Some organizations have a stated purpose. Some, core values; others, guiding principles. Some organizations have clear goals, and they focus on a few choices to achieve them.
All organizations have a culture, whether it is explicit or not. Implicit cultures may be determined by the founder, the owner(s), or more often the boss — by what she or he says and does.
In my experience, people listen to what you say, but they watch what you do. And if there are any disconnects or inconsistencies, they’re far more likely to follow what you do.
One of my favorite definitions of culture: what employees do when they don’t think anybody is watching. A wise Japanese leader once told me (I lived in Japan for eight years and worked throughout Asia for over 25) that you would realize a high-performance culture when employees always tell you the truth.
Ingredients of a Winning Culture
Two O’s, two E’s, and three C’s make for a winning culture — one that’s robust and resilient enough to not only survive, but also thrive in crisis.
The First O: An Owner’s Mindset.
A firm foundation is an owner’s mindset. Managers, supervisors, and employees who behave like owners treat every customer as the boss. They work cooperatively and seamlessly with others, and they watch every dollar coming in and going out as if it were their own.
The Second O: Openness.
Open-minded to new ideas from anyone, anywhere, anytime. Open to learn from another’s idea about how to improve the product, service, or operation. Open to the needs and wants of customers first and foremost, but also the needs of coworkers, partners, and other important stakeholders.
The Two E’s: Engaged and executing to deliver the results that will achieve the goal.
In study after study, the first key to employee performance and satisfaction is engagement. And, unfortunately, the number and percentage of employees who say they are really engaged — full on and focused on the job at hand — is much lower than the boss believes. Engagement, of course, is also the first critical step for building a strong customer following, as well as essential for attracting the right investors for your small business and the best donors for your nonprofit. How will you build engagement at your company or your nonprofit?
Execution, of course, is all that matters in the end. It is the only strategy that customers, coworkers, and your market ever see. It’s what employees actually do, and what they must do to satisfy and serve customers and ultimately deliver the results that make the difference between success and failure, between winning and losing.
The Three C’s: Connected, Collaborating, Committed
Three C’s round out the adaptable, flexible, resilient, and disciplined organization needed to navigate through crises and come out as strong as or stronger than you went in.
Connected and collaborating is the essence of teamwork. Playing your position. Doing your job. Doing your best when you are on your own. Doing your best when you are working seamlessly as part of a team. Independent and high-performing as an individual; inter-dependent and high-performing as a team.
Last but not least is committed. Passionate about the cause and the business. Commitment that engenders a strong work ethic — the grit and the drive to deliver results against all odds. These are the intangibles that often can provide the competitive edge for your business or organization.
No two crises are the same. A natural disaster like an earthquake or a hurricane is relatively short-lived. It hits hard without much if any warning. Preparation beforehand and disciplined best practices during the event are important, but the biggest challenge tends to come in the aftermath. Putting the pieces back together. Drawing on the resilience and strength of the organization to stand up a business that has been knocked down.
Open-ended, longer-lived, more volatile, uncertain, and ambiguous crises, like the multivariable one we are wrestling with now, are more difficult to navigate. They require an adaptable and resilient organization and effective everyday leadership to make it through.