October 3rd, 2016

Listen now to Dave’s interview on the Small Business Advocate Radio Network where he talks about Undertakers, Caretakers, Playmakers and Game Changers and how to develop a Game Changer mindset! Three segments of about 6 minutes each.

Building A High-Performance Culture Part XXV

March 29th, 2016

Words that Hurt: Pride

In this post on building a high-performance culture, I’m identifying the word “pride” as one belonging on the “Words that hurt” column. The pride that comes from satisfaction in doing good work is not the pride I’m referring to. Rather, the ego-driven pride that incites a multitude of leadership failures is the kind of pride I will highlight.

Since it has been awhile since my last post, take a moment to review the strong and weak cultural words listed so you can conceptualize the ideal culture to move your organization towards—as well as what you must weed out of your culture in order to maximize your organization’s potential.

Words that work and must be woven into culture

Earn: to acquire through merit.

Deserve: to be worthy of; to qualify for.

Consistent: constantly adhering to the same principles.

Hope: grounds for believing something in the future will happen.

Catalyst: a person or thing that makes something happen.

Responsible: to be the primary cause of something.

Tough-minded: strong willed, vigorous, not easily swayed.

Loyal: faithfulness to one’s duties or obligations.

Passion: a strong feeling or enthusiasm about something, or about doing something.

Discipline: an activity, regimen, or exercise that develops or improves a habit or skill.

Commit: to pledge oneself to something.

Prune: to remove what is undesirable.

Wise: having or showing good judgement.

Diligent: giving constant effort to accomplish something.

Hunger: an intense desire, a compelling craving.

Fitness: being in good health, especially because of regular exercise.

 

Words that hurt and must be weeded out of culture

Fault: responsibility for failure.

Blame: to assign responsibility for failure.

Excuse: a plea offered to explain away a fault or failure.

Mediocre: average, ordinary, not outstanding.

Wish: to want something that cannot, or probably will not happen.

Entitle: a claim to something you feel you are owed.

Sloth: reluctance to work or exert effort; laziness.

Complacent: calmly content, smugly self-satisfied.

Maintain: to cause (something) to exist or continue without changing.

Apathy: a lack of enthusiasm, interest, or concern.

Interest: to be curious about (as opposed to being committed).

Foolish: lacking good sense or judgment.

Micromanage: to control with excessive attention to minor details.

Pride:  having or showing an excessively high opinion of oneself or of one’s importance.

 

Cultures with a prideful leader can expect to see the following:

  1. A leader who doesn’t admit mistakes.
  1. A leader prone to blame conditions or other people for his or her lack of success.
  1. A leader who withholds, or even hogs, the credit for team success.
  1. A leader who doesn’t delegate to others.
  1. A leader who fails to empower others, and personally makes all decisions.
  1. A leader who believes certain standards or values that others must live do not apply to him or her.
  1. A selfish leader who isn’t a team player, and who is primarily in it for himself or herself.
  1. A leader who fails to develop others, because he sees little value in others.
  1. A leader prone to becoming overwhelmed because she will not ask for help, or admit when she is in over her head.
  1. A leader uncommitted to personal development because he feels he is good enough as he is.
  2. A leader who believes certain tasks are beneath him, and thus leads   by the wrong personal example.
  3. A leader who treats front line team members poorly or with indifference.
  4. A leader who talks far more than he listens, and normally it is about himself.
  5. A leader unreceptive to ideas other than his or her own; who rarely seeks them out and quickly dismisses them when offered to him or her.
  6. A leader resentful of feedback, and who is more likely to argue with it than entertain its value.
  7. A leader who develops blind spots because people are afraid to speak up and share the reality about what is going on in the organization.
  8. A leader who focuses more on being served, rather than on adding value to others and serving them.

This list could continue for a while, but the seventeen points offered paint a fairly clear portrait of what a prideful leader looks like. The harm to culture, momentum, morale, trust and personal credibility for demonstrating some—or all—of these traits is staggering.

While any leader may demonstrate an unhealthy pride from time to time—after all, we are all human—the leaders who destroy cultures and people are those in whom these behaviors are dominant, rather than the exception.

The bottom line is this: do not expect to build a fit culture with an unfit leader. And prideful leaders are the poster-children for leadership unfitness—a culture’s most devastating and insurmountable infection.

Building a High-Performance Culture Part XXIV

December 1st, 2015

Words that Work: Excellence

In this post on building a high-performance culture, I’m adding the word “excellence” to the “words that work” category. While being better than the competition is noteworthy and motivating, true excellence is something altogether different.

I’ll explain more about cultural excellence below; but first, review the strong and weak cultural words listed so you can conceptualize the ideal culture to move your organization towards, as well as what you must weed out of your culture in order to maximize your organization’s potential.

Words that work and must be woven into culture

Earn: to acquire through merit.

Deserve: to be worthy of; to qualify for.

Consistent: constantly adhering to the same principles.

Hope: grounds for believing something in the future will happen.

Catalyst: a person or thing that makes something happen.

Responsible: to be the primary cause of something.

Tough-minded: strong willed, vigorous, not easily swayed.

Loyal: faithfulness to one’s duties or obligations.

Passion: a strong feeling or enthusiasm about something, or about doing something.

