiveness.
I have been a corporate and certification trainer for several decades. I love to train! I enjoy seeing people understand something new, seeing their faces light up when they make a new connection, and presenting new and different ways of thinking. These are all the benefits of training, and I did a heck of a lot of that for over twenty years.
Then I became disillusioned with all the training that I did. My attitude changed when I was engaged to train about 250 Information Technology (IT) professionals on excellent customer service skills to help the organization boost its customer loyalty ratings. I learned during the first two hours of the first class I taught that a lack of customer service skills on the part of these dedicated, smart and resourceful IT professionals was not the problem. The real problem was the toxic culture that leaders had embedded due to their mean-spirited and commanding leadership style. The IT professionals were routinely yelled at, belittled and abused by upper managers. They were often left out of important decisions affecting their work hours and environment. They were held to impossible deadlines and not provided adequate resources to meet them. I concluded at the end of that two-hour class session that the executives of this organization desperately needed to have leadership skills training and one-on-one coaching to repair the damage done to the organization’s culture. Only then could they create a new culture of great customer service.
Published in, and reproduced with permission from, choice, the magazine of professional coaching <http://www.choice-online.com> www.choice-online.com
For some, navigating an organization’s culture can be like whitewater rafting
– thrilling but dangerous. As I think back on all the clients I’ve coached over
my career, many of them needed help understanding and fitting into their
On the other hand, others discovered that the culture of their current position wasn’t
in alignment with their personal values and decided to leave that company entirely,
looking for a better fit. Our overall goal and duty as coaches is to help avoid this latter
problem, enabling clients to survive and thrive in their organization’s culture.
Do your employees experience Happy Mondays or do they dread the beginning of the workweek? Work can be challenging, fulfilling, and mostly fun, if organizational leaders have created a vibrant company culture. A vibrant culture is created when leaders identify a purpose higher than just making money and connect their team members’ values to the work they do. A toxic or defensive culture is created when you treat people with disrespect, tolerate negative behaviors, act distrustfully and/or hold people to extremely high standards without giving them the resources to attain them.
As I think back on my work career, there have been times when I dreaded and times when I was excited to go to work on Monday mornings. My best work experiences have always been at companies where I felt appreciated, stimulated, held accountable to high standards of performance while given the resources to achieve them and where I felt like we were doing something to make the world a better place.
Do you have a toxic company culture? Here are five signs to look for along with remedies for each situation:
Herb Kelleher, Southwest Airlines’ co-founder and Chairman Emeritus, said it best: “The business of business is people.” This belief is the basis of Southwest’s exemplary culture. Even though the company honors and values all people involved in its business - employees, customers, supplier/vendors and shareholders - the company puts its employees first. Southwest Airlines recognizes that treating its employees well creates happy customers. That equation is proven by the company’s outstanding business results, which include:
What other US airline can boast these same results?
I was fortunate to have been invited to attend Southwest Airlines' "Culture Connection" in December 2017 in Dallas, Texas. It was a half-day event that showcased the company’s methods of strengthening, reinforcing, and maintaining its strongly positive culture. I applaud Southwest Airlines for offering this twice-yearly “peek under the covers” of their culture at no cost to the attendees. In contrast, Zappos and Disney charge fees to attend similar events they host.
Here are five lessons learned from Southwest’s Culture Connection day:
Right now is a great time to reflect on the year that is passing and plan for 2018. I hope you can use this planning questionnaire either individually or with your team to reflect and look forward to a great 2018.
Because only 15% of CEOs today are satisfied with their company culture, one of your goals for 2018 should be to improve your company culture. Enjoy!
If you like this company culture aid, you might also be interested in our Happy Mondays Club, an online learning community that meets in webinar format twice monthly and provides templates, checklists, how-to instructions and reports that you can use to grow a vibrant company culture! Please visit www.happymondaysclub.com for more information!
From the desk of