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Igniting Your Team to New Levels of Performance

Almost every leader I have interviewed and or worked with, tells me they want a high-performance team. In fact, the number of team building training sessions, workshops, books and ropes courses equate to more than 10,000. Clearly, when it comes to constructing a team of people who work well together to create winning outcomes, knowing ‘how to’ and understanding ‘how to’ are two very different phenomena. Let’s first distinguish elements of a high-performance team, by reviewing what a team is, is not, and revisiting Patrick Lencioni’s world famous book, The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team.

Engagement, accountability and purpose are all table stakes required to build a high-performance team, and all three of those requirements are grossly suffering across most of today’s organizations. A solid workplace culture exists when people come together for a common purpose and align their efforts around that common cause.

The strong and astute organizational leader is one who is committed to optimizing their resources and maximizing their return on their investment. Given the people expense is often the largest investment in any enterprise, creating this kind of culture is simply smart business. As a leader, empowering your workforce to unleash their strengths and encouraging people to collaborate and innovate, leverages people’s ability to act as a team and produce results.

In work cultures where people focus on only their piece of the puzzle, it leads to silo mentality and ultimately breeds ineffectiveness and inefficiency. A high-performance team cannot exist in an environment where competition and one-upmanship prevails. When people on the team focus on each other’s limitations and detriments, and on the why things cannot be done, they all too often miss opportunities to make the organization better. Additionally, teamwork is adversely impacted when the people on the team feel the need to focus on fighting and jockeying for authority or power. This need to be ‘better than’ decreases collaboration and limits innovation. It is a recipe for stagnation and conflict, neither which drive long-term results.

In Lencioni’s book, he boldly shines the light on what does not work for a team. While he has sold over two million copies, implementing his fundamental teaching seems to be much harder said than done. As leaders, it requires rewiring our minds and our teams to repair an absence of trust. However, before you can rewire, you first need to be aware and responsible for the absence of trust in the first place. When people avoid conflict, it is most often because they either have a fear of retribution for saying what needs to be said, or they lack the self-confidence and may second guess their competence, which constraints their ability to speak up and call attention to something that is not working. When people on the team are not engaged, or are not on the team for the right reasons, it instigates a lack of commitment. Frankly, even the best of leaders cannot inspire a lame duck. Unfortunately, an avoidance of accountability seems to be the number one epidemic in organizations today. Having those crucial conversations, holding the bar high and implementing consequences for poor performance is behavior that is avoided by most, like the plague. Again, this might stem from leaders not having the confidence to believe they have the ostensible authority to hold people to account, a lack of training or it could be poor former modeling that could cause it. Lastly, when the leader and the people on the team do not focus on the big picture or don’t focus on achieving specific measurable results, the team might work hard, however, they rarely fulfill on the purpose and intention of the team’s focus.

Whether you are seeking to create a high-performance work team or a high-performance culture, there are 7 steps for creating the circumstances that high performance and teamwork can thrive.

1. The first step in creating a high-performance team is identifying and clarifying the purpose for the team. People must understand the WHY behind what they are doing. Once the purpose for the team is crystallized and talking points are clearly outlined, it is the Initiator of the team’s role to connect the dots for people to see how they relate to it. Communicating an inspiring vision for the people on the team and mapping what success looks like when it is achieved, is a foundational element for congealing a group of people and getting them geared up to work together in unison.

2. The second step in establishing and building a high-performance team is selecting the leader. The leader does not have to be the person who invents the possibility and purpose for the team; it does need to be a person who accepts the responsibility for shepherding and guiding the team to success. The leader’s job is to be present, and to be there for the team. All teams go through the four stages of forming, storming, norming and performing, and the skilled leader is right there with the team through it all.

3. Establishing the rules of the game is the third step in building your team. People need to know what is expected from them, and from the team. People need to know and understand where the boundaries are regarding decision-making, autonomy and performance. Giving people the rules of the game before they agree to play it, allows for people to opt in or opt out of the team and the game. Advanced clarity of expectations also reduces unnecessary problems, reduces ambiguity and confusion, and serves to mitigate poor performance and unwanted turnover on the team.

