Archive for Company Culture Leadership — The Big Picture

314 — How Fast Can Culture Change?

The speed of culture change depends on size, commitment, and resources.

    • The size of the organization— with fewer people to involve, small companies change faster than big companies.
    • The commitment of the top leaders to walk the talk. If leaders show by their actions that they are committed to the change, employees and managers will quickly join them. If leaders delegate the task, little will change.
    • The resources available. Developing a work culture takes a little extra time. If the operational needs are too demanding, if there simply is no time to meet and discuss the culture, it may be best to wait.

 

Cultures Change When Leaders Show That They Want Them to Change

Holding monthly “Culture Leadership Meetings” with the management team jump-starts the culture development process (see The Five Steps to An Unbeatable Culture). There managers discuss their relationships, the values they want to encourage in the organization and the actions they will take to demonstrate these values. Through this process of discussion and action, managers learn about themselves, the culture, and how they can lead it. When they are ready, leaders can then involve lower levels in a similar process. This step-by-step process is the fast and simple way to build a powerful and productive workplace.

Results Begin Immediately

With active leadership, positive results will begin immediately. Even in the biggest organization, people at every level will soon be aware that the culture is changing for the better. With visibly committed top leadership you can use the following general time guideline for completing the culture change, top to bottom and across all divisions. (Many factors can affect these numbers, e.g. if you are a local plant, eager to change, but the corporation’s leadership does not understand and accept your changes, that will slow down and limit the extent of your effort.)

Number of Employees      10  100  1,000  10,000  100,000
Year to complete change   1     2      3         4         5

Footnote
It is only natural and human to want an engaging workplace with trusting relationships and good communications, where you feel valued and productive. If leaders move in that direction people will eagerly follow. Once leaders learn how to go with the current of human desire, see Evolution and Company Culture, they usually look back and wonder why they ran the company any other way.

cc 314 — © Barry R. Phegan, Ph.D.

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312 — The Five Steps to Build An Unbeatable Culture

Are you the CEO or head of a business unit? Have you decided to build a powerful company culture that outperforms competitors? Whether you do it yourself or use the assistance of an outside expert, this paper details the 5-Step Culture Change Process that builds the culture you want in the shortest possible time. Guaranteed. It was developed over 30 years with hundreds of managers, with companies large and small.

Culture Change is Simple But Hard

Be aware that changing a company’s culture, while straightforward, is hard to do. This is partly because cultures are very stable and resist change, partly because leading culture change is quite unfamiliar to most managers, and partly because leaders must make small changes in how they themselves work.

Set the Stage

You’ve probably talked already with your management team about developing a better company culture. If you haven’t, it’s good to get your team thinking about it well in advance of your first Culture Leadership Meeting.

Make sure they understand that you are committed to building a workplace where people bring more energy, creativity and commitment to their work, and where fewer problems rise to management levels. Point out that it will take working together as a team to make that happen. You might also mention that nobody is an expert at doing this, certainly not you, and you’ll all have to help each other learn along the way. Stumbles are expected, but they won’t keep you all from reaching your goal.

Keep your eye on the goal. Successful culture change brings a successful company. Changing the company’s culture is a serious business decision, so you should discuss with your team the expected financial benefits (see What’s the Cash Value of Developing Your Culture?). Companies with well-developed cultures out-produce other companies by wide margins.

Are any of your company’s competitors beginning to develop better work cultures? If they are not, and you get the jump on them, it’s very possible they may never catch up.

Who is The Culture Leadership Team?

The team to lead the culture change will be the team you meet with regularly (usually weekly?) to manage the company or business unit. It typically is not any expanded leadership team you might have that includes many non-operational staff functions.

Plan an hour and a half for each Culture Leadership Meeting. Do not combine these meetings with your regular operations meeting. You can combine them later — after the Culture Leadership Meeting gets some traction. That usually happens after about six meetings.

Because these culture meetings are only held once every three or four weeks, it takes about 4 to 5 months before discussing culture becomes a normal part your regular weekly business team meetings. Then you can schedule culture as the first agenda item of your regular business meetings.

Yes, culture is a business item, maybe the most important one. After all, it is the stage for everything that happens, particularly performance and profits.

1. Choose Your Culture Change Goal

Get your team together. Ask these two questions to choose the goal or outcomes you’ll want from a more developed company culture. This discussion should take about an hour.

