Culture drives everything that happens in your organization … good or bad!

culture organizational constitution

What critical success factors do you monitor closely in your business?

Most leaders I speak with tell me they primarily watch performance metrics—widgets out the door, services sold, installations, market share, profitability, and the like. Customer service rankings come in a distant second.

Both of those factors are important. Organizations must be profitable and must have loyal, happy customers. Leaders must definitely pay attention to results and service.

However, over three decades of research and experience have taught me that there is a third factor that deserves a leader’s intention and attention: the health of your organization’s work culture.

The fact is that the health of your organization’s culture – the extent to which your work environment consistently treats team members with trust, respect, and dignity – has a huge impact on individual and team performance as well as customer service.

The culture of your team (or department or division or plant or region or company) is the engine that drives your team’s success – or it’s lack of it. It drives innovation or stagnation. It drives transparency and sharing of information – or secrecy and withholding of information. It drives “all for one” cooperative interaction for success – or “I win, you lose” behaviors with a few winners and too many losers.

Unfortunately, most leaders do not know how to proactively manage their team’s culture. They’ve never been asked to do that. Most have not experienced successful culture change much less led one.

Leaders are incented and rewarded to deliver results – and, maybe, customer service. Those are the things that get measured, monitored, and rewarded. Few leaders are incented and rewarded to ensure their work culture treats employees – and customers – with trust, respect, and dignity, in every interaction.

Leaders must take charge of the quality of their work environment.

What leaders need is a proven framework, a how-to guide for crafting a purposeful, positive, productive culture. They need a step-by-step approach that helps them make values, citizenship, and teamwork as important as performance.

That proven path is through an organizational constitution.

An organizational constitution specifies your team’s purpose, values and behaviors, strategies, and goals. It creates “liberating rules” that help leaders and team members understand exactly how they are expected to treat each other and their customers every minute of every day.

For example, when your team’s “integrity” value is defined in observable, tangible, measurable terms, it is easy to see when leaders and team members are modeling those behaviors in every interaction.

Once leaders define their organizational constitution, they must invest time, energy, and passion to embed those agreements. Leaders must live their organizational constitution – and coach, refine, and redirect others’ behaviors to ensure everyone in their organization lives those agreements.

Leaders can’t delegate the responsibility of culture health to anyone else – not to HR, not to a steering committee, not to an outside consultant. Leaders must spend as much time creating workplace inspiration as they do creating workplace performance.

Don’t leave your culture to chance. Define your desired culture with an organizational constitution then align all practices to that constitution.

What have I missed? What questions do you have? Let me know in the comments section below.

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S. Chris Edmonds is the founder and CEO of The Purposeful Culture Group. After a 15-year career leading and managing teams, Chris began his consulting company in 1990. Since 1995, Chris has also served as a senior consultant with The Ken Blanchard Companies. Chris provides high-impact keynotes, executive briefings, and executive consulting. He is the author or co-author of seven books, including Leading At A Higher Level with Ken Blanchard. Learn how to craft workplace inspiration with an organizational constitution in Chris’ latest book, The Culture Engine: A Framework for Driving Results, Inspiring Your Employees, and Transforming Your Workplace. His blog, podcasts, assessments, research, and videos can be found at http://drivingresultsthroughculture.com.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Kim White

    Hi Chris,

    I think you make an important point that most leaders have not witnessed cultural change. I would add that I think many have never witnessed or been part of a healthy culture and, therefore, don’t know what they should be shooting for or why it’s better. Would you agree?

    I question putting all the responsibility at the feet of the CEO. What happens when that CEO leaves? I’m doing my master’s thesis on culture and core values and my research shows great disagreement on who is responsible. Some say it is the CEO, others say it is HR, and some suggest the senior leaders have to take charge. What have you experienced that makes you focus on the CEO?