By JOSEPH TAN
Companies have long recognised that it takes more than just bottom-line profits to sustain their business model – ironically, there is a need for non-monetary focus areas in order to keep the money coming in! This is an issue of value-based sustainability.
In this article, five areas of common and ordinary failures are highlighted as to why corporate values start off with plenty of good intention but fail to deliver when it comes to daily employee attitude and behaviour. These failures are so ordinary that many organisations have accepted them as “ground reality”, but it need not be!
#1 Strategic planning retreats
Matters of strategic importance are usually debated and discussed within the confinements of senior leadership – usually held in an island resort over three days and two nights. What normally happens is a predictable sequence of events:
1. Plenty of flip-charts and slogans are created.
2. There might even be a “battle-cry” or catchy phrase invented.
3. The process of merchandising then takes place – badges, posters, campaigns, etc.
4. Everybody gets excited… for a while.
5. Gradually, the old ways start creeping back in.
6. Time to plan for another retreat!
Strategic retreats fail for the simple reason that leaders are disengaged from their employees throughout the year. So, what is tabled and discussed during the strategic sessions are favourite “hobby horses” and “pet ideas” with no grounding in grass-root reality. Everyone leaves the wonderful retreats feeling good, but not feeling the ground.
Here’s the tip: Before you plan for the next breakthrough strategic retreat, spend time to know your troops. Get to know their stress, pain, struggles and challenges. When you are able to connect their core pain with your core values – then you have a powerful work culture coming your way.
#2 Regular Team meetings
There is a difference between communication and conversations. Much of what is happening is the boss communicating to the employees on assigned corporate expectations without addressing the possible responses from individuals. All corporate values rise and fall upon the attitude and behaviour of the individual.
No corporate memo is going to change the way employees work unless steps are taken to converse with them i.e. talk with them rather than talk to them.
While there is nothing wrong with regular team communications, you ought to consider that matters of attitude and behaviour require that the leader speaks to the heart of the employee. Hence, the need for Character-Wise Conversations.
Here’s the tip: In addition to focusing on preparing great motivational speeches in team meetings, take time to have one-on-one conversations – especially with high potential employees. Conversations allow the exchange of ideas, thinking and most of all – it affords you with the space to listen. Being attentive to the individual is one of the greatest gifts of appreciation one can hope to receive. The saying is true – people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
Conversation is a way to communicate not what you know but to show how much you care.
#3 Being a nice manager
The person in authority has two important and equal mandates:
1. To reward those who do well.
2. To reprimand those who do not.
Many managers are comfortable with the first role but when it comes to confronting non-performers or those who do not adhere to stated corporate values, it is not done immediately. When leaders do not uphold high standards, they get what they tolerate.
When non-compliance is tolerated, then a negative message is sent out to those who do comply i.e. the leaders have double standards – in short, there is hypocrisy.
Here’s the tip: As a leader, you must be comfortable with both recognising and reprimanding your employees. Do not wait untill the performance appraisal to have that conversation. Remember, culture and morale is affected by daily leadership actions, not spurts of motivational speeches.
#4 Creating more policies
Policies are great – they show that planners are working hard! That’s it. The reason why policies are needed is because people do not have enough motivation and strength of character to “self-police” their own behaviour. While there will always be a need for policies and guidelines, we ought to realise their limitations because while policies spell out the boundaries, they do not inspire people to stay within those boundaries.
Here’s the tip: Before you come up with another rule, remember that matters of value and character are more caught than taught. For example, do not set a rule for punctuality until you have demonstrated it consistently yourself. Then when the rule is introduced, it is a confirmation of what you have already been doing.
#5 Team building programmes
Team building programmes are great fun! They create a lot of energy and enthusiasm during the training period but rarely address the one vital principle necessary to connect values with behaviour.
People follow those whom they admire.
The wise organisation is one who puts priority to enhance the reputation of those in leadership. In other words, leaders are equipped and trained to “get their act together.” Are leaders in your company trained to resolve conflicts, hold courageous conversations, motivate for performance and coach for excellence? Without these basic skills in people management, then the team building programme rests on a weak foundation.
Here’s the tip: Before you think about rolling out a mass team-building programme to communicate corporate values, plan for the training of all people managers first. Without their personal commitment, there exist that critical “execution gap” and the team-building programme ends up being more of a holiday trip rather than an opportunity for self-improvement.