The values poster is killing internal culture

 
 

Values can be inspiring...

but rarely are they transformative for a business. Too many companies struggle to imbed their values within their business. Why?

I think the answer is that companies seldom create ways for their people to participate in a manner that reinforces the expected behaviours. But some forward thinking companies do, and their lessons highlight a glaring gap that we’re seeing more regularly. The gap is: Some companies tell people what they expect and put posters on their walls to reinforce what they’ve just said. While other companies create rituals that encourage their people to participate in activities that align to their values and reinforce required behaviours.

I was fortunate enough to hear the ex VP of User Experience and Product Services, Rochelle King, share her story about her time at Netflix. Netflix believe that debate is foundational to their culture. And if your company culture is all around debate you need your people to be skilled at articulating an argument. To reinforce this value, Rochelle staged debates within the company. They debated in all sorts of formats too: One-to-one and three-on-three. Netflix employees would debate hot topics within the company at the time. E.g “Netflix has a culture of fear – pro and con”. They even assigned people against the way they would normally argue (now that's how you encourage empathic behaviour).

Rochelle believed these competitive debates created a safe environment for people to practice debating. It helped people to become braver. People said what they were thinking in their heads but weren't willing to say publicly. These debates helped people to develop and improve skills and behaviours that were critical to their success.

At Ocean we have a long standing ritual aligned to our values. Every Monday one of our team has 10 minutes to present something they find inspiring to the whole team (we call it 'Inspiration Sensation'). It reinforces our internal values of Dive Deep (Seek understanding and insight) and Catch the Wind (Inspire ourselves, our clients and each other).

Rituals can be both organisation wide and team level. Your organisation wide rituals might be more grand and driven at a senior level. Whilst individual teams can create their own unique rituals that are personally meaningful and relevant. These rituals might even be more functional. I.e a team that values learning might create a weekly ritual where team members share something they’ve learned. Or an organisation that values environmentalism might create a ritual where all new staff spend time working for environmental charities that align with their own organisation. The point is that these rituals can be big or small. The only constraint is that all rituals must align to the culture and values of your organisation.

When was the last time you changed, or adopted a new behaviour because you were told to? Change only comes from new habits, from acting as if, and from experiences. I challenge you to be a part of closing the gap between organisations who’s employees are living their values through rituals, and the organisations that churn out new (but the same old) posters about their values and behaviours. If your not seeing the change you seek within your culture, create ways for your people to participate in a way that encourages the behaviours you’re seeking.

Disclaimer: Beautifully designed posters that illustrate your purpose or values can be a compelling way to communicate. But they are one way pieces of communication. And they are not immune to billboard blindness. People may initially recall the message. But in just a few weeks, after the novelty wears off, the posters start to blend into the background, become part of the noise and are passed by without a second glance. 

Here’s the link to Rochelle King's 99u talk: 'Your biggest rival is your biggest asset.' http://99u.com/videos/52123/rochelle-king-your-biggest-rival-is-your-best-asset

 
 

Three simple steps to put your customer at the heart of your business

 
 

the key to customer relationships is...

"not what a brand says or does but how it makes the person feel"
– Geraldine Calpin, CMO of Hilton Worldwide

Putting your customer at the heart of everything you do is easier said that done. How do you approach this task? What questions do you need to ask? What simple (and highly effective) things can you do to put yourself in your customers shoes, help you to empathise with them, to deliver a more personalised and meaningful experience?

Here's three simple steps that you can apply to your own business:

1. It starts with day dreaming
Look at your customer journey and consider how you can try and take people from dream to advocate.

2. Ask yourself: What do you need to do to do this?
- Identify the key points in your customers journey
- Decide what you want to make customers feel at all of those points
- How can you achieve those feelings? (Can you use mobile and technology to assist?)

3. Then apply these filters to your ideas:
-  What is going to impact most of your customers? 
- What is going to be most valued by our customers if we were to deliver it? – no gimmicks. 
- Add some delight moments … What will make your customers go 'ahh, that's really good?'

No matter how big or small your business, go back to basics. Put your customer at the heart of everything you do; Dream, solve a pain point, add some delight to leave a memorable impression, and create brand advocates.

 
 

Your culture advantage

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We're on a mission...

to help leaders create inspiring cultures, engage their people, and ensure they avoid the mistakes of those who’ve never quite achieved moving beyond superficial conversations about culture.