The First Question

“Think of a task situation you’ve been in — and this doesn’t have to be a work situation — when you felt excited about what you were doing, when you felt energized and enthusiastic about the task, when you could hardly wait to start the day. This has to be an actual real situation from your past. Can you each think of one?

“Now, with that situation clearly in your mind, and with that feeling you had when you were there, take five minutes and write down what you think it was about the situation that made you feel so enthusiastic, so motivated.”

Take your time. After five minutes, after everyone has written several reasons, go around the group, asking each person to say just one item from his or her list. Write down what they say on a whiteboard or flip chart where everyone can see them. Continue going around until are no more items. There will usually be about 10 to 15 items. Expect some repetitions.

This is how one group of managers described their experience.

“What Made You Feel so Motivated?”

        • I was recognized.
        • There was camaraderie, teamwork, people help each other.
        • I got honest feedback.
        • I got support from management.
        • I was trusted — there was give and take on ideas.
        • There was respect from the top down — not fear.
        • There were enough resources.
        • Expectations were in line. We knew the goal and what to do.
        • I felt part of something bigger.
        • I received mentoring and training.
        • There was pride in everyone’s accomplishments.

 

The Second Question

“Now look at our list and keep it in mind as you each write down what you would like to see more of here in our company.”

Again, give people five minutes to write their thoughts down. Then go around the group, one item per person, and write down what they say on a whiteboard or flip chart so everybody can see.

This is how one group described what qualities they’d like to see more of.

“What We Want More of at XYZ Company”

        • More trust, honesty and openness.
        • Stronger teamwork and cooperation.
        • Better communications between levels and across interdepartmental divisions.
        • People speaking up and participating more at meetings.
        • People taking more responsibility for solving their own problems.
        • Higher morale.
        • Improved productivity and customer service.
        • Less interference and directives from above.
        • A clearer sense of direction by everyone.

 

Most people want a similar workplace. Make sure your team understands that there are no right or wrong answers. The culture you want is unique to you and your team — and that’s how it should be.

Congratulations! You’ve Now Set Your Culture Goal, Your Culture Change Objective

This list might change a little as you learn more about changing you culture. But it is more than good enough to begin the next step — actions.

2. Decide What to Do — Actions

If you’ve run out of time at your first meeting, postpone this second step until your next meeting. Either way, explain that the way to get that culture is by making very small changes in what each of you do every day, changes that illustrate or reinforce the kind of culture you all just described. These actions should not be anything new or unusual. They will just be small changes in each person’s daily work, nothing dramatic. Over time, as you make these small, easy changes, the organization will let you know what works and what doesn’t. In response to the leadership’s changes, the culture will begin to respond, slowly at first, but soon pick up speed. People will notice the new wind and start getting on board. The momentum will gather as the new culture starts establishing itself.

Ask each manager to write down one or two everyday activities or future actions will plans they might be able to use as opportunities to move the workplace culture in the direction they just described.

For example, if an item was [we want] “more trust, honesty and openness.”, say, “Think about what do you do every day, or what is coming up in your department, that by you doing it a little bit differently, you could personally show ‘more trust, honesty and openness’?”

If one of the items is, “Better communications between departments.” you might ask, “What do we do here, or what is coming up in your area, that by doing it a little bit differently, we or you could improve communications between departments?”

If one of the items is, “Get people to take more responsibility for decisions that affect them.” you might ask, “What do we do here, or what’s coming up, that if we gave it a little twist, we could get the people who are affected, more involved in decisions?”

Ask similar questions for each item from the “Qualities” list and record their answers on an “Opportunities” list. This step is brainstorming. Later each person can choose which item(s) to do. Each possible action or opportunity must be something small that the manager could realistically see him or herself doing without a lot of additional work.

Move Opportunities to Actions

When the “Opportunities” list has at least 15 items, put it next to the “Qualities” list. Ask the group to look at the two lists. This is a good time for your team to walk around, read the lists, think about them and share ideas. After a few minutes ask your team:

“Who’d like to put their initials against an item?” As team leader, it’s important to put your own initials on one or two of the items, but best if you are not first.

After they put their initials against the items, ask each manager to describe what they plan to do — how they will connect the qualities to actions. Encourage your team to share ideas and suggestion with each other. Sometimes one idea will be appealing to several people. When the managers have decided what to do, describe what you plan to do and invite their comments. Ideally two, or three, or four people will volunteer to do something. Invite comments or suggestions from others in the group.

