Businesswoman Solving a ProblemLet’s pretend for a moment. Let’s put you in the role of leading a large division within your company. And, you’ve done really well.

You’ve worked hard and crafted a high performing, values-aligned team. You’ve embraced your primary leadership responsibility of creating workplace inspiration.

You’re the champion of your desired culture. You’ve made values and citizenship as important as results and profits. And, team members and leaders have embraced the new culture.

Employees are happier. Customers are WOW’ed. Goals are exceeded regularly. Your team enjoys financial success.

Then, a new job offer drops into your lap. It’s a terrific opportunity for you. You can’t pass it up.

Taking the new job means that you’ll have to leave your current – and exceptional – division culture to whomever replaces you.

You’ve done all you can. You bid your old team goodbye and head off to your new opportunity.

What happens to the culture you’ve help craft? Too often, when the champion leaves, the culture struggles to maintain the new practices.

Unless the new leader is as committed to the current culture as you were, the culture “reverts to the norm.”

Typically, within a very short time (months), all the traction gained is lost. The values go back to “nice to have” status – not “must have” status.

One client experienced exactly this scenario. The champion moved on and the new leader of the division didn’t support “that culture stuff.” The gains the division enjoyed under the previous leader – 40 percent growth in employee engagement and customer service and 35 percent growth in profits – dissipated within four months.

People went back to old habits. The division “earned” exactly what it deserved – less than stellar engagement, service, and profits.

How do you, as a leader, ensure the desired culture “sticks”? These three practices will help your desired culture outlive the champion that moves on.

Embed your culture. This is a vital, foundational practice. Change systems and incentives to measure and reward both performance and desired values. Make valued behaviors important; talk them up, coach them up, and hold them up! Create a twice-a-year values survey that lets employees rate their bosses on the degree to which their bosses model your valued behaviors. Add rankings from this values survey in each leader’s performance (or contribution) review each year. Make the structure of your values-based culture as solid as the structure of your organization’s performance.

Prove the benefits. Measure the positive impact of your safe, and inspiring work environment. Carefully track employee engagement, customer service rankings, and results and profits. Help your bosses understand the net benefits of a workplace culture based on trust, respect, and dignity. SHOW THEM THE MONEY. Employees who feel trusted and respected bust their behinds for your team.

Share leadership. Don’t be the sole champion or the sole banner-carrier of your desired culture. Engage leaders at all levels in communicating why your culture is so important – to employees, leaders, customers, and company. Share “stage time” with every senior leader so they can be seen as the “voice” of the desired culture as much as you are. Celebrate teams and team leaders that “get it.” Let the “idea virus” of your desired culture infect everyone in your organization.

There are no guarantees these three practices will ensure your culture’s ability to stand the test of time – but they’ll certainly help.

How healthy is your team or company’s culture? Don’t guess – get the data with my online Culture Effectiveness Assessment.

Photo © PtnPhotof – Dollar Photo Club. All rights reserved.

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The music heard on these podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play all instruments on these recordings.

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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