Category Archives: Cultural

The Direct Link Between Business Results and Organizational Culture

Organizational culture has always been seen as the “soft” side of business. It has been defined as the values of the organization by which an organization can maintain a “positive” work environment in which people will work. But, this is short-sided and missing one of the most important weapons organizations can use to improve business results. However, we need to look at culture differently to make a more direct link to business results.

Business results for many organizations involve one or more of the following criteria:

  • Profitability
  • Market share growth
  • Customer satisfaction/loyalty
  • Cost containment
  • New product/service development
  • Organizational growth and/or diversification

Each one of these criteria answers “what” organizations need to accomplish. And, while strategic plans provide a roadmap for each functional area’s role in accomplishing those criteria (goals), this still represents a further clarification of “what” each functional area needs to accomplish for the overall outcomes to be achieved.

The culture of an organization answers “how” each functions direction and the ultimate goals of business results are achieved. The organization’s culture is similar to an American Football Team’s choice of culture. Are they going to be a “running” team or a “passing” team? As you can easily tell, this isn’t based on a set of values like teamwork, integrity, communication, which are assumed for any effective organization. It is much more specifically designed based on the nature of the business and how it will maintain a competitive edge.

For instance, the culture of a fast-food chain is very different than a gourmet restaurant. In a fast-food chain, the culture is fast-paced, highly standardized, highly mechanized, and designed for mass production. This impacts an approach to decision making, communication, teamwork, and performance management very different from a gourmet restaurant which is slow-paced, ambience-oriented, highly individualized for each customer, and focused on quality over timeliness. While each type of restaurant may have similar values, the way they carry out their functions need to be very different and in alignment with the organization’s purpose, goals, and desired business results.

The culture therefore answers, “how” an organization must function to optimize business results. The culture of an organization is represented by how the organization “executes” to achieve its business outcomes and goals and is represented by the following criteria or questions:

  • Is decision making timely, involving the impact departments and implemented in a unified manner or is decision making stuck in over-analysis, silo-decisions which don’t include impacted areas, and is inconsistently implemented by those making the decision?
  • Is information shared openly between functional areas, and up and down the organization in a way, which is useful for people to make decisions without getting bogged down in over sharing of information?
  • Do people feel safe to surface problems when they are small and take initiative to find solutions or do people wait until a problem becomes a crisis and then begins by finding who to blame for the problem rather than bringing the appropriate people together to solve the problem?
  • Are future leaders being developed at all levels of the organization in a clear and deliberate manner that includes success planning and individual/team development plans in preparation for growth and an aging workforce, or is the organization too busy achieving so many priorities and goals that it doesn’t have time to fully implement or follow up on development plans even if it is a company goal or value?

However you may have answered each of these questions as a subset of your culture, these represent your “habits” of execution that is either contributing to your business results or becoming a roadblock to achieving your business results in the most effective manner possible.

How can you effectively develop new products and respond to customers in a timely responsive manner if you aren’t making decisions effectively?

How can you effectively grow or reduce your workforce to respond to changing business conditions if you aren’t developing them as leaders (technically or managerially)?

How can you accomplish a higher level of business results with less resources, when crisis management is dictating people’s focus and energy which costs valuable time, money, and human effort?

Just as any performing group gets very clear and assesses their execution before a live performance, organizations which are successfully becoming benchmarks, are determining the optimal execution necessary at each level of the organization and within each functional area to optimize business results. They define the “habits” of execution necessary for success and measure their execution linked to business results.

While organizations are tracking competencies and scorecards associated with business results, the highly successful organizations are tracking their key “habits” of execution correlated to their business results, which encompass competencies but in a way, which focuses on delivery not just skill.

Assessing Your Culture Linked to Business Results

1. Have you clearly identified the “ideal” habits of execution for each level of management and individual contributors that would optimize your business results?

2. Do you have a process for measuring those habits on a regular basis and fine-tuning them to get even better results the way any other performing team reviews and up levels their habits of execution?

3. What are the habits of execution in your organization that are undermining your success on a regular basis and which level of the organization is mostly accountable for those habits?

4. What is the organization doing to change those habits in a coordinated way?

How Your Management Style Creates Your Company Culture

Spend some time trawling the Internet or chatting to the people around you about their jobs and you’ll hear any number of horror stories about bad bosses and bad experiences that break down morale and cause employees to run screaming for the hills.

So what are the habits and actions of bad bosses that cause negative company cultures, alienate employees and actively break down productivity in the workplace?