4. Now that you have the vision, the outcomes and rules of the game, it is important to think schematically about who will do what and which skills and competencies are needed to accomplish the end game. The fourth step is selecting the players for the team. Whether you are building an enterprise or a team of people to accomplish a project, it is crucial that you select the right people for the right roles, for the right reasons. When this happens, people are more inclined to commit, which is the baseline for team engagement. When people are engaged, they have a strong desire to bring value to the team. When people enjoy the type of work they are doing and are able to connect their work to the bigger picture engagement soars. Engaged people focus on what is working and look to leverage talents in themselves and others for the betterment of the goal. It is wise to identify how the roles interact with one another, and how the team needs to be constructed to deliver results. The best team dynamics happen when there is a variety of people who bring their uniqueness to the team. Beyond competencies and skills, it’s important to consider unique traits that each team member brings to the table and how those unique traits can be leveraged for optimal creativity and innovation. Every successful team has one of each of the four primary communication styles on it. A high-performance team needs someone who is decisive when it comes to initiating or redirecting the project or program. A team also needs someone who promotes the program and inspires people along the way, as well as at least one team member focused on looking for potential pitfalls, has a contentious eye for what is missing and uses it to alert the team of issues and solutions for refinement along the way. Lastly, an effective team needs a person or people who are there to do the hard work of implementing the work to achieve the results in a steady and stable manner.

5. Step five in establishing and building a high-performance team is a step that is most often skipped. This is the Level Setting step. When a group of people comes together, it is crucial that they learn how to work together effectively. Whether your group has a history or every member is new, people always come to a new work situation with past behaviors, attitudes, beliefs and ways of being that may or may not be effective on this team and with this new set of people. Level setting allows each member of the team an opportunity to begin again. During a level set, team members explore their limiting beliefs and barriers to working with others in a productive and effective manner, and do the necessary work to unload those factors that get in the way. Through experiential learning, the team as a whole is challenged to work together in ways they never considered. Even the most effective, astute and self-aware people discover limits that were previously hidden from their conscious view. The team lays out the pathway for the best way to work together, how they will resolve personality conflicts and internal challenges with dynamics of the team. At the completion of the level set, the team creates a collective possibility for the team that is inspiring to each and every member of the group.

6. Once the team is selected and everyone is aligned with the vision, outcomes and rules of the game, it is time to start planning. Planning is the sixth step in creating a high-performance team. The best approach for the leader during planning is to be a source for inspiration, questions, and guidance. Leaders who step too far into planning, create teams that are dependent on the leader and lack creativity. The best leaders select the right people, inspire them toward a vision, and back out of the way during the planning stage; unless they are specifically asked for guidance. If the leader notices a problem with the plan, rather than pointing it out, it is much more empowering to ask questions that provoke the team members to activate their critical thinking skills to answer and think potential challenges through. The empowering 21st century leader may ask if the team anticipates challenges along the way, and whether they do or don’t, makes himself available for coaching during the ongoing check-ins.

7. Step seven in creating conditions for a high-performance team to flourish, is to establish a regular process for checking in, tracking progress and celebrating successes, as well as identifying obstacles and strategizing how to overcome them. When people are aware of the milestone meetings and rely on regular feedback, it reduces uncertainty and unnecessary stress. Laying out the stages of organizational effectiveness, beginning with what it means to be operating in formulation and concentration and then defining criteria for low, moderate and high momentum, gives the team an opportunity to self-regulate, correct and celebrate as they see fit. Utilizing a customized version of the agile methodology, is an excellent means to keep progress on track and support the team in attaining momentum with their project, program or goal. Daily stand-ups, bi-weekly declarations and intention setting, as well as bi-monthly retrospectives, give teams a structure they can count on and gives the team healthy guardrails to work independently and remain responsible to each other and the organization as a whole.

While knowing and understanding are two very different distinctions, doing is the link that shifts knowing to understanding. For the impatient leader, doing may be a challenge because progress is most often only experienced incrementally. Building a high-performance team is not about exponential breakthroughs. If they happen, great; however, if sustainability is your goal, impatience is your enemy. Teams respond best to a system that allows them to learn, move forward, fall, learn from mistakes, move forward again and sustain progress over time. When high concentration and effort is celebrated, and low momentum is acknowledged and genuinely appreciated, teams build confidence and fortitude to stay the course and achieve high momentum and sustainability.

