Values live in the realm of the invisible therefore many of us struggle to get the employees (and ourselves) to become the living example of our stated values. Executives are often discouraged several months after a strategy session when they realize that the work of designing a culture based on values is more difficult than anticipated.
Building a values-based culture begins with two requirements: Communication and capacity.
One of the most commonly asked questions in my work on culture is how long will the change take? When will we have the culture we need? There is no simple answer to this question because a multitude of factors can influence the speed of culture change across an organization. But there are things you can do to speed up the process.
A healthcare services organization recently shared a discovery conversation as to how we could support and enable them to develop a compassionate and caring culture. They had some clarity as to their organizational aspiration—what outcomes they wanted and why it was important to achieve them. They had also collated significant Patient Care information and had key elements in place to do what they believed to be important in order to deliver compassionate care to patients.
However, they lacked a common understanding as to what “compassionate care” might mean, how it manifested or not, and how it might impact people’s experience and productivity at work. They were also concerned that staff did not have the time, energy, and the permission to be fully present and accommodating to provide compassionate care, considering the diverse range of individual patient needs and complex problems.
HR has always appeared to be the natural home for the mechanics of leading culture change. In recent years, however, I’ve observed another human resource in the executive team. A person whose influence over culture is potentially the most powerful of all: The Chief Financial Officer.
Each month I receive an email with a preview of the latest leadership books. There are always five or six new entrants in this already crowded field. Meanwhile, my Twitter feed overflows with three steps, five tips, and seven ways to improve engagement, build trust, and employ mindfulness.
Yet with all this knowledge available, employees don’t seem to feel as if they are being led any more skillfully than in the past. In my travels, I encounter people frustrated by seemingly arbitrary rules, vague visions, out-of-touch bosses, and a lack of development opportunities. They are confused by labor laws and company policies, which often are evolving more slowly than the work arrangements of an agile, tech-enabled economy. Further, data from Gallup has shown that workforce engagement has hovered around 30 percent for years.