If you sat down with fifty CEOs, MDs and Senior Managers and asked them whether or not they think they are good leaders and managers, chances are you’d get fifty resounding yeses.

If you had to speak to the employees of those same fifty Executives and ask the same question, you’d probably get fifty vehement nos.

Being a leader or manager is by no means an easy task, and the more people you engage with and lead the more difficult it becomes.

This issue needs to be tackled and well thought out, because the way in which you engage and treat your staff, will impact directly on the culture of your company, the productivity of your staff, the general mood, atmosphere and morale in your office environment.


As human beings, we’re somehow programmed to look for and point out the worst in any situation or person.

It doesn’t come naturally to us to open up and offer positive input to the people around us.

Managers who work with a strategy of shame are guilty of actions like:

  • Ridiculing and belittling team members, both in private and public settings
  • Tying the worth or value of team members to achievement, productivity and compliance
  • Blaming and finger pointing when something goes wrong
  • Using put-downs and name calling
  • Favoritism of certain staff members
  • Demanding perfectionism

In action, you’ll see managers who use these techniques shaming and ridiculing team members in long meetings, ensuring that the team will dread walking into meetings, whether one-on-ones or group settings.

You’ll see staff members focus more on compliance issues like making sure they’re at their desk exactly on time in the mornings and after lunch, and being more worried about clock watching than to focus on their work with enthusiasm and passion.

You’ll find staff members take too long to deliver work because they’re afraid of rejection… or checking, double-checking and triple checking because they’re afraid of the comeback on one little mistake.

In a shame-driven management environment, staff become almost entirely focused on staying quiet, being perfect, and trying to remember all the rules and regulations they have to follow in order to keep their direct superiors happy.

That’s a whole bunch of wasted energy that could be put into enthusiasm and excitement for their actual jobs.

No one likes to be belittled, shamed, or ridiculed – especially not in front of his or her colleagues and peers.

As a manager you may feel as though you’ve put them in their place so to speak, but what you really have done is alienated them, killed their enthusiasm for their work and created an atmosphere where the majority of their energy is put into making sure you don’t notice or see them because they dread any interaction with you.


Every company has its shining stars and we all hope for this recognition in the organisations and environments we engage with.

Unfortunately, not everyone is a shining or rising star – however, it’s not something that the other minions want to be reminded about at all. Especially not every day they spend at work.

Healthy competition is wonderful, but it’s also very difficult to get right, because people are still people with emotions like jealousy, envy and anger… and loads of issues to deal with like self-worth.

When the competition and comparison becomes too intense people start backing off with their ideas, because in their minds you’re only going to listen to the shining star anyway… the idea that they have is plain stupid and won’t matter – so why even bother bringing it up?

The constant comparison breaks down their self-worth and the value they place on the work they do. Most notably though it erodes their interest in their job, and they start to withdraw their creative ideas and input.

Management by comparison in the workplace can look like:

  • Overt and covert comparing and ranking, e.g. why can’t your work look as good as Sue’s does?
  • Holding employees to narrow, specific key performance areas and criteria that does not allow them to use or express their unique gifts and talents
  • Comparison to an ideal person or way of being that is used to measure everyone else’s worth


Disengagement could probably be the heading for this entire article, as shame and comparison also directly result in disengagement of staff.

The people in question may be your employees and you’ve hired them to do a specific job, but first and foremost they are people with emotions. That means it hurts them emotionally when you run them down, ridicule them, compare them to other people and make them feel as though they are less than anyone else in the organisation.

When people are hurt emotionally, they withdraw or disengage.

When people are hurt on a repeated basis, they shut down completely and basically just start killing time until they can find another position and leave.

When a culture of disengagement exists in an organisation, you’ll see the following symptoms:

  • People are afraid to take risks or try new ideas
  • People stay quiet instead of sharing stories, experiences… this may extend to office chatter and coffee breaks. People simply sit and work in stony silence, waiting for their lunch break or home time so that they can just leave
  • People stop paying attention and listening
  • People struggle to be seen and heard, which can result in negative and disruptive attention-seeking behaviours

Being an effective leader

If you think you know everything, then you still have a lot to learn.

What you do and say with every person that works for and with you impacts the culture of your company and the environment you walk into every day.

A few small changes in how you manage and handle your staff makes an enormous difference in the kind of input, creativity, and energy they bring… and can make an enormous impact on your bottom line.

So which of these actions are you guilty of… and what can you do today to let your staff know they are appreciated, valued and loved?

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