Fulfill your company’s mission through workforce alignment and a thriving corporate culture. Keen’s process thoughtfully prepares your human system to accelerate the mission in alignment with your organization’s core values. For our customers, the level of achievement gained through improving company culture has resulted in:

  • Up to 20% decrease in operating expenses
  • 30% decrease in unwanted turnover
  • 45% increase in discretionary effort
  • Up to 35% increase in overall engagement and performance
  • Up to 25% increase in bottom line profit

SHOUT OUT to Kelly Simcox, Principal Architect and CEO of Studio G Architects in San Jose, CA. In the height of COVID-19, she pulled her team together to shape her company’s Mission and Values. 17 team members gathered on Zoom for a collaborative brainstorming session that is paving the way for their future.

#corporateculture #leadershipdevelopment

By: Margaret Graziano

In today’s disjointed world, most people say they feel disconnected and apathetic in regards to their jobs.  With all the negative noise streaming in from multiple modalities, people are often overwhelmed with demotivating and disturbing messages. These negative messages get in the way and distract people from thinking straight and staying focused at work.

Feeling a strong connection with the mission and vision of a company is one of the top global drivers of employee engagement. CEOs who are committed to strengthening employee engagement work hard to advance their skill of inspiring others and creating buy in.

Why do some leaders easily catalyze their teams towards new goals and achievements while others seem to struggle just to maintain the status quo?

One of the primary traits of a successful leader is the ability to inspire people around a purpose, a mission and a vision. Leaders who are most effective at motivating and organizing people towards a common vision do 5 key things very well. They work diligently at sharing their vision and persistently at articulating the direction & mission of the organization. They outline the strategy & plan and openly communicate the company core values, their expectations and the definition of done.

These 5 keys are the cornerstones to creating companywide alignment that boosts engagement, morale and overall success.

1. Share & Inspire a Compelling Mission

Great leaders regularly bring people closer to their purpose and the purpose of their work. If the vision for the organization is not inspiring—or is only to make a profit—it is pretty challenging to inspire others and get them to rally around it.

Employee engagement research states that for people to feel a connection with their work, they need to be able to envision themselves achieving purpose at work. An astute leader nurtures alignment among their workforce by linking the key performance indicators of each role in the organization to the overall key performance indicators and objectives of the business.  When people are able to “connect the dots” from what they do each day to how it impacts the customer—and maybe even the world at large—they are much more engaged and concerned for what they do and how well they deliver it.

2. Institutionalize & Perpetuate Guiding Principles and Values

Building guiding principles and core values into the culture is a very powerful way to institutionalize and perpetuate the right behaviors throughout the organization.  Leaders who are serious about their core values and guiding principles discipline themselves and their organization to only hire people who are aligned and have the ability to demonstrate those values and principles through the right on the job behavior.  Behavioral and values-based interviewing is a key component of a values driven organization’s hiring process.  In these same types of companies, leadership development and succession planning programs are created and built on the foundation of the core values and guiding principles.

3. Clearly Articulate Expectations and Intended Outcomes

Organizational objectives and desired outcomes are best achieved when clearly articulated and repeated often. Business leaders often voice frustration because their message in its true intent is not reaching all the ranks. The reality is, most people need to hear things 7 times before committing it to memory. Therefore role requirements, goals and objectives also need to be repeated frequently enough to ensure everyone involved is present to and aware of the game plan and what it looks like to win.

Some leaders of larger organizations cascade their message to the workforce through their trusted and capable management team. Others design a communication strategy and deliver their message through a series of channels; like individualized emails, the company intranet, daily from the desk of “CEO” thoughts, weekly CEO talks, or monthly town hall meetings and newsletters.

4. Foster Excitement & Celebrate Forward Momentum

Alignment happens intrinsically when people are gathered together in service of a mission bigger than themselves.  They are called forth by the purpose and the mission and then measure their success by milestones and accomplishments along the way.  A leader that celebrates forward movement, learning from failures, taking risks and working collaboratively to remove barriers and advance is a leader who teaches his troops to keep their eye on the prize.