Conversations about culture can be paralysing for many leaders. A quick google search for 'what is culture?' returns 1,480,000,000 links. Everyone has their own understanding, and everyone has a theory. 

To me, culture is the environment the business and it's people operate in (both the physical and intangible environment) Just like humans, each culture has unique traits that both exist naturally and are developed. These unique traits of each human exist, despite all human kind sharing six basic elements. In a similar manner, the culture of a business (and it's unique traits) are built upon base elements:

  1. A distinctive company purpose,
  2. A tangible vision, and
  3. A set of shared values

In plainer English these elements are, why we exist as a business (beyond making a profit), where we’re going, and how we’re going to get there. 

When there's a shared understanding of these base cultural elements, an entire business embraces the same rules of operation and engagement. Leaders build rapport with their people. People develop a common understanding of what matters the most. Conversations become more human. And you create memorable experiences. This is the cultural advantage and it's leaders who create the environment for this to occur. 

The most profound thing I’ve read on culture (from the 1,480,000,000 google links) is that “culture is a combination of something that happens naturally and something that is intentionally designed.” So culture is not completely within your control as a leader. But you have a responsibility to influence it.

As a leader, start by owning the conversation about what truly matters to your business, your purpose and where you’re going. Then consider how you can intentionally design experiences that encourages your people to participate in bringing your purpose, vision and values to life. 

 
 

The Culture Hierarchy

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We’ve established that posters are killing internal values

Organisational rituals help people to embody your culture every day. But what else are great organisations doing that OK organisations aren’t? How are they behaving? What play book are they following? How do they define and then create a culture where people deliver on the organisations most fundamental beliefs every day?

Over the past five years we’ve observed a distinct difference between how the great organisations we work with behave and the OK organisations. The great organisations seem to follow a similar pattern, and continue to reach higher levels of engagement. The OK organisations reach a certain point, and are not able to push past that point. 

This pattern of behaviour has led us to develop the Culture Hierarchy model. It demonstrates how great organisations behave and the path they follow to create distinctive and high performing cultures.

This is how great organisations behave:

Step one: OWN
Great organisations have leaders who make culture their number one priority and move it beyond a superficial KPI. They realise the ROI of culture is difficult to measure but they innately understand the environment and that culture determines the health of their organisation. These leaders own their culture and decide to lead by example and encourage people to reciprocate.

Step two: DEFINE
The great organisations realise that defining their values and purpose is not a consensus building exercise and they must set the fundamental beliefs before they engage the wider business. Organisational expert Patrick Lencioni, famously said: 

"Values initiatives have nothing to do with building consensus—they’re about imposing a set of fundamental, strategically sound beliefs on a broad group of people"

I was once involved in a project where the leadership group organised an all employee workshop on values. They asked staff to suggest what they believed the company's values should be. Throughout the day this organisation collated people’s opinions and then communicated to the whole organisation the top five values they’d uncovered. Two months later the leadership team presented the final values back to the whole organisation and none of the values from the staff made the final cut. This caused huge cynicism amongst staff. Did their opinions actually matter? 

Remember, defining your values, purpose and vision is not a consensus building exercise. As leaders you set these fundamental beliefs, and then encourage your people to live up to them and bring them to life each and every day. 

(Ocean Brand&Culture have developed The Values Deck to fill a need for a tool that helps leaders define their organisation's values. Click here to find out more).

Step three: COMMUNICATE
The OK organisations we work with define their values, purpose and vision, and then default to traditional internal communications tactics to reinforce them (posters, newsletters and announcements etc.). The great organisations create as many moments as possible for their people to have conversations about their values, purpose and vision. Instead of one way communications and big reveal presentations, they design ways for their people to have two way conversations, which helps to uncover people’s opinions and stories. They then feed back what they discover to the wider business. 

This feedback loop is an essential aspect of storytelling, recognition and engagement within your organisation. Through this process, you help your people understand: why it matters, what’s expected, how they can live up to them, and reinforce the bright spots within the organisation.

WARNING: This step is the ceiling for most organisations. The natural inclination of many leaders once they reach this step is to continually create new ways to communicate the same (but different) messages over and over, in a one way manner. The great organisations move past this step and integrate their values and purpose into everything they do.

