If you are not thrilled with your results of your business or team you could have a company culture that does not support what you want to achieve. When this is the case, a cultural shift will redefine the behaviors that lead to better performance. Here’s how.

Definition of Culture

We define culture to be the sum of all your employees’ beliefs, thoughts, and behaviors. Of course, those employees with more influence (ie: senior management team) will have the ability to shape people’s beliefs, thoughts and behaviors over time, but the reality is an individual’s beliefs have been formed over many years and from having many experiences which establishes the way that they think in a variety of situations, and also the actions that they take and behaviors that they exhibit on a day to day basis. It is the collection of all of the beliefs, thoughts, and behaviors that create the underlying and invisible culture in your company.

Interestingly, it’s only the behaviors that are visible. We can see the actions that people take or hear the words that they say but cannot see with our naked eye their thought processes that goes on unconsciously behind their behaviors and actions. With that in mind, it’s the behaviors that other people will react to, so let’s see what we can do to shift behaviors in order to adjust the culture that you have to be one that supports you.

Is a shift necessary?

When shifting anything, you’re going from one state to another state, that is to say any major change has a current state and a future state. The key with your culture is to know what you have now and then define what it is you would rather have. This may take some work because, as we pointed out, culture includes beliefs, thoughts and behaviors, but for now begin with what are the behaviors that you have now and what are the behaviors that you would rather have? It’s possible that your core values in your company might be okay, but then something is slightly off with the supporting beliefs, thought processes and behaviors that need slight adjustments to enable the core values to live and manifest in your company and team results, as well as the method by which you achieve those results.

One way to come up with your list of behaviors that you would rather have is to recognize the behaviors that are in place that do not support the direction you are headed. What is it that you don’t like about what you have today? Then the goal is to replace those behaviors with what you would rather see. By the way, you can do the same exercise for thought processes and beliefs but there is more work required when you dive deeper into the motivation at individual levels, so let’s stay at the behavior level for this discussion.

As you look at your list of what you would rather have, if it is indeed significantly different than what you have today then your task is to replace those behaviors that are undesirable with behaviors that you would rather have and to answer the above question YES; a shift is necessary.

How to make the shift

The key to making change stick is first education about what is desired and second to reinforce those expectations. To be clear about what is desired, people need feedback. You need to state publicly what your expectations are for the culture you are defining and the behaviors you want to see. Then, give feedback any time behavior does not align with what you have desired. This is absolutely necessary so that people can break away from habits and become consciously aware when their behavior does not align with what you desire.

It also helps to have some supporting systems and processes in place that help reinforce desired behaviors so that it is not solely on the shoulders of individual bosses to give feedback to their teams. Let’s come up with a list of suggestions that you might implement in your company.

Here are four:

  1. Have a culture symposium
  2. Create a behavior contest
  3. Demonstrate desired behaviors at the senior most level
  4. Align your performance management system

Lets go a bit deeper into each one.

Have a culture symposium

This is an exciting way to build some momentum around the culture you desire and the behaviors you expect to see. It will involve the senior management team declaring that while things are okay, they are not as great as they could be, and share that we want to have an exciting culture that keeps our employees motivated and engaged and helps deliver awesome results. You can then include in the culture symposium agenda with more detail about your core values and ultimately the behaviors that line up with the belief and thought processes to support the core values and deliver the results that you want to see in your company. We have helped businesses design these events and have had great success with the reception across the employee base.

Create a behavior contest

This is a fun way to help raise people’s awareness. The contest is basically to catch people “behaving well”. This means to have a behavior or set of behaviors that you want to see more and/or challenge the employee base to catch people in the process of exhibiting the desired behaviors. You can have prizes, such as stars or certificates or go bigger with nominations or larger prizes like movie tickets, dinner, gift certificates or even cash gifts. There is clearly a way to escalate for those who are nominated and demonstrate consistently over a period of time the desired behaviors that you want in your company’s culture.

Demonstrate desired behaviors at the senior most level

People watch what you do more than they listen to what you say, therefore it is critical to make sure you are exhibiting those very behaviors you are asking everyone else to adopt into their normal everyday routines. Of course, this applies across all management levels. However, because of the traditional power of the organizational structure where people pay attention to their boss and their bosses boss all of the way up the food chain, it is important that this is a top-down, lead by example opportunity to gain more traction in your company culture by having the senior management team live the very core values and demonstrate the very behaviors that you think are necessary for great success in your company.

Align your performance management system

By performance management system we mean all processes and methods to monitor and help deliver high performance for your company. It includes longer term processes to evaluate company level results and the results of various project teams towards hitting goals that align with the company strategies. It also includes those shorter-term processes at the individual level to make sure individual employees and team members are delivering the behaviors and the results that they are expected to contribute. To focus these on results and behaviors, you can create some simple modifications to the way we traditionally think of performance management.

For those longer-term projects and processes, you can create some type of behavior metric like an annual survey score that you want to see improve year over year. For the shorter term and individual performance review, conversations you can have as part of an individual performance appraisal would be to define a specific behavior score or set of behavior expectations that you itemize and give regular direct feedback as part of the performance appraisal exercise. This way it becomes clear that not only are they expected to achieve the operational improvement or financial results, but also behavior results that align with how you want the game to be played, not just win-at-all-costs mentality that have a negative impact on the team.