Though the global economy is improving, we’re all not out of the woods quite yet.

Organizations are being very conservative with expenses. In addition, they’re trying to be more efficient, delivering the same or even greater volume and quality of products and services with fewer staff to do the work.

They’re trying to do more with less.

How can leaders get more quality work out of their team members? What’s the “secret”? I believe this is the wrong question. The right question is, “How can leaders create a safe, inspiring workplace that enables people’s best work, every day?”

The Secret

Our research and experience demonstrates that the quality of an organization’s culture directly impacts their employees’ willingness to produce. If the organization’s culture builds trust and respect across it’s leaders, employees, and customers, those employees bring passion to their work. They find ways of streamlining production without sacrificing quality. They find ways to exceed what they have promised, rather than under-delivering what’s been promised.

If the organizational culture treats employees like “cogs in a wheel,” no more important than the mail cart, employees’ passion is quashed. They go through the motions, lifeless and uninspired.

A safe, inspiring organizational culture leads to more engaged employees who WOW their customers consistently. Those customers LOVE your company, seek out your products and services, and create a powerful word-of-mouth marketing campaign about your great organization. That leads to increased profits. Every time.

Telling employees to do more with less doesn’t lead to consistently higher productivity or better efficiency. That approach is called “managing by announcements.”

Asking – or begging – employees to do more with less doesn’t lead to consistently higher productivity or better efficiency. That approach is an abdication of proactive leadership.

Demanding employees to do more with less is another version of “managing by announcements.”

Punishing employees if they don’t meet ever-growing productivity expectations does not inspire employees – it quashes their inspiration and erodes their discretionary energy.

So, what’s the secret? You must create a different relationship with employees. You must create an organizational culture that holds employees in the highest regard. Your work environment must treat employees as your most coveted, primary customer – because they are.

Create a work environment – call it an organizational culture – that trusts and respects employees, and employees “show up” differently. They love coming to work. They want the organization to thrive – and their efforts enable it to thrive.

Like most secrets, there is a lot of hard work involved in refining your organizational culture. The primary foundational piece is creating behaviorally-defined values that guide everyone’s plans, decisions, and actions. Values standards, defined in observable and measurable terms, help leaders and employees understand how the work is to be done . . . how to treat each other and customers . . . and what a great corporate citizen looks, acts, and sounds like.

Unless the relationship with your employees changes, doing more with less results in less quality, less revenue, and less fun at work.

Join in the conversation about this post/podcast in the comments section below. To what extent are your team members being asked to do more with less? How well does your organizational culture create a safe, inspiring work environment?

What is it like to live in your organization’s culture? Complete my Performance-Values Assessment. Results and analysis are described on my blog site’s research page.

This research can help you refine your organization’s corporate culture. Contact me to discuss conducting the Performance-Values Assessment in your company.

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S. Chris Edmonds

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 The Culture Engine and six other books.
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Reader Interactions


  1. AvatarMichael Wambach says

    Okay, I buy the idea that organizational culture has to be the
    inspirational agent, but far too often organizations treat “culture” as
    simply another project to be managed. Nothing could be further from the
    truth. Members are very quick to pick-up the incongruences between
    espoused values and actual practices in the organization. A culture has
    to be lived, not managed. Culture will develop whether you manage it or
    not and whether you want one or not. Culture is a product of simply
    bringing people together for some purpose. They find ways to make things
    work and then pass those ways on to others. You know this when you hear
    phrases like, “well, that’s just the way we do things around here.” The
    executive who says “do more with less” will not be followed by others
    unless the others perceive the executive also understands that “we can
    do nothing with little.”

    • S. Chris EdmondsS. Chris Edmonds says

      Thanks for your thoughts, Michael.

      Culture exists whether intentional or not. Culture drives behavior, whether those behaviors are desired or not.
      If leaders want a culture that drives desired behaviors, where performance expectations are exceeded and valued behaviors are demonstrated, they must change what they observe, reinforce, and notice. By being bold about what values and behaviors are required, the culture can evolve.


  2. S. Chris EdmondsS. Chris Edmonds says

    Thanks, Dain, for the terrific insights into Sherwin-Williams’ intentional culture creation! What a powerful example of how important PEOPLE and their PASSIONS are to great PERFORMANCE and fabulous SERVICE.

    Building a great culture pays off in many ways. Best to you, sir –



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