Step four: INTEGRATE
No one engages with something they're told, especially if they're told the same thing repeatedly. We need to move away from one-way communications mindset to a two-way conversation mindset. 

Great organisations integrate their values and purpose into everything their organisation does, from rewards, meetings, hiring, people development, strategic partnerships, operational decisions etc. They intentionally design ways to integrate purpose and values into day-to-day interactions with customers, staff and stakeholders.  Great organisations create internal rituals that reinforce the culture, values and purpose (as we’ve previously discussed here). This moves culture beyond the superficial. 

Step five: LIVE
Great organisations create ways for their people to live the culture on a daily basis. Every interaction with a client, customer and staff member, right down to how your team approach editing the home page of your website should be guided by your culture. Your purpose and values should be used as a benchmark for your people and the decisions they make on a daily basis. But you can only get to this step if you’ve delivered on each step below.

You can only reach this step once you’ve decided culture is the number one priority, your people have embraced a shared set of values, purpose and vision, and you’ve integrated them into everything your people and the business does on a day-to-day basis.

The Culture Hierarchy model

Some organisations and leaders follow this model naturally. For others, it doesn’t come so naturally but it’s something they can learn. Our hope is that our culture hierarchy model will serve as an inspiration and guide for those leaders who want to take their organisation to the next level.  

 
 

10 things your brand needs

 
 
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Most companies start here, and move down the list...

1. Define your appearance
(How you look and feel – your identity)

2. Define your personality
(The outward human expression of your brand)

3. Define your advocates
(Find the people who care the most about what you do)

4. Define your position
(Determine your unique position in the market. What position do you want to own in people’s minds)

5. Define your difference
(Find your unfair advantage and exaggerate this)

6. Define your brand idea
(The idea at the core of your brand that guides your brand experience)

7. Define your experience
(Your customers will have an experience whether you design it or not. Remember great experiences build trust)

8. Define the emotion
(What do you want people to feel about your brand that they don’t feel now)

9. Define your values
(These are your deeply held beliefs that guide how you and your people behave)

10. Define your purpose
(Why you exist – beyond making a profit. In Simon Sinnek’s famous words “People don’t buy what you do they buy why you do it”)

But to create a truly authentic brand you need to move from Define your purpose back up to Define your appearance

As you move from 'Define your appearance' to 'Define your purpose' your brand gets more compelling (and more difficult to execute). 

Your brand needs all of it to win the hearts and minds of people you want to connect with.

 
 

What do you want your customers to feel?

 
 

Your brand affects how people think, act and feel. 


Your brand is not your marketing, your logo, your typeface, your colour pallete, or your advertising. Brands are experiences and experiences are a collection feelings.  

When you consider your brand, what you stand for and how you want to portray yourself as a brand, always start by asking yourself: What do we want our customers to feel?

Then create memorable experiences at every touch point that ellicit those feelings in your customers in a unique way.  

We'd love your help...

We're currently developing an interactive tool to help leaders consider this question more deeply.

If you're interested in being involved, we'd love to share this tool with you. It'll only take 45mins. Our hope is that we'll both get something valuable out of it. You'll help us refine the tool, and you'll gain insight into some fundamentals of customer experience strategy. 

Contact us if you're interested to be involved and learn more.

 
 

Stop TELLING your people and start ASKING them

 
 

IN THE PAST MONTH ON THREE SEPARATE OCCASIONS...
I’ve sat in meetings with CEO’s and Head of Human Resources where they’ve all said the same thing to us:

"We keep telling them, but they're just not listening…"

Very rarely to be people change their behaviour because they’re told something over and over again. Very rarely do people change behaviours when they’re lectured about something. Even more rarely do people engage with the thing you're talking to them about when it’s an avalanche of one-way messages. In the past six weeks, this exact situation has come up three times.

On the three occasions above, the client has recently gone through a 'values project’. They've invested enormous amounts of money, resources and energy into drafting compelling values statements. They've held a CEO announcement event where the CEO declares the new values and vision for the company. And each of these clients has put together a comprehensive communications strategy to spread more messages about the new values on a regular basis.

This tactic reminds me of the Vuvuzelas at the 2010 Football World Cup. They made an incredibly loud sound that excited people at first, but after a short period, they started to become very irritating. 