Conclude with, “Next time we get together, let’s hear what you did, and what happened. Remember that we are trying to learn about the culture and what happens when we take actions. It doesn’t have to be ‘successful’, but you do have to try something. What we want to hear is what you did, and what happened. After we discuss it we will all decide on our next steps. We’re going to walk down this path together, step at a time, learning as we go. Okay?”

“So What Happened?”

When you all meet again in three or four weeks, ask people to describe what they did and what it was like. You might find that not everybody did what they said. They might have done something different. Possibly nobody, except yourself, did anything. Sometimes everyone will have dived in. Be patient. It might take a while for everyone to see that this is serious business, important to the success of the company, and that you are determined to help them make it happen.

After you and the others have described what you did and what happened you can revisit the opportunities list, add new items, and decide what you will each do next. “Let’s look again at the list of opportunities, and see if there any new ones we should add.” Ask people again to volunteer to do something. Have them see that you’re very serious about this. But don’t be confrontational. Just be firm. Of course you must have done something yourself. If the leader doesn’t advance, no one else will.

Adding Other Issues

After several meetings where members discuss plans and change, the group will be ready to open up other areas for discussion. This happens naturally as you and the members get comfortable thinking about the human side of the company — how you do your daily work and the effect that has on others and on the culture. You’ll begin to see that you can more easily talk about how you work amongst yourselves, and how that might change to better reflect the qualities you want more of in the culture.

A particularly important part of this is interpersonal and interdepartmental relationships — how team members and their departments work together — how they see and experience each other.

In many organizations, particularly older traditional hierarchies, there are strained relationships between departments (that lead to silos) and between levels, where there is often poor trust, openness and communications. As the leadership team gets comfortable discussing the people side of the business, their own relationships will change. People below will notice this and begin changing their own relationships.

It’s important that this self-reflection within the leadership team develop naturally and without accusation. As leader you can help the team see that you are all walking down the strange new path together and that together you can discover solutions. It should never be a question of looking backwards trying to analyze what happened and who is at fault. Focus on what cultural values you want and how you can reinforce these through your actions now as a team.

Summary of Steps 1 and 2

        • Recall a situation when you felt energized and enthusiastic about what you were doing.
        • Describe what it was in that situation, what values and qualities it had, that made you feel so energized and productive.
        • Based on that, describe what values and qualities you would like more of with your unit.
        • Create a list of opportunities where you could personally reinforce, through you actions, these values & qualities.
        • Each manager decides what to do to show the values and qualities in their daily actions.

 

Over three or four meetings, as the Cultural Leadership Team members get comfortable with this new way of doing things, some members will start similar discussions with their own management teams.

3. Involve the Next Management Level

This third step repeats the first and second steps but now with the management teams at the next level down from the Culture Leadership Team.

If you are a member of the Culture Leadership Team and are now meeting with you own management team I suggest you don’t show them the top level’s list of values, goals and actions. Each level should develop their own. Each of us want similar things at work. That’s why the lists developed by different levels and groups will be quite similar. Ownership is more important than a lock-step plan. When you are dealing with the human level of culture things don’t need to be as precise as with issues at the operational level. However, after a group has developed their list and decided on actions, you might share the leadership team’s lists. You and they might be surprised and pleased to see how similar the two lists are.

You’ll probably be impressed at how quickly people become involved in this culture development process and how it rapidly builds energy and enthusiasm throughout your organization.

4. The Culture Interview

A New Kind of Workplace Conversation

The fourth step to creating your company culture is simple, yet profound. It is special conversations held between people at all levels and across all functions, conversations to improve relationships. Good relationships are the foundation for better decisions, improved performance and profits. (see, The Cultural Interview)

$
Profits
Performance
D  e  c  i  s  i  o  n  s
C o m m u n i c a t i o n s
R e l a t i o n s h i p s

These special one-on-one conversations — not designed to solve problems but to build relationships — are unfamiliar to most managers. Being unfamiliar they may at first feel uncomfortable. This discomfort fades after five or six conversations. They soon become a rewarding and valuable aspect of the workplace. In these conversations the manager and one employee step out of their usual work roles and begin to know each other in a much fuller, personal way. Many changes begin with these conversations. Trust improves, communication flows more easily and people are more open to giving and receiving honest feedback. When a person feels acknowledged and understood, they naturally feel more empowered and become more engaged. They are then more inclined to tackle and solve problems previously left to management.

As managers meet with each of their staff and across division, these changes in relationships and attitudes begin to ripple throughout the company.