Discipline: an activity, regimen, or exercise that develops or improves a habit or skill.

Commit: to pledge oneself to something.

Prune: to remove what is undesirable.

Wise: having or showing good judgement.

Diligent: giving constant effort to accomplish something.

Hunger: an intense desire, a compelling craving.

Fitness: being in good health, especially because of regular exercise.

 

Words that hurt and must be weeded out of culture

Fault: responsibility for failure.

Blame: to assign responsibility for failure.

Excuse: a plea offered to explain away a fault or failure.

Mediocre: average, ordinary, not outstanding.

Wish: to want something that cannot, or probably will not happen.

Entitle: a claim to something you feel you are owed.

Sloth: reluctance to work or exert effort; laziness.

Complacent: calmly content, smugly self-satisfied.

Maintain: to cause (something) to exist or continue without changing.

Apathy: a lack of enthusiasm, interest, or concern.

Interest: to be curious about (as opposed to being committed).

Foolish: lacking good sense or judgment.

Micromanage: to control with excessive attention to minor details.

There’s normally a strong competition among peers in an industry, company or league to become “number one” in a given area. Many believe that once they’ve achieved this ranking that they’ve also attained excellence. However, it is entirely possible to be number one and also be worse than you used to be. Thus, you’re number one not because of excellence, but simply because others are worse than you.

Excellence is defined as being “superior” or “eminent.” Again, this makes it easy to believe that because one is ranked higher than another—since they are “superior” to a competitive entity—they have attained excellence. But strong cultures take and embrace a different view: they see excellence as being superior to what they once were. They are their own competition, and by continuing the quest to better their prior best, they become eminent—excellent—in the process.

By redefining excellence in your organization in this manner you will shift your team’s focus from the pride or smugness that may come with being number one in a league everyone else is in, to striving to get so good at what they do they create an entirely different league—and are the only ones in it.

Building a High Performance Culture Part XXIII

August 21st, 2015

Words that Work: Fitness

In this post on building a high performance culture I’m adding the word “fitness” to the “words that work” category. While a healthy culture is good, fit cultures become great.

I’ll explain the difference below, but first review the strong and weak cultural words below so you can conceptualize the ideal culture to move your organization towards, as well as what you must weed out of your culture in order to maximize your organization’s potential.

Words that work and must be woven into culture

Earn: to acquire through merit.

Deserve: to be worthy of; to qualify for.

Consistent: constantly adhering to the same principles.

Hope: grounds for believing something in the future will happen.

Catalyst: a person or thing that makes something happen.

Responsible: to be the primary cause of something.

Tough-minded: strong willed, vigorous, not easily swayed.

Loyal: faithfulness to one’s duties or obligations.

Passion: a strong feeling or enthusiasm about something, or about doing something.

Discipline: an activity, regimen, or exercise that develops or improves a habit or skill.

Commit: to pledge oneself to something.

Prune: to remove what is undesirable.

Wise: having or showing good judgement.

Diligent: giving constant effort to accomplish something.

Hunger: an intense desire, a compelling craving.

 

Words that hurt and must be weeded out of culture

Fault: responsibility for failure.

Blame: to assign responsibility for failure.

Excuse: a plea offered to explain away a fault or failure.

Mediocre: average, ordinary, not outstanding.

Wish: to want something that cannot, or probably will not happen.

Entitle: a claim to something you feel you are owed.

Sloth: reluctance to work or exert effort; laziness.

Complacent: calmly content, smugly self-satisfied.

Maintain: to cause (something) to exist or continue without changing.

Apathy: a lack of enthusiasm, interest or concern.

Interest: to be curious about. (as opposed to being committed).

Foolish: lacking good sense or judgment.

Micromanage: to control with excessive attention to minor details.

There’s a lot of talk within organizations about growth and not nearly enough about health; but there’s even less discussion on the concept of corporate fitness. Frankly, an organization won’t continue to grow if it becomes unhealthy, so working to create cultural health by weaving the words that work into your foundation, and weeding out the works that hurt is an ongoing priority.

Health is defined as “being free from illness or disease.” When a culture becomes unhealthy—sick—due to infections like selfish leadership, entitled team members, lack of accountability, the acceptance of mediocrity, pervasive bureaucracy, or the tolerance of toxic achievers, growth stops and decline begins. So while ridding a culture from illness and disease is essential to becoming healthy and building a good organization, it’s not enough to allow an organization to reach its fullest potential.

Organizational greatness isn’t possible without cultural fitness. Fitness is defined as “being in good health, especially because of regular exercise.” In great organizations there are regular exercises—key disciplines—that are implemented with consistent excellence that elevate it from being good to greatness. Some of these exercises are:

  • Rigorous recruiting, interviewing and hiring processes.
  • Highly effective and consistent training, feedback, coaching and mentoring.
  • Living, breathing, walking and talking the mission, vision and values.
  • Defining, then redefining whenever necessary, the performance standards most vital to optimize results.
  • Swift accountability to check poor performance or remove poor performers.
  • Creating a ferocious focus on the key lead measures—essential daily activities—in each job position and ensuring they’re executed with excellence daily.

Just as unfit bodies are limited in their effectiveness and lