COVID-19 has flipped the world on its axis, and we’re all trying to adapt as each country, state, and the city puts orders in place to safeguard our wellbeing. Our world will continue to change as this pandemic moves through its cycle, and we will emerge to a world that is different — economically and socially. As painful and uncertain as all of this is, you are an adaptable human and you will learn to adapt to your new environment.
Our current challenges got me thinking about companies and the environments we create within them. A company has an environment, or company culture, all to itself. And it is made up of little cultures (humans) that live within it. Many say, “the environment always wins,” and I believe that is true. The disruption we are currently facing gives us all an opportunity to evaluate where our company environments currently stand. So here is my question to you: Are you being intentional about the environment you are creating for your organization?
If your goal is to have an organization that can successfully embrace disruption, is innovative, and pivot quickly, then creating an environment or company culture that allows all of the humans within it to perform at their best is critical. As leadership expert Patrick Lencioni says, “If you could get all of the people in an organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition at any time.” It sounds like a dream culture, right? Let’s take a look at how the dream can become a reality.
Creating a Mission
Most organizations have a mission statement (if you don’t, keep reading). You probably fall into one of three categories when it comes to your organization’s mission statement:
- “Yes, I got this.” Your company mission statement is front and center and you and can recite it verbatim. You may have even been part of the team that created the mission statement.
- Fuzzy recall. You may be able to recite parts of the mission statement or at least have a good memory of the words and can remember the context of the statement when asked.
- “Let me think about it for a minute.” You don’t remember exactly what the mission statement is. You know you have it on your desk somewhere.
The point is that most of us know the words associated with the mission statement or can at least find them. It’s getting below the surface of the words and uncovering the meaning that most of us are unclear about. What do the words in the mission statement mean to you? My hunch is that unless you have asked everyone in your organization what the mission statement means to them, your mission statement is being interpreted in many different ways.
Getting clarity on the meaning behind the mission statement gives you a clear understanding of what the expectation is and creates purpose. Purpose inspires you to be on a mission and live into a mission – instead of just reading words on a piece of paper. Purpose allows you to be part of a larger whole, something that is bigger than yourself. It gives you the inspiration to think bigger, take bolder action, and give each other the nudge to be accountable. People on a mission get things done!
What Do You Stand For?
A value is a belief you hold so strongly that you are willing to take action upon it in the face of adversity. Each of us has values that we live in to, but sometimes we forget what they are or don’t take the time to fully understand them.
Identifying and understanding your values allows you to walk your walk both organizationally and personally. If you know what your organizational values are (and the behaviors associated with them), you have a very clear picture of what is expected of you. The same goes for personal values. Getting clear on your values allows you to set boundaries for yourself and make sure your behaviors are aligned.
Recently, I worked with a group of leaders who identified respect as one of their core organizational values. As we started to identify the behaviors they associated with respect, it became very clear that some people saw respect through the lens of individual experience (standing up for themselves) while others saw it as holding space for everyone (being open and listening to what other people had to say). It was an eye-opening experience for these leaders to hear the differences in their behaviors and to find language that resonated with everyone.
There is no right or wrong. This is not binary. We all experience life differently because we are all unique humans with our own culture. What is important is that as an organization, you have a clear understanding of the values that drive your organization and your employees. When leaders are clear on these values, they are able to take the risks that may be needed to step outside normal protocol and have the confidence to navigate the unfamiliar or uncharted — the disrupted. That is innovation at its finest.
Your Guiding Principles
Now that you have your purpose and your values are taken care of, you are ready for the next step in the culture journey: keeping everyone connected and engaged. Adopting a set of principles allows you to create a strong community within your environment and provides the backbone everyone needs to have difficult conversations, to question each other to arrive at the best solutions, and to see challenges as new opportunities that you just haven’t overcome yet.
Recently, I became certified as a Higher Ground Leadership® coach and adopted the CASTLE® principles from The Secretan Center. These six simple principles were created in response to the behaviors employees despise most when interacting with bosses and co-workers – when people are cowards, phony, selfish, liars, and incompetent, or when they rule with fear. The alternative is six characteristics to which people are drawn: courage, authenticity, service, truthfulness, love, and effectiveness. These principles are dependent on one another, providing a foundation for cultivating deep relationships in your organization.
Isn’t that what leadership is all about? Effective leaders build good relationships. They are both cheerleaders and champions, praising when it’s appropriate and challenging people to perform even better. This means you need the courage to have conversations that could result in conflict or make you uncomfortable. You must bring your authenticity to the table so you can be your vulnerable, human self and build trust. And you need to remember that to lead is to serve; it’s not about you and what you do, but rather others and their needs. To be of service, provide a safe and supportive space, and truly be there for your fellow humans without judgments and conditions.
Next in the circle is truthfulness. This is your perception and observation of your experiences; honesty, on the other hand, is your willingness to accept and express the truth. In order to be truthful, you need to embrace the previous three principles first. The same is true for love, which promotes compassion and safety and allows employees to step beyond their self-preservation zone to tap into their strengths and superpowers.
This brings me to the last principle, effectiveness. Without the other five principles effectiveness cannot be achieved. You will be an effective leader when you can embrace and live in the other principles.
Following these guiding principles allows you to create an intentional culture that provides opportunities for growth, learning, and development. Your company culture then serves as the engine that drives innovation, quick thinking, and the ability to respond to the unexpected.
By being intentional about the kind of environment you are creating for your organization, you will have an Olympic rowing team on your hands – and you will dominate any industry, in any market, at any time.
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