Cultural Themes

Once each manager has conversations with at least 6 of their staff, then all the managers on the team can meet to share themes that have emerged without fear of breaching any confidentialities. The themes provide the management team with powerful information about the company’s culture, including ways to further employee empowerment, and where leaders should focus their attention. These conversations, though confidential and focused on relationships, quickly become one of management’s most powerful sources of information for building a successful company.

5. Establish Employee Problem-Solving Teams.

An employee problem-solving team is 5 -7 volunteers from the same work area, led by their supervisor, that meets once a week for an hour to analyze and solve pressing problems in their work area. Any business unit should begin with only two, or at most three teams, until managers and supervisors understand how to manage them.

Training

Members of problem solving teams are first trained in basic data collection and problem analysis methods (in a production setting this might include; sampling, pareto analysis and basic statistics). Then they select a problem and begin collecting data to help them understand the problem’s root causes. The supervisor communicates team progress to management so there are no surprises. The team must involve everybody who is affected by the problem and its emerging solution. Once the team learns to analyze and solve local problems, they usually reach out and tackle broader system-wide issues that affect their department.

Management is invariably impressed at the depth and sophistication of the analysis, and the speed and sustainability of the changes. The participatory decision process brings a company-wide increase in trust and cooperation along with striking gains in productivity and cost savings.

Most Problems Are Related

Tackling significant issues usually draws in and solves related problems, bringing many benefits, e.g., one cleaning crew tackled their biggest frustration, product waste surrounding a production line. The eventual elimination of waste and improved cleaning practices garnered the plant a rating from the National Sanitation Foundation as, “The cleanest food processing plant in the United States.” But, along with sparkling floors came production line process improvements and reductions in product loss saving millions of dollars annually. Few problems exist in isolation. Solving one problem invariably solves others.

A Great Work Culture

When you have worked through these five steps you will have a highly productive, great-place-to-work — great for you, for your people, your customers, and your stockholders.

Warning — “Problem People”

Some people will initially resist the culture development effort. If they have suffered through corporate initiatives that come and go, they’ll wait to see if top management is serious before committing. At the beginning, assume that people who resist are simply responding to the old culture. Most will get on board as the culture moves in a good direction. However, culture change requires openness. About one in 20 people simply can’t be open. Be patient. With time, most of these people will voluntarily leave. There is usually no need to confront them.

cc 312 — © Barry Phegan, Ph.D

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311 — 25 Actions to Build Your Culture

Most of these items are familiar. Use any of them to build a more powerful and profitable workplace by deliberately reinforcing qualities you want in your culture.

Once you decide on the culture you want it does not matter where you start. Pick an action you are comfortable with from this list, or just as good, pick something you do every day, or maybe an upcoming project. Make the small change moving in the direction you want, see what happens, adjust, move forward.

1. Decide What Culture You Want

Meet with your management team to discuss and agree on qualities you want more of at work. Ask them to think of a real situation in their past, work or non-work, where they were highly motivated and excited about the task. With that picture clearly in mind, ask them to describe what they think it was that made them feel so motivated? Write down what each person says. Include yourself. Make the list your cultural goal, your desired outcome.

2. Reinforce Qualities You Want

Cultures change quickly when leaders make small changes in the way they do their everyday work, changes that reinforce qualities they want more of in the organization. For example, if you want teamwork, make team decisions, if you want better relationships, get to know people personally, if you want better cooperation across divisions, have division leaders visit field offices in pairs and do not tolerate public criticism by one manager of another department or its manager. If someone has a problem, help them resolve it with that other person or department.
It may take one or two months of steady practice for you and your managers to feel comfortable thinking and acting this way, but when you do you will experience very positive responses from employees, such as; people taking greater personal responsibility, smoother operations, and fewer problems walking in your door.

3. Build Relationships

Good relationships are the foundation for better communications, improved decisions, and increased performance. The most direct way to build relationships is by sitting down one-on-one and getting to know people personally. For more on this see “The Cultural Interview”.

4. Involve People in Decisions

When a decision is coming up that affects people, involve them in it in some way. This doesn’t mean you hand over the store, but it does mean you discuss issues and get ideas. You can always ask for people’s ideas on how to carry out a decision. See also number 9.

5. Communicate the Big Picture

Update everyone regularly on the big picture, how the company is doing, long-range plans, new clients, new developments, problems and opportunities. When people understand the big picture, they’ll make better decisions.

6. Show People How They Fit Into the Big Picture

Make sure employees understand the overall production process, particularly as it affects their work.
They should understand how they fit in, and how to measure their performance. They should particularly understand areas they can control, such as productivity, customer satisfaction, and material loss.