5. Build Trust Through Open Communication & Clarity

One of the most important components necessary to nurture and grow workforce alignment is for the leader and management to have a strong relationship with their word. Trusting senior leaders and management is a critical driver of employee engagement.  Integrity and open communication is one of the most crucial behaviors of highly effective leaders. People do not trust a leader of an organization who does not follow through on promises or has a reputation as someone who re-negotiates agreements after the fact.  Creating boundaries and agreements as well as honoring those agreements and boundaries is where the rubber meets the road with honoring one’s word.

Trust is not about being perfect and certainly not about keeping things static and steady. It is about clearly communicating when and why things need to change, and giving people advance notice of those changes and how they can best adapt.

In today’s shifting & highly competitive global talent market place companies and business leaders are searching for ways to reduce unwanted employee turnover, raise employee engagement and maximize returns on human capital investments.  Building and fostering an Aligned and Purposeful workforce is a sure way to optimize, energize and retain your best people.

Inside Out Paradigm: The Key To Influencing Cultural Transformation
By: Margaret Graziano

The heart and soul of any organization is its human system – the people inside, how they communicate, cooperate and operate with each other.

Human Resources leaders understand at a visceral level that a healthy corporate culture is required to elevate organizational performance, deliver elevated customer experiences and achieve long term business success. However, most HR leaders fail to effectively influence system-wide culture change in the human system and organization they serve. The key to effectively influencing cultural transformation is in understanding the “inside out” nature of the human system within the business.

What Is A Human System?

A human system is a set of people working together as an interconnected network. Every organization is a human system. When both HR and business leaders begin to approach their organizations from this paradigm, the very nature of employee engagement, cultural alignment and breakthrough performance changes.

Business leaders may know that culture is fundamentally about people, however, a gap occurs because they don’t see their impact on the human system and overall organizational culture.

Paradigm Shifts Are Required

Given culture is about people existing within the Human System, the first step in creating a high-performance culture is to begin to see what’s been in the way and to acknowledge that culture is an inside-out game.

When business and HR leaders operate from an outside-in approach to culture, they lean on generous compensation packages, parties, and other external incentives meant to inspire and motivate employee engagement. While competitive compensation, perks and plenty of time off for recalibration are proven to attract and retain people, there is no proof that these benefits actually engage the heart, soul and mind of people at work.

This new decade calls for a wake up call. Today, an HR leader on the inside is an ideal conduit for business leaders in learning to understand and own the responsibility of unleashing the wealth of wisdom and talent in the collective.

Shift #1 – Treating people like resources and HR personnel like resource managers.

The old paradigm of treating people like resources, leads to both HR and business leaders unintentionally relating to people matters from that paradigm.

The more people are relegated to the resources paradigm, the more macro and micro infrastructure is relied on to manage those resources. The more structures are relied on to keep the people in line, the more the people experience lack of connection, engagement and commitment.

Structures that are perceived as barriers to self expression, creativity and teamwork impede employee initiative and innovation, thereby hampering overall organizational performance. Most employees have either conditioned themselves or have been conditioned to get along and work within an existing framework, even if that framework isn’t beneficial. Unless there is a platform for inviting and eliciting feedback in a safe and non confrontational way, the average employee will leave the boat rocking to the type “A” squeaky wheels and risk takers. This unconscious bias towards going with or against the flow unintentionally shapes a destructive culture that gives the perception of polarity between the defensive, oppositional personalities and the passive, complacent personalities.

Taking inventory of the organizational structures that limit potential and therefore possibilities is a worthwhile endeavor for an organization seeking a new kind of culture. The best way to assess if your structures are liberating or constraining is to ask the people closest to those structures. There are a myriad of liberating structures available to innovative thinkers who desire to make incremental improvements in how leaders engage people in the organization.

Shift #2 – The Title of Human Resources

The next paradigm under the scope is the Human Resources title. HR is an outmoded position title and a misrepresentation of the 21st century role. It perpetuates the wrong message. Money, machinery and tools are resources, people are not.