Repeated one-way values communications are the equivalent of the Vuvuzela to people. They're an annoyance and provoke cynicism amongst people (especially the ones who care about what they do and why they're there).

So instead of telling your people, over and over again about your values and what they mean to you as a company. How about you get curious and start asking them what they mean to them.

Here are two simple steps to help you get started:

ONE
Start by asking your people the last time they saw a co-worker living up to one of your values. Ask them to tell you a story about how what they observed demonstrated one of your values in action. 

We call this a bright spot. Bright spots are stories where something is going well. If you get your people to identify the bright spots around them they will start to notice more of them. They will start to identify the behaviours you're hoping people will adopt. 

TWO
Make the time, or create a mechanism to ask your people what they believe your company should start doing more of to further live up to your values.

By asking your people for their opinions, you immediately initiate a two-way conversation with them. You also help them switch from a closed mindset, with convergent thinking, to an open mindset with divergent thinking. In this divergent mindset, you encourage people to open their minds up to possibilities. And not close their minds off to what's not going well or what needs to be fixed. 

So instead of telling people, be more curious, and start asking more questions.

We've developed a simple, but a highly engaging tool to help leaders with these types of conversations. If you want to hear more we'd love to share our ideas with you and your team. 

 
 

How to motivate your people

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"Control leads to compliance. Autonomy leads to engagement" Daniel Pink tells us... 

But it's a common fallacy to mistake flexibility for autonomy.

If you want to engage your people give them the freedom of control over: their tasks, their time, the technique they use to accomplish tasks, the team they gather around them.

Give your people autonomy over all these things, some of them, or over only one of them. Because if you want your people to be engaged you MUST give them autonomy – not just flexibility.

Dan Pink's book "Drive - The surprising truth about what motivates us" is an enlightening read for those who have ever questioned what we understand as modern management.

Check out this short RSA video below for some more insight into what drives human beings

 
 

Company culture and employee retention

  The Emotional Culture Deck helps leaders design and build their culture. The deck brings your people together to help you uncover the motivations of your people.

The Emotional Culture Deck helps leaders design and build their culture. The deck brings your people together to help you uncover the motivations of your people.

 
 

The number-one concern of chief executives for 2018? 

According to Deloitte, 87 percent say it is employee retention. 60 percent of the United States workforce turns over each year, and 65 percent of this is voluntary. 85 percent of employees leave their job because of their relationship with their manager. Plus, 88% of people don’t feel like the organisation they work for cares about them. That's a bleak outlook for employees. 

Most organisations and leaders underestimate the influence emotion has on their culture and leadership. The emotional culture of an organisation influences employee satisfaction, burnout, teamwork, and even hard measures such as financial performance and absenteeism. But organisations (and leaders) don’t talk about emotion because it's difficult and considered 'soft'. Or leaders don’t have the skills to have these conversations or leverage emotion. The Emotional Culture Deck improves relationships between leaders (organisations) and their people. 

We gamified this conversation. Turning it into a card game called The Emotional Culture Deck that helps leaders uncover what motivates their people. When companies identify the key drivers of their employees not only does engagement increase and morale improve, productivity and employee retention increase. As a result, bottom-line profits go up.

Playing the cards together in person, face to face, promotes real life connection. The conversation does not happen from behind a emotionless screen, in a digital wormhole. The deck encourages vulnerability from both leaders and people that help break down barriers between people and foster trust. 

Check out some of the leaders who are creating more empathetic and caring cultures by using The Emotional Culture Deck here. 

 
 
 
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Where corporate culture goes wrong

In 2016 I stumbled across a Harvard Business Review article aptly named Manage your emotional culture. Up until this point, my work had involved helping organisations define and change their culture. A lot of my work involved defining an organisation's purpose, vision and values and then helping them 'roll them out’ internally.

But I'd grown tired and cynical of a lot of this work. I was both cynical of the effectiveness of this type of work. Plus I was increasingly pessimistic on behalf the people within my client's organisations. Every time we rolled out a new set of values I heard and saw the same reactions – this is just corporate and management mumbo jumbo. The work we were doing was making grandiose statements about an organisation's aspirational values and then making them look pretty in various formats within the office environment. All the while, nothing was changing internally.

