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Posted: October 12, 2010

Three remedies for corporate culture weak spots

Your business growth depends on it

Lisa Jackson

(Editor's note: this is the second of two parts. Read part 1.)

In my last column, we shared the first two steps in an honest assessment about whether your culture "power system" is sucking growth. In this article, we share the three most common culture weak spots and remedies you can use to upgrade your culture power system.

Step Three: Upgrade Your Culture Power System
Three common traits sap power in companies of every size, industry and geography. Fix leaks in these weak spots and watch growth accelerate:

1) Where are we going? Most people in your company are not clear how you're defining success; yet all people want to be part of a winning tribe with a clear identity and purpose. A great mission catalyzes energy, drives people to collaborate, and eliminates internal tribal warfare. It's not the words - it's the physics! The bigger the mass (team), the greater the energy and acceleration needed to move it. If decision paralysis or re-prioritization are common, you have a weak mission. Remedy: Ask 15 people "What's our mission?" Yours is strong if (a) Their answers are identical;(b) They speak with genuine passion and enthusiasm. Examples of favorite mission statements: The World on Time (FedEx). Saving The Last Great Places (Nature Conservancy). AOL Anywhere. Beat Coke (Pepsi's mission at one time). These are more than just nice words - they drive decisions and focus actions.

2) One bad apple ... or "A chain is only as strong as its weakest link." At least 17% of employees would rather not be in your company ... and 2/3 aren't fully engaged - often due to "bad apple" managers. Just 1 or 2 bad apples drag your team down. Bad apples are great at manipulating leaders and deflecting attention off themselves. Distracted leaders usually act too slowly and make excuses - sending the message "Sorry great apples, deal with it." Remedy: Eliminating bad apples is the hardest job a leader does. But PLEASE do it - and tell everyone why. These apples usually go on to find a happier barrel before they completely rot and the energy rises among everyone else. And, you stop the risk of your entire culture being poisoned, because great apples eventually hop the barrel where the rotten ones live. Let this be the moment you make one hard personnel decision and act on it.

3) Growth on the outside starts with growth on the inside. Want growth in your business? Focus on growth in your people. Every human being has a desire to grow and learn. Sadly, most organizations stifle learning: "We don't have time." "No budgets for training." "Who's fault was it?" when mistakes happen. Remedy: This Is not a silver bullet, but one big step is to stop the excuses! Ask every person to write their OWN one-page career plan: "How I'm contributing to our mission" (see #1) "My top dream" and "What I'm working on to get better." Require every manager to sit with their direct reports to hear their dreams twice a year. Everyone (except bad apples) will love it. Then, initiate weekly 1:1 check-ins with your people - simple but regular is key: "What did you do last week? Where are you stuck or how can I help? What will you accomplish this week?" Do it by phone or in person. Document progress. These conversations change everything about a culture's energy, if managers set ego aside and really listen.

Getting culture basics right provides immediate and sustainable power boost to growth - and to your ability to build a fun, fulfilling, and fired up workplace culture.

What are you waiting for? Light your fuses ... ignite ... accelerate.
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Lisa Jackson is a corporate culture expert on assessing, defining, and improving culture's impact on business performance, especially during mergers and strategy shifts. Look for her new book "Fit to Compete: 9 Truths for Transforming Corporate Culture" this fall or visit her on the web at http://www.jacksonandschmidt.com.

 

Enjoy this article? Sign up to get ColoradoBiz Exclusives. The opinions expressed in this article are solely that of the author and do not represent ColoradoBiz magazine. Comments on articles will be removed if they include personal attacks.

Readers Respond

In Innovate the Pixar Way, we describe how Pixar's "dreams" and creativity take shape. Storyboarding is a key! Any company can designate an office or small conference room as a dream room where all team members, not just management, can post creative ideas on storyboards around the room. As Pixar president Ed Catmull said, "Creativity doesn't follow titles; it just comes from where it comes from." By Lynn Jackson on 2010 10 20

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