Anamcgary's Blog

Leadership thoughts from PeopleFirst HR


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After Corporate Changes; are you still a fit?

Whenever some kind of organizational change happens, both employers and employees can experience an unexpected “crisis of confidence.” Whether the change is a merger, upgraded software system, marketplace positioning, new CEO—here’s what emerges:

• Suddenly and mysteriously, people don’t feel quite as talented and capable as before.

• At the same time, the organization is wondering where its talented people went.

The real fact: no one suddenly got stupid!

Second fact: Something else will now need to change.

You or Them?

When you were hired it was a good fit because of how business was conducted. Now it doesn’t seem that way. Here are some considerations when companies and employees find themselves in a talent mismatch as a result of changes:

1. Companies: Take time to re-assess the breadth of talent that exists in your employee base. You may not have been using the range of talents that individuals possess because you (naturally) hired them against a given set of criteria.

Real-life example: In the past few years I’ve had the opportunity to assess three executives who were on the, “We’ve changed, their role isn’t needed anymore, I guess they have to go even though they’ve been really effective” list. In two of the three cases a broader assessment showed that they were gifted in areas that hadn’t been tapped into before. Those two remain with their organizations in new roles and are contributing meaningfully and productively.

2. Individuals. Maybe it isn’t such a good fit. The faster you figure out the reality of the situation the faster you can make a decision to stay or look elsewhere.

Important Tip: The longer you hang out in a mismatch the more you will question your adequacy. So, knock it off! You are talented and you’ve been performing in a talented way. The situation changed, not you. Get yourself into another winning situation before you conclude that the problem is you.


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Can Corporate Culture be Changed?

Organizations seek out my assistance in helping them make their organizations better. “Better” might mean more effective leadership, higher performance, improved employee retention, effective compensation plans, improving team performance or simply creating a more cooperative, positive work environment.

After a thorough assessment of a client’s current operation and needs assessment, I am in a better position to present solutions that will address their gaps. Some of those solutions involve  policy changes, process changes, some involve personal coaching, and some involve proactive culture refinement — culture change.

When considering culture change, many senior leaders believe that corporate culture cannot be changed. I’m not surprised at this belief.  In my experience most senior leaders, throughout their entire careers have not lived through successful culture change. Even fewer have led successful culture change.

But here’s the question: Can you change how an organization performs?  Absolutely! By changing how individuals perform, leaders can change how the organization performs.

Leaders can change the way individuals perform by:

  • Setting clear performance goals.
  • Directing, supporting, coaching and delegating where needed.
  • Measuring progress and accomplishment.
  • Celebrating progress and accomplishment.

These activities, done consistently with a service approach often lead to increased employee performance which almost always affects service quality and commitment which leads to happier customers and growing profits. This is the service profit chain at work.

Changing your organization’s culture is no different from changing how your organization performs. It requires intentional definition of, communication of and accountability for your company’s:

  • Purpose: The reason you are in business.
  • Deliverables: Your committment to high-quality products and services.
  • Culture: Values you stand for and live by daily with stakeholders, peers and customers.

Corporate culture is the most important driver of what happens in organizations, and senior leaders are the most important driver of their organization’s corporate culture.

To change an organization’s culture, leaders must change how they spend their time and what they communicate and reinforce on a daily basis. They have to change what they pay attention to.  Their focus shifts from great performance to great performance WITH great citizenship.


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Accountability – A desired behavior

When I meet with potential clients I try to better understand the challenges they are facing and how I may or may not be able to help them.  I typically ask a series of questions about their current state, about their desired state, and then about the priorities for addressing identified gaps.

One of the biggest concerns raised is often times the lack of accountability across their organization. Many times organizations implement a training session in an attempt to change behavior.  Something I always bring up is that “skills building alone” does not change behavior.

In my experience, there are some excellent ways skills building (training) can address leader behaviors and practices in a workplace. And, training will result in leaders demonstrating desired behaviors only if the organization’s culture supports leaders modeling those new behaviors.

We have all experienced training participants learning new skills and practicing those skills – quite effectively – in a structured rehearsal setting during the training. Observing those players demonstrate those skills could lead one to believe, “OK, they’ve got it now!” However, until desired behaviors are observed in the workplace, on the job, in real-time, one must believe that the training hasn’t translated into workplace behavior.

SKILLS for holding others accountable are different from ACTIONS for holding others accountable.

If skills have been effectively taught but desired actions are not observed, there are other things getting in the way. Attention must be focused on eliminating any policies, procedures, systems, or dynamics that hurt or hinder the demonstration of desired behaviors.

Four Steps to Consistent Accountability

Accountability is a huge requirement in the high performance, values-aligned culture. Our proven culture change process helps senior leaders be explicitly clear about performance and values expectations, and then hold all organization members, from senior leaders through front line staff, accountable for exceeding those expectations.

Our clients have had tremendous success creating consistent accountability by implementing these four steps:

  1. Process Coaching – senior leaders need guidance on how to proactively champion their desired high performance, values-aligned culture. Experienced consultants coach the senior leadership team on these steps and other vital activities to ensure traction.
  2. Create clarity – Create specific & measurable performance goals. Define values in behavioral terms. Get agreement from all players to embrace both.
  3. Gather & Share Data – Monitor performance progress regularly and provide feedback on the good, the bad, and the ugly. Create a custom values survey which ranks the extent to which leaders demonstrate desired valued behaviors each day. Share these results within three weeks of final data gathering. Run the values survey twice annually. Successive runs of the custom values survey will include staff as well as leaders.
  4. Praise & Redirect – Regularly celebrate high performers and great citizens (those who demonstrate desired values). Promptly redirect leaders and staff to increase performance to standard or better citizenship. If a values-aligned player struggles to meet performance expectations, reassign them into a role where they contribute. If they are unable to contribute in any role, you need to lovingly set them free – let them find employment elsewhere. If a player does not demonstrate desired valued behaviors, you must reaffirm values expectations and observe closely. If they can make the shift to values-alignment (it is rare), celebrate! If not, lovingly set them free.

What accountability systems have you or your organization had success with to increase accountability for performance and values?