The reality is that the person or persons responsible for shaping and managing the human systems are more leaders of the collective than managers of “human” resources.

The paradigm of HR being the department responsible for keeping the people in line and solving “resource” issues is completely off base and no longer serves those who hold the title, the employees at large or the business leaders they are meant to serve.

The new paradigm is that leaders of the human system (people operating as an interconnected network) are partners in shaping, guiding and influencing a high performance, “best place to work,” corporate culture.

Rather than operating in a reactionary mode, the new age HR leader strategizes methods grounded in the organization’s purpose, core values and philosophy. They promote integrating people with the business model to deliver on the organization’s mission.

Considering that most HR teams report they spend 35-50% of their time operating tactically in “fix it” mode, this paradigm change calls for the HR team to adopt an inside-out mindset and a grounding in what it means to be a catalyst of a constructive, high performance culture.

The old paradigm, where people are the jobs they do, does not work. When human beings are not grounded in their value as a person, only identifying with the job they do as the means to their self esteem, they are vulnerable to interpreting critical role feedback as a personal attack on themselves. Typically this shows up in the workplace as the employee feeling criticized, marginalized and hurt by any feedback that isn’t positive.

However, when both the employer and manager are fully grounded in their value as human beings outside of the role they play, they give and receive feedback about role performance separately from who they are. This deep understanding of the role, separate from identity, allows for candid feedback, honesty and connection between manager and employee. This is where success lies.

Leaders of the human system have the opportunity to shape this understanding by facilitating conversations that highlight the difference between identity, personal value as a team member and role performance. This kind of conversation typically takes place in a role analysis process or a comprehensive position requirement orientation and requires the leader to intentionally lay the tracks for separating the two distinctions. While the intention of the role certainly needs to be fulfilled, when the person considering the role is given clarity up front on expectations and agreements they are better able to consider the impacts and choose their commitment from a settled and present state of mind.

Shift #3 – HR roles do not fix performance problems.

Another paradigm that no longer serves organizations or the people in them is that HR is responsible for handling performance problems. It is and always has been the responsibility of the business leader to deliver on the objectives of his or her role. It is solely the responsibility of the leader to understand how to make the priorities happen with the people in their organization.

The outside-in paradigm is that the people are the problem, while a paradigm operating from the inside out instills that if there is a problem it begins with me, as the leader. It does not mean, I am the problem.

As shepherds of the human system, it’s ultimately up to leaders to shape the system and that is inclusive of the selection and development of your managers. The first step in making this happen is to reflect on the consequences of not doing this. When you take a step back and look at the humans in the organization, both management and their employees, wisdom about what needs to change emerges.

All of these micro paradigms roll up into macro paradigm shift and that macro shift is how leaders view themselves and their contribution to shaping the human system and a constructive, high performance culture.

The outside-in paradigm is that I am at the effect of my boss, the CEO, the bad managers my CEO promoted.

The Inside Out paradigm is if it’s to be, it’s up to me and I am fully at cause in my response to the things going on in my environment.

A grounded Leader in any role and especially in the role of caring for the health and welfare of the Human System is clear on their mission and purpose. A leader who is confident and secure in their being, brings a deep sense of wisdom to their Role and shapes how they communicate. The grounded leader isn’t agitated by the unworkability, they are called forth by the desire to make a positive impact.

A grounded leader has the self awareness, the capacity to tap into their innate wisdom and a deep knowing that whatever is occurring outside is seen through their version of their reality. In stressful moments and times of crisis, these grounded leaders tune into their highest level of awareness, naturally take a step back, recalibrate and seek clarity before digging in to solve the problem. A grounded leader approaches breakdowns, challenges and constraints in the human system with curiosity and seeks to understand before jumping to a conclusion or assumption. Lastly, the grounded leader is connected to their innate wisdom and counts on that wisdom to illuminate self delusion when the Ego wants to take over and make everyone else, or every thing else other than the leader him or herself wrong.


The macro paradigm shift that has been knocking at every organization’s door is to shift the thinking about where organizational performance comes from and how to shape it.

