I am working with a new culture change client, which is always an exciting experience for me. Despite working successfully with clients to help refine their cultures for over a decade, I have learned that I have not seen it all and don’t know it all. Each organization is different, and the opportunity for change is different. I must be open to how our proven process can help a particular culture shift to a more desired state.

My coaching efforts with this organization’s senior leaders has focused on one key concept – that their job as senior leaders is to create a high performing, values-aligned culture where employees commit their heads, hearts, and hands to their efforts. Every day, with every task, with every interaction.

Most senior leaders see their role as that of managing processes and results within their functional units. The role models they’ve had through their careers probably reinforced that belief – and it is likely the culture they live in today reinforces that belief. Yet when I ask senior leaders about their best bosses – managers they worked for that created an environment where those senior leaders were very productive while, at the same time, were very excited and engaged in their work – they don’t tell me how focused their best boss was on their results. They tell me how inspiring their best boss was, linking their unique skills to the task at hand, praising and encouraging their progress, teaching them how to do new tasks in service to their customers, and helping them feel how much their contribution was valued.

For them, as for me, my best boss helped engage my head, heart, and hands.

Engage my Head

To make followers smart about their work, best bosses educate their followers about the context of their efforts. They share business strategy, customer needs, and explain the systems in place to help deliver products and services to meet those needs. Building knowledge of how the follower’s skills create valuable products and services, how to best work with other departments, and how our company makes money helps followers make great decisions when the boss isn’t around.

Engage my Heart

For followers to love their jobs, their tasks, their boss, their company, and their customers, they must feel respected, honored, and trusted. They must believe that they are paid fairly, and experience gratitude from co-workers, bosses, and even customers, for a job well done. When mistakes are made, best bosses treat followers as smart, kind people who had a mis-step, not as morons who shouldn’t have gotten out of bed that morning.

Engage my Hands

This is where most bosses focus their efforts today, yet it is only one of three vital areas to proactively manage. Application of developed skills at the right place and time is how consistent high-performance is reached. Only when business strategy, customer needs, and opportunity are evaluated can development of required competencies occur before they’re needed.

When I’m able to help senior leaders understand that they need to be their direct reports’ best bosses, they proactively shift their behaviors from managing processes and results to managing people’s energy!

How are you doing at these three vital engagements? Share your insights in the comments section below.

S. Chris Edmonds

Chris helps leaders create purposeful, positive, productive work cultures. He's a speaker, author, and executive consultant. He blogs, podcasts, and video casts. He is the author of two Amazon bestsellers: Good Comes First (2021) and The Culture Engine (2014).
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