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21 Steps to Shaping an Organizational Culture- Part 1

Having a healthy, constructive corporate culture, virtually or live, is necessary for organizational success. Shaping an intentional culture unlocks the wealth of talent within your people and drives productivity, engagement and profits.

With information from KeenAlignment’s 21 day framework video series, these 21 steps provide you with highly effective strategies and tools that empower you to set the foundation for a thriving corporate culture.

Step 1) Begin with You

Workplace culture doesn’t drive profitable results without support from the leaders of an organization. Leaders must understand how things get done, how everyone works together, and how customers are being served. It is Leadership that sets the standard within the culture and this standard inspires, guides and leads people to be their best self at work. The standards you set teach what right looks like, demonstrate how you want people to treat each other and work together and show people what is wanted and needed to drive organizational priorities forward. It takes time, commitment, and a lot of effort from the Leaders in an organization to create a corporate culture that works for everyone.

Step 2) Recognize Barriers to Performance

Low levels of performance occur when people are operating in a state of hopelessness, fear, or frustration. This state of mind could be caused by a multitude of reasons; one may be that the person is not qualified or skilled at the level required to achieve optimum performance. Another is, that the work may not be challenging and or the employee may be unsatisfied with the depth of work they are doing. Or it could be that the manager might not know how to engage and inspire their people around the purpose of the work and therefore their employees might experience being a cog in the managers corporate wheel.

A low level of effectiveness could be caused because the employee does not like the pace (the rate of speed) the organization requires, or because the employee simply dislikes the industry or just does not gel in the role. An effective leader knows barriers to performance are deal breakers and they need to uncover what is holding their employees back. Once they understand the what and the why, the leader needs to take decisive action to encourage employees to improve and assist in removing obstacles to effectiveness . 

A leader committed to shaping a high performance culture, taps into his or her people’s core motivations and does their best to cultivate an empowering state of mind in their people. This effort gives employees a step in the right direction towards and performing with courage, engagement and innovation. When leadership listens to what employees are saying is in their way and coaches them to remove constraints to performance, employees are more likely to feel understood and appreciated;hence  more likely to be fully engaged. When employees understand how their work impacts organizational success they are better equipped to see the big picture and bring value.

Step 3) Understand the Impacts of Preconceived Notions 

In the absence of communication and understanding, people make things up. Simply said, people almost never make up an empowering context. Many assume the worst, often because of emotional baggage of past bad work experiences. Previous negative work experiences often sway people to prematurely anticipate a negative outcome that may not be grounded in reality. Unfortunately, as humans our brain churns thoughts so fast most of us can not see them coming.

To make matters worse, 80% of human thoughts are negative and repetitive which leads most people who are unclear about what is happening in the organization to make up their own stories about what is going on. This makes it very hard to see and connect to the bigger picture. Your workforce requires you as a Leader to intervene in the human drift of thought and communicate in a way that dismantles the automatic programming and connects your employees to their highest purpose and the purpose of their work in your organization. Frequent communication is required to build trust, connection and teamwork.

Step 4) Monitor State of Mind, of Yourself, Your Leaders and Your Employees

It’s typical for executives of an organization to have a sharper focus on the bottom line results rather than on their employees’ state of mind. Before Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO, most CEOs would shun state of mind and employee engagement as the ‘soft stuff’. Between today’s health crisis, social unrest and economic volatility, The American Institute of Stress says 80% of people feel more stress on the job than ever before.

Yet it’s common for employers and employees to be uncomfortable discussing stress and struggles at work, so most carry on, as if all is well even when it is not. When we ignore state of mind and pretend it is “business as usual” especially in times of uncertainty; people suffer, performance suffers and  business priorities suffer.

Step 5) Interrupt Bad Communication

We believe what we think, and our thoughts determine our version of reality. A Leader must know how to interrupt this negative idea process through effective communication. Point your people in the right direction and make open discussions a two-way street.   Bad communication shows up as hearsay, gossip, nay saying and gaining agreement for negativity.

This often happens when an organization and its Leaders are not out in front of a problem and inadvertently let the problem take on a life of its own. It is important to bring the invisible and make it visible through open and honest communication. Keeping your ears to the group, proactively calling employees and asking how they are and if they have any concerns is a step in the right direction and mitigates gossip and negative rumors from degrading employee engagement and causing dysfunction in the organizational culture.

Step 6) Get Curious About Your People

Curiosity allows us to understand what’s going on in the workplace and with our people. Knowing what inspires and engages each individual is a place to begin.  Digging deep into what ignites their passion helps you connect employees  and  their goals to the goals of the organization, in other words your curiosity helps those who work for you,connect the dots.

Getting curious about what your team believes is working and what’s not working gives you insights into things that might not be obvious from your view, such as organizational constraints and desired improvements. Creating a strong corporate culture requires regular check-ins with people. Leaders who adopt a habit of being curious about how their people are continually gaining buy-in for organizational improvements and move new initiatives forward, faster.

Step 7) Understand How People Respond to Change

Change fails because people don’t know how to handle it or don’t want to accept it. The fear of change is what’s in the way of most organizational change initiatives. Often, unconscious biases get in the way of organizational change, because people react in defense. To manage change effectively, make sure your workforce is always up to speed on what is changing and why. Understand the principles of change and what Spencer Johnson taught in his book, Who Moved My Cheese.”  Some people accept change right away

Cultivating an organizational culture takes time and can’t be done overnight.

Use these 21 steps to build and transform your business into an organization that thrives through culture. Watch the entire video series framework here.


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