10 Steps to Build a Growth-Committed Culture

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Over the past few years, I’ve been helping CEOs focus on corporate growth by creating effective strategies and developing strong cultures focused on the company’s mission. I’ve had the opportunity to use my organizational psychology training and insights from Vistage Inside (for executive team development) and ETW (Execute To Win) (for entire organizations). I thought I’d share 10 steps you can take to build a strong growth-committed culture.

  1. Articulate the company’s purpose (mission, vision and strategic goals).  Everyone needs to fully understand why they come to work every day and how their work fits into the bigger picture.
  2. Define the cultural elements. What values and behaviors do you expect from everyone (e.g., being honest, responsive or proactive, and customer-centric?  As David Friedman describes in Fundamentally Different, his company applied 30 core values (called Fundamentals) on a daily basis. The leadership team determined what they are for the company as a whole. Having the top leadership team determine the values is key to building a powerful culture.
  3. Develop specific criteria to measure them. Each manager then has to Identify the specific behaviors that exemplify the value for his/her staff members. For instance, customer-centric involves probing to identify relevant needs related to search for the right product/service; but a sales person and customer service operators probe for different information.
  4. Do the same for each person’s strategic performance activities. One strategy for getting repeat business may be to engage in follow-up. However, relevant criteria is needed, such as the need to contact the client within 2 working days to see that all is fine and turning the issue over to someone who can correct the problem and checking afterwards that it’s been taken care of properly.
  5. Hire people who already possess these cultural and strategic performance elements. Recruiting should be focused on identifying people whose values and behaviors indicate they will fit into the culture and execute the strategy. Unfortunately, too many people are hired without specific focus on these critical elements. (See Brad Smart’s Topgrading for more information here.)
  6. Implement an evaluation system. ETW formalizes a system to ensure that each employee focuses on practicing the desired behaviors as often as possible. Each supervisor sets expectations with each staff member concerning the behaviors that are They also agree on an objective measurement system (e.g., 0-10 ratings) by which the two can agree on success. Thus, a person who “follows-up†always gets a 10; people who don’t get lower ratings, based on the scoring system.
  7. Focus on Continuous Improvement. Supervisor-Employee discussions review current performance (e.g., 7 out of 10), and set expectations for the next meeting concerning what specific actions will lead to a higher score. Improvement often takes time.
  8. Get people the help they need. If the employee needs additional training, coaching etc. support, the supervisor needs to follow-through. Remember, the Supervisor’s boss will evaluate him/her on how well he responded to the employee’s needs to improve.
  9. Celebrate achievement. Using systems like ETW make it easy to identify progress by an employee. Celebrate the achievement to spur further growth by the person; also use it as a role model to insure others.
  10. Look at the big picture.  Using systems like ETW which collect data across divisions/plants of a company allows the company to identify those areas of the company of greatest need for clarification, criteria specificity and training in evaluating and giving feedback. Viewing how same cultural elements operate throughout the company provides greater perspective for what needs to be done at each level of the organization.

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