I certainly wasn’t helping change the beliefs and behaviours of people and leaders within the organisations I was working with. I was claiming to help improve the cultures of organisations. But for many of my client’s, it was a box-ticking exercise. They needed a set of values because they were told that’s what you did to 'change' the culture. Somehow this belief perpetuates that culture change starts with a refresh of your values and the creation of a 60-slide (Netflix esk) culture deck.

Everything changed for me when I read Mandy O'Neill and Sigal Barsade’s research on emotions in the workplace. The article Manage your emotional culture has become a seminal piece of work for me. It's helped shape my view of workplace culture and culture change. It’s given me hope. This one line in this article that stopped me in my tracks:  

"Most companies pay little attention to how employees are—or should be—feeling. They don’t realise how central emotions are to building the right culture.”

In the famous words of Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire…."you had me at…Most companies

Suddenly I felt I'd found the missing piece to the puzzle.

In none of my work, or the work of the people I was following in the ‘culture’ space, were people discussing the influence emotion has on the culture of organisations. I was surrounded by consultants and agencies selling culture projects to organisations with the promise of solving all their woes by working with them to identify and embed their core values.

O’Neill and Barsade went on to write:

"When people talk about corporate culture, they’re typically referring to cognitive culture: the shared intellectual values, norms, artefacts, and assumptions that serve as a guide for the group to thrive. Cognitive culture sets the tone for how employees think and behave at work—for instance, how customer-focused, innovative, team-oriented, or competitive they are or should be.”

Their description of cognitive culture described the work I had been doing. It was the work I see so many leaders and organisations go through. Leaders (through no fault of their own) have become obsessed with the cognitive culture of their organisations. They then wondered why nothing really changes.

I got really excited when O’Neill and Barsade suggested what was on the flip side of cognitive culture:

"Cognitive culture is undeniably important to an organization’s success. But it’s only part of the story. The other critical part is what we call the group’s emotional culture: the shared affective values, norms, artefacts, and assumptions that govern which emotions people have and express at work and which ones they are better off suppressing.”

By this stage, I was already emotionally attached to every word on the page. But then they hit me with the rationale evidence:

"Countless empirical studies show the significant impact of emotions on how people perform on tasks, how engaged and creative they are, how committed they are to their organizations, and how they make decisions. In our research over the past decade, we have found that emotional culture influences employee satisfaction, burnout, teamwork, and even hard measures such as financial performance and absenteeism.”

Until this point in time. I had been talking about culture and culture change purely from a cognitive culture perspective. But I had just realised I'd only been doing half the job. I was only telling people half the story. And then wondering why the ending in the story was rarely a successful one where we had truly impacted the culture of an organisation and changed the behaviours of people and how they work together.

However, typical responses to the story I now tell about the importance of emotions to the culture of an organisation are; "the workplace is no place for emotions”, "we should remove emotion from business”. But this is misguided. You can’t escape emotions. The science of human behaviour shows us emotion drives behaviour. So when we fail to recognise emotion, we will fail to effectively influence the behaviour of our people and the culture of our organisation.

O’Neill and Barsade sum this up it up beautifully when they say:

“Some executives and employees have told us that their organizations lack emotion altogether. But every organization has an emotional culture, even if it’s one of suppression. By not only allowing emotions into the workplace but also understanding and consciously shaping them, leaders can better motivate their employees.”

Almost three years on from discovering the work of O'Neill and Barsade, I now find myself at the start of what I feel is an evolution of the way organisations talk about and approach the culture of their organisations. I meet more and more curious leaders open to these conversations. The challenge is how we help leaders and our people to have these conversations.

This is where The Emotional Culture Deck comes in. I’ve created a simple game to facilitate conversations about what really matters in the workplace – how our people are and should be feeling at work.

One of the exciting and unexpected by-products of designing The Emotional Culture Deck is I’m now having more and more conversations about well being in the workplace. I never imagined being on the path I’m on – working with leaders to support their people in such a meaningful way. I’ve now got renewed hope for organisations and the workplace.  

If you’re a curious leader, wanting to find out more about how you design a more human, empathetic and successful workplace, drop me a line at jeremy@ridersandelephants.com. Or check out www.theemotionalculturedeck.com

Check out the the HBR article Manage your emotional culture here:

https://hbr.org/2016/01/manage-your-emotional-culture