Anamcgary's Blog

Leadership thoughts from PeopleFirst HR

Is your organizational culture what you think it is?

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In my role I have the opportunity to work with leaders at all levels of all kinds of organizations. About half of my work involves leadership skill building and team process effectiveness; culture for the most part makes up the other half.

It is impossible for me to go into an organization without subconsciously (maybe consciously) assessing the culture of their work environment. I observe and listen for how people are expected to behave, to perform, to treat each other and their customers.

I often hear about practices and philosophies from the leadership that clearly is not in practice within the organization.  And I can say that you need to use a lot of diplomacy to tell the CEO, “I know what you’re saying happens, but it doesn’t happen that way”.  It’s hard to hear that you have tried to build something a specific way and that way is not happening.

Whether an organization has intentionally created their culture or that culture evolved by default, it does have a culture that is tangible and observable. If your culture was created by default, it is likely that unintentional values or norms exist. If you consistently see conflicts,
blame, poor performance, and frustration, your culture is eroding employee morale with every passing minute! Let’s look at two very powerful systems which may reinforce undesirable valued behaviors in your organization.

Rewards and Incentives

Whether you have formalized values and valued behaviors or not, rewards and incentive systems can cause distinct behaviors, some good, some not good. For example, if you desire a team culture but your organization offers only individual compensation, you will likely see “I win, you lose” behaviors by team members.

A few years back a client described the following inappropriate, incentive-driven behaviors by a salesperson. The company paid a very low base; over 70% of sales staff compensation was in the form of commissions. One salesperson negotiated with a few of his big clients to sell
them product at the end of each quarter. The sales person enjoyed commissions on these sales. Then, one month into the new quarter, he would process returns of that product and refund the client’s money. He was generating commissions on “ghost” sales. This went on every quarter. Everyone – the salesperson, the client, the finance team of his company – knew what he was doing and tolerated this behavior. Eventually the company changed the rules about commissions on product returns, but the damage had been done.

 Recognition and Messaging

Every time you publicly celebrate someone for a behavior or action, you are reinforcing that behavior or action. If you recognize a player for goal accomplishment but everyone knows that they’ve taken inappropriate short cuts (for example) to reach that goal, you are reinforcing undesirable actions.

Even praising the RIGHT behavior can have unintended (and undesirable) consequences. One client celebrated a staff member who learned the wrong materials had been shipped to a client. That person packed the right material and drove to the airport just in time for overnight shipment by UPS. Recovery was expensive but the materials arrived on time. The client celebrated this terrific proactive solution and such recoveries became more frequent. The client realized they needed to celebrate solving the “why do we ship the wrong materials?” problem more than celebrating the recovery!

You don’t have to be a CEO to create values clarity in your own workteam. If you experience unintentional values in your workplace, start setting values expectations now.

Author: anamcgary

Ana McGary is a seasoned Human Resources and business professional with over 25 years of human resources management and executive leadership experience in Fortune 500 organizations, large and small companies in various industries. Ana is a results oriented HR Business consultant who offers business leaders and executives human resources and business guidance and solutions that enable them to grow and retain their employees and customers. She founded PeopleFirst Enterprises, Inc. in April 2010. PeopleFirst offers human resources practices, guidance and outsourcing services to emerging, small and midsize businesses in the Southeast market. In today’s changing world, capital is scarce. Because PeopleFirst is smaller than some of its larger competitors, we are able to provide similar services that are not pre-packaged and are designed to meet the business needs of each customer at a significantly lower expense. Ana’s areas of expertise include all aspects of human resources management, employment and labor laws, leadership development, multi-site operational management, operational policies, processes and procedures, staff performance optimization, benefits/compensation design, merger/acquisitions integration, and management and executive coaching. Her passions include organizational effectiveness, leadership coaching & development, facilitating individuals, teams and organizations to reach their maximum performance. She has written several articles for business publications and speaks at several conferences throughout the year. Ana has consistently been recognized by her customers as an exceptional communicator and professional adviser. Ana maintains her Professional Human Resources certification as well as her Paralegal certification requirements. She is an active member of The Society for Human Resources Management, nationally and within several southeast chapters. She is also a member of the International Coach Federation and the Georgia Coach Federation. Ana serves as a Board Member for It’s the Journey, Inc. A Georgia based charitable organization and producers of The Atlanta 2-Day Walk for Breast Cancer. She is also a member of the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and is fluent in Spanish. PeopleFirst’s approach to Human Resources is partnering with executives, presidents, vice presidents, directors and business owners in managing the human side of the ever changing world of business. We combine creative strategy with tactical leadership to help organizations meet their desired business objectives.

One thought on “Is your organizational culture what you think it is?

  1. Pingback: Values in Organizations | KingPinCoach

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