Leaders of the human system and the business make getting to know the people within it a top priority. When all work initiatives commence with connection to and among the people responsible for producing the result, the people are better equipped to think and respond to the business and customer needs from a mindful and aligned approach.

The only long term sustainable way to engage people is from the inside out.  Connect with the people in your organization, learn what makes them tick and seek to understand what they need and want. Then, provide the necessary tools, training, resources and follow up so they can get their work done in a streamlined, efficient manner and empower them to deliver.

If you want to learn more about this, Margaret Graziano, Top-Rated & Award-Winning Corporate Culture Speaker
is Available for Remote or On-Site Training:

8 Steps to Transform your Corporate Culture
By: Margaret Graziano

The engagement level of your workforce expands beyond the limits of offering tangibles such as a great benefits package, competitive market rates, flexible work schedules and challenging projects. Your company culture is truly your competitive advantage.

Most leaders are intent on shaping a constructive, collaborative and innovative workplace; however, accomplishing this eludes most. The following 8 steps are tried-and-true advances to creating a great place to work.

1. Understanding That the Organization is a ‘Human’ System

The human system is made of people and poses a higher degree of competency from all those who operate inside it. A human system requires much more cultivating as a living and breathing system is made up of many different people with thousands of perspectives, thoughts, beliefs, points of view, preferences, etc.

In a highly functional human system, such as a constructive corporate culture, the functionality of the system as a whole empowers individuals to fully participate with one another outside the limits of personal agendas and ego and inspires people to collectively collaborate and contribute to the group cause.

Understanding the realities of the human system allows you to become responsible for intervening in the ‘drift’ and consciously shaping a culture that operates outside the automatic, normal human conditioned patterns.  When leaders of organizations understand the fundamental human operating mechanism and how thoughts work, they can proactively intervene and intentionally create an experience for people operating in the human system to thrive.  This intentional experience is a constructive corporate culture.

2. Getting Curious About What Is So

When you take the time to peel back the onion and analyze the current condition of the human system in your organization at a macro level, it gives you insights into the root causes of labor disputes, stifled workforce productivity, unwanted employee turnover, and lack of employee engagement.

It is imperative that you inform your people what you are up to and why. When you do reach out and let them know that you want to have a conversation or send a survey about culture, share the purpose behind your curiosity.  If you are unclear about your reason and purpose for learning more, wait until you are filled with purpose or compelled by a real business need to move forward.

Before you begin your inquiry process, ask yourself what you really want to learn and what will you do with the information once you learn it. As you are speaking to people and reviewing the results of the survey, embrace your most curious, non-judgmental, non-reactionary, authentic self. Staying in the neutral zone during your conversations allows you to sense patterns and discern systemic organizational themes.

3. Acknowledging the Unworkability

Every executive has an image of how the ideal organization operates. The first step in any positive organizational change effort is getting real—the acceptance of what needs to change and what needs to happen to have the change last.

Make a list of the areas uncovered in the data collection process (interviews, focus groups, surveys) and prioritize the highest impact areas. The highest impact areas are highest because if improved, they would glean the highest return on time, money and effort invested.  Next connect the underlying behaviors, operating values and organizational processes or mindsets that intentionally or unintentionally constrain the overall engagement, performance, collaboration, and innovation among your workforce.   Once you believe you have a handle on what is not working, it is important to allow the impact of this unworkability to move you into action.

 4. Owning the Impact

Like it or not, the most senior executive is the ultimate guru with regards to how the organization operates. They decide what behavior is tolerated and how people treat each other.  Introspection and self-awareness allows you to get real with yourself about what is really going on in the organization.  If you are able to let go of self-judgment and defensiveness, you are much more able to see yourself as at the source of the unworkability.  It is not about accepting blame or feeling guilty and taking responsibility for the problem; rather it is about seeing how you as the leader set the tone and create the space for constructive or destructive behavior to exist in the workplace.

5. Creating an Inspiring Vision

A mission statement is meant to guide the way for people to know and understand how to behave, act, react and work in sync with one other to accomplish the collective goal.  In the absence of a grounded, motivating mission, human beings naturally focus on their individual experience and personal goals. The power and detriment of personal thinking in a human system is that it produces silo mentality, unnecessary competition and friction throughout the organization.