7. Reward Desired Behavior

Recognize and reward desired behavior with ceremonies, bonuses, and promotions. Make recognition very public and personal, so that it is clear to everyone what behaviors are valued and desired. Base promotions on values demonstrated, not just on a vacancy, operational skills, or narrowly defined financial performance. Remember that every action you take is a leader is an opportunity to reinforce desired cultural values.

8. Make Team Decisions

People want teamwork. It is a key to high morale. Encourage managers to share information, discuss issues, and make decisions with their whole team. Help managers see that one-on-one decisions don’t foster a culture of cooperation, teamwork, and trust.
As leader, resist the temptation to respond to one-on-one requests for answers from your direct reports. At your level the problems they bring most likely cut across the organization and effect other departments.
Whenever possible, put decisions into your regularly scheduled team meetings to reinforce teamwork and to make better decisions. Remind your own team that making one-on-one decisions may seem efficient in the short run but in the long run undermines a good company culture.

9. Use a Good Decision Process

Don’t jump to action before those affected have identified the real problem. Get the team together and ask each person to say something about these four questions: write what each person says on the whiteboard or flipchart. Don’t allow discussion or evaluation of any comments.

1. How do you see the problem, situation, or issue?
2. What’s a possible action we might take?
3. What should we consider before we decide?
4. Who would like to do what about this?

For more on this see Make Better Decisions.

10. Invite People to Speak Up

People don’t speak up in meetings or on the shop floor because they don’t feel safe or because they don’t think that anything will be done with their concerns or ideas. Change that. Encourage people to say more about the problem or suggestion (see Number 16 below).

Never evaluate of criticize an idea or suggestion with comments such as, “I didn’t think that will work.”
Turn questions back to the group, “Does anyone have any thoughts about that?”
Encourage action. Ask the group, “Any ideas on what we might do with this?” or “Is this something we should discuss further?” Make sure people understand that you’re concerned about their issues and pleased to help them personally move forward.

11. Open Up the Finances

Make sure employees understand the financial picture, particularly as it affects their work. They should know generally what value they add, what they cost, and the effect of overtime on financial performance. They should particularly understand any financial areas they can affect e.g. productivity, expenses, customer service, or waste.

12. Value People’s Ideas

Most employees have many ideas to improve their work, but many see no evidence that their ideas are valued. Change that. Meet with employees and work teams to discuss openly and without judgment, issues, opportunities, and new ideas. Let people know that what they think is as important as what upper managers think. Have groups analyze and recommend solutions to their own problems. When possible have them implement their solutions themselves.

13. Encourage Group 360° Feedback

Get the work group together. Have each person write on the board or easel pad one response from each person to these two questions. Include yourself. (Don’t allow discussion or comments.)
“What do I do now that makes your job easier? This is something I should do more of.”
“What could I do that would make your job easier, i.e. what new action would you like me to take?”
After everyone is finished, ask the group to discuss what happened and ideas anyone has on what they plan to do with the new information.

14. Develop Careers

Develop a realistic and attainable career development plan that meets people’s personal desires, interests, and goals. Involve each person in customizing their job so they can do more of what they want — and less of what they don’t.

15. Reassess Training

Formal training is ideal for skill shortages but rarely useful for cultural and human issues. You might use some training money to bring people together to discuss their road blocks at work. Most road blocks are at the people level of culture, for example with issues around roles, authority, trust, communications, information, and relationships. The other big problem area is usually workflow systems. Use the Four-Step Decision Process to identify top issues and what to do.

16. Don’t Take Away Other People’s Problems or Ideas

A person with a problem is motivated to solve it, so don’t take it away from them. If a person has a suggestion, coach managers not to say, “I’ll look into it and get back to you.” Help them say, “That’s interesting. Let’s discuss how you can move on that.”
Try these “Coaching” questions that help people keep problems and ideas where they belong — with the person who cares about them and is motivated to act on them.

“Tell me more about the problem?”. . .“And what’s behind that?”
“Whose problem is it? Who suffers because of this?”
“Who else is affected by this problem?” . . . “How could you involve them?”
“Do we know what the problem costs us?”
“What will solving it save? (What is the value added?)”
“How does this fit with our plans?”
“Are you willing to take this on?”
“What can I do to help you move it along?”

