S. Chris Edmonds is a sought-after speaker, author, and executive consultant who is the founder and CEO of The Purposeful Culture Group. After a 15-year executive career leading high-performing teams, Chris began his consulting company in 1990. He has also served as a senior consultant with The Ken Blanchard Companies since 1995. Chris is one of Inc. Magazine’s 100 Great Leadership Speakers and was a featured presenter at SXSW 2015.
When I ask leaders what their job is, they look at me funny. When I press them for an answer, 90% of them say, “I drive results. That’s my job."
I tell them that results are important. And I tell them that performance accountability is exactly halfof the leader’s job.
A leader has two primary jobs:
To align skills and activities towards the accomplishment of declared goals
To create a safe, inspiring work environment where every player is treated with trust, respect, and dignity in every interaction
The problem is that most leaders have never been asked to manage workplace inspiration. Most don’t know how to create an engaging work environment. The only thing leaders have been asked to do — and the only thing their past bosses did — was to manage performance.
Workplace inspiration along with top contribution from all players would be nice, but most leaders don’t know how to build that or how to maintain that.
The reality is that most of us have experienced this high-performance, values-aligned nirvana in the past somewhere. Our great bosses did both of these things extremely well. They communicated clear goals and held everyone (including themselves) accountable for them. And they created clear values standards and held everyone (including themselves) accountable for those.
Great Boss Behaviors
Some people say they’ve never had a great boss. I believe them. And “great boss” behaviors are not that complicated. Every boss can be a great boss if they choose to balance performance clarity and accountability with values clarity and accountability, every day, fairly and kindly.
How can leaders begin the process of proactive culture management. Meaning, how can leaders intentionally manage the quality of their work environment?
Great bosses don’t exclusively focus on performance; they focus on both performance and values every day. They find ways of connecting to how employees feel about their work, the pace, their bosses, their customers, etc.
Great leaders do that by wandering around and visiting with team members daily. They gather reliable data with regular surveys that provide insights into employee confidence and engagement.
Yet most leaders are disconnected from the impressions of team members. In my recent post about the New York Times’ article on Amazon’s “bruising” corporate culture, I share CEO Jeff Bezos's reaction to the article. In his memo to employees, Bezos said he doesn’t believe the article describes the Amazon culture he lives in daily.
Over 100 current and former employees — including some senior leaders — from Amazon’s headquarters were interviewed for the article. I believe Bezos told the truth: the article doesn’t describe the culture he sees daily. And Bezos could be disconnected from the day-to-day reality that others experience in that same building.
Engagement data is important because it shows leaders what’s happening now. If engagement is below 90% (that’s a high standard, but why set your target lower?), there is work to be done.
What can leaders do to boost engagement and, at the same time, boost service, results, and profits? Create an organizational constitution and align all players and practices to it.
An organizational constitution formalizes your team or company’s present-day purpose, values and behaviors, strategies, and goals. It sets high standards for both performance and values. With clear standards, leaders have a clear path to celebrating aligned behavior and redirecting misaligned behavior.
An organizational constitution provides a proven framework for leaders to effectively and intentionally do their two primary jobs: inspire aligned performance in an engaging work environment.
Do leaders have to go as far as Joe Madden, manager of the Chicago Cubs, and hold a team pajama party? No. But by creating a high-performing, values-aligned work environment, people will have fun while being respectful and productive.