6. Enrolling Others

Enrollment creates the possibility for others to feel connected and inspired in the workplace.  Once you gain clarity of your mission and vision, communicating the message to the workforce is essential.  Communication is often where messages break down. Realize that every person in your workforce has a unique perspective and way of listening, and target your message to the greater population and the varying degrees of listening. When crafting the message discern the impact it will have on the people hearing or seeing it.

7. Designing and Following a Road Map

Once you have inspired the troops and promised a bright future for all who lead and follow in the organization it is time to formulate a specific action plan.  A cultural alignment road map includes desired outcomes, initiatives, programs, training, projects, people, and timelines.

Each person involved and engaged in shaping a constructive corporate culture needs to understand their specific role, the amount of effort required outside of normal responsibilities, the goals, and the desired organizational outcomes.  Laying out a plan for what comes first, second and third as well as who is ultimately responsible for keeping the overall action items and constructive culture initiatives on track is necessary to move forward.  As with any major organizational improvement, meeting regularly, tracking progress and publishing results is what empowers forward movement.

8. Measuring What Matters

Now that all the groundwork has been established, you know the why, what, how, and who, it is critical for success that you measure the benefits of the systemic changes you are making.  Many organizations utilize the balanced score card approach as a framework for setting the right metrics.  Additionally articulating and tracking the key result areas impacted by shaping a constructive culture gives insight and information that tells people in the organization what is working and what is not, what needs to pivot or realign, and what needs to stop. Without system wide accountability from the top to the bottom and every one in between, the organization won’t flourish.  A core component of a constructive culture is achievement.  When you measure what matters, people pay attention. Through accountability and transparency people get to see their impact, how the team is doing and how the culture improving is elevating the organizations’ operating effectiveness.

In Conclusion

The eight steps to transforming your corporate culture from the inside-out are not difficult to walk through. They are not revolutionary. These steps are simply a common sense approach to bringing out the best in people in the places they work.

5 Double-Edged Sword Philosophies that Lead to Destructive Company Culture
By: Margaret Graziano

Most of us spend the majority of our time at the office or actively working inside or as part of a human work system.  Whether we are conscious to it or not, the corporate culture of an organization can make or break how we feel about the organization and our place in it.

While most awake and aware leaders say they want a constructive corporate culture, many are uncertain of what it really takes to shape it. Consequently, these executives and managers unintentionally lead their people toward the fatal, destructive side of the culture coin. They do this by buying into five double-edged sword philosophies: Winning above all else, commanding and controlling, opposing others, pursuing perfection, and keeping the peace. These philosophies will undermine your mission to craft a constructive corporate culture.

1. Winning Above All Else

Winning is an incredibly powerful motivator. The desire to win can move mountains and bring in profits, however, when the need to win overwrites better judgment, fragments and erodes core values, runs over people, and leads people to the brink of exhaustion, it must be called out and new behaviors that promote and inspire must be integrated into the culture.  In pursuit of results above all else can cost relationships, health and wellness, trust, quality and safety.

Inside competitive work cultures, members are often expected to operate in a “win-lose” framework, outperform peers, and work against (rather than with) their co-workers. What begins with a healthy race often devolves into unproductive dog-eat-dog internal workplace behavior.

A once healthy desire to “beat the competition” gone unchecked, very often, creates opportunities for unproductive behavior and perpetuating neural pathways and automatic ways of thinking and being that result in an organization eating itself alive. This shows up on the floor by people arguing for win/lose scenarios, in-fighting for power, control, rewards, promotions and resources. A focal shift from we to me, where silo and personalized thinking prevail.

Even though the intentions of leaders who want to “win” is most often well-meaning, a workplace culture that values winning above all else can be fertile ground for destructive behavior and employment brand erosion.

2. Commanding and Controlling

In power-driven organizations, hierarchy reigns and members of the management team are expected to take charge, control subordinates, and yield to the demands of superiors. Historically, this has been the ‘right’ way to lead and for many decades it actually worked. This model is flawed, however, and those managed by people who admire and enjoy this model atrophy and stagnate. In workplace cultures where this type of behavior is rewarded, the powerful take over and the powerless surrender.