17. Identify Who Has the Problem

The first step in problem solving is identifying who has the problem. For example while management might not like production line breakdowns, the people who really suffer from them are the production line operators. They’re the ones with the problems. A “problem employee” does not have the problem unless they are personally suffering from it. If they were, they’d probably have changed. Adjusting a situation so that “the person with the problem” actually experiences having a problem, may require unfamiliar supervisor creativity. Identifying who has the problem can be difficult. By definition the person with the problem is the one who is suffering physically, financially, or psychologically. That’s usually the person closest to the action.

18. Don’t Blame — Solve Problems

People don’t deliberately make mistakes. If something happens, get the person or people together and try to understand what happened. Make sure everybody understands that no problem happens in a vacuum, there is always a cause, usually something in the system, and you want to find out what that is so the problem won’t happen again. If people think you are looking to find blame, they won’t speak up and you won’t find out how to prevent similar future problems. In any case, a culture where people look to blame others is not the kind of culture you want. It is unproductive and fearful — not a winning workplace.

19. Post Vacancies

Post vacancies so that all employees can apply. Give all internal applicants who were unsuccessful, constructive feedback on their rating, and areas they could strengthen for next vacancy.

20. Involve Employees in Hiring

Involve employees in the selection and hiring of any new employees they will be working with. When teams own the bringing in of new members they are highly motivated to make that new member succeed. This not only cuts turnover, which is very expensive, but involving the full team actively demonstrates qualities you probably want throughout the company — such as teamwork, involvement, responsibility, and trust. When a potential new hire is interviewed by his or her future team, he or she sees that teamwork is valued. Many people seek that kind of a workplace. It may be a deciding factor in persuading top candidates to join.

21. Interview New Employees

Get to know new employees. Build relationships, find out what they liked and disliked about their previous jobs. Let them know you care. Use the information to improve your own workplace.
Think back to when you were a new hire, what worked well and what didn’t, what you would’ve liked, and how motivated you would have felt if senior managers had sat down with you one-on-one, mentoring you along your new path.

22. Hold Exit Interviews

Understand why employees leave. When exit interviews reveal undesired cultural patterns, flag these and discuss them with your managers.
Note: Historically the most common reason for people leaving is a poor relationship with their immediate supervisor. You might find that one of your supervisors or managers, while highly skilled technically, is not a good people manager.
You might discuss this with the HR manager, but remember that what people do is always a reflection of the company culture, which is largely established by the leaders’ actions. In this case, discuss with your management team what you might be doing that inadvertently supports the undesirable behavior.
Try not to see the person as the problem. Rather understand that the culture is supporting the problem behavior. To change the behavior, change the culture. When you do this, most “problem behavior” disappears.

23. Conduct Employee Surveys

I’m not a big supporter of surveys because most treat employees as objects by not involving them in the survey design or in how the results will be fed back. But you can use surveys to build openness and reinforce desired values. Keep in mind the Golden Rule of culture — if somebody is affected by a decision, they should be involved in it. Involve employees in designing the survey, and the managers and employees in deciding in advance how the data will be fed back to everyone and used. The survey process should pass the “bulletin board test.” Do not allow surveys that treat people as objects. That gives a poor cultural message.

24. Make Sure Decisions Pass “The Bulletin Board Test.”

Post on the bulletin board the process you will use to make important decision that affect employees. Decisions might include promotions, bonuses, vacation schedules, training, assignments, hiring, employee evaluations, or anything else that interests and affects people. If employees feel that a decision process is legitimate, they more willingly accept the final decision, even though they might not like it. Remind everyone that a good decision process always involves those affected by the decision.

25. Hold “Culture Meetings”

Holding Culture Meetings is a sophisticated thing to do, and many managers feel uncomfortable when they start these meetings, but the results can be quite spectacular. Some managers call these meetings “No-Agenda Meetings”, but there is an Agenda — Relationships. Tell your team ahead of time that you will have a meeting once a month for an hour and the subject of the meeting is, “How we work together, relationships, communications — what we might do to make this a better workplace.” Because most people are used to problem-solving meetings — and this is not a problem-solving meeting — they want to come up with ideas for actions. Assure them that this meetings to build understanding. Encourage open discussion, particularly people sharing their work experiences and what these meant.

After three or four meetings people will start to feel more comfortable sharing their experiences, while not rushing to action or conclusions. Meanwhile you’ll probably notice subtle but significant changes in how people are working together outside of the meetings. After six or so of these meetings, i.e. after six months, the group may be comfortable moving these discussions into their regular operations meetings.

cc 311 — © Barry Phegan, Ph.D.

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