When leaders and team members are expected and even encouraged to power up over others, people in the organization often view themselves as pawns in the micromanagement chess game, or simply as cogs in the organizational profit wheel. They lose motivation and initiative and give less of their discretionary time to make the organization better. Commanding and controlling is a vicious cycle, and the only way out is to call it out, and inspire a new way to lead and a new way to follow.

3. Opposing Others

In oppositional workplace cultures, there is often a root of overcoming obstacles that afforded the organization sustainability and success over years. But what often got us here will not get us there; and opposition is one of those elements of culture, much like winning at all costs, that turns the organization against itself. In work cultures where members are expected to be critical, oppose ideas of others, and make ‘safe’ decisions, people drop into fear, and suppress their ideas and creativity. Opposition shows up in communication such as, “Yes, but,” “We already tried that and it failed,” “I have been here for years and I know it won’t work,” and “No, because.” While everyone ought to be singing from the same overall hymnal and working together in tolerance and engagement, members of this type of organization spend far too much time navigating personalities and conflict, than collaborating, innovating and solving problems.

4. Pursuing Perfection

In other cases, there are leaders of quality-driven organizations who pride themselves with a commitment to excellence. While that intention may have been initially pure and congruent with the leader’s values, all too often the unconscious underlying behavior that is fostered with this value, is perfection. In a culture of perfection, people do not take risks, they do not try new things, and they almost certainly do not put themselves or their reputation on the line to color outside the lines.

Leaders of many modern organizations often stake their reputations on delivering excellence or superior service. There are not many CEOs who would stand behind sending out sloppy work, or delivering code to customers littered with errors; but there is a subtle difference between standing for quality and being in pursuit of perfection.

Perfection, by nature of its definition, leaves very little room for risk taking and creativity in your organization. When curiosity is stifled and looking good is the primary focus, mistakes are hidden, learning is mitigated, and growth is constrained. In an environment where perfection is celebrated and rewarded, conventionality emerges as a safe bet for staying out of the boss’ cross hairs. In a work place that prioritizes perfectionism, members are expected to conform, follow the rules and make a good impression, and the byproduct of making a good impression and following the rules is that creativity and risk taking are thwarted and innovation becomes impossible. Resistance to change becomes a blocker to progress and complacency sets in. While certain roles demand perfection or someone could die, perfection as a culture, limits and constrains what is possible for the organization and the people in it.

5. Keeping the Peace and Getting Along

Everyone who is anyone in business understands the need to cooperate with others in the workplace and the need for teamwork and collaboration. However, creating a work culture where everyone has to be liked and everyone has to get along with little to no emphasis on performance or results, most often leads to over-the-top consensus building, perceived favoritism, a loss of focus and ambition, inconsistent accountability and a very destructive fear of conflict.

In a work culture where needing approval is a core component of how the organization works, team members are expected to agree with, gain the approval of and be liked by others. In a workplace such as this, disagreements are frowned upon and people are encouraged to go along with the crowd—even when the crowd is prepared to drive off a cliff. When team members fear conflict, even constructive conflict, they are incapable of engaging in debates or openly voicing opinions. The team avoids conflicts, which involve speaking up against bad decisions thus leading to inferior organizational results.

It‘s imperative to understand that “keeping the peace” workplace cultures can be an insidious thief of organizational and talent optimization.  Keeping the peace has the potential to rob the organization and its people experiencing the highest levels of role fulfillment and role satisfaction. When people and the human system they operate in does not actively engage in productive ways of being including constructive conflict, speaking their truth, giving new ideas, and sharing insights of what is not working, they can never really get to real engagement in the workplace.

The five double-edged sword philosophies can sweep the rug out from under your company’s overall mission and set you drastically off track. Shaping constructive culture is about intentionally causing the kind of corporate culture that exemplifies your brand promise. This takes a solid and palatable intention for that culture as a holistic human system, a system of people operating as a living and agile organism. Intentional culture is all about monitoring what you are creating and making necessary shifts along the way to ensure you are accomplishing what you set out to by creating the intentional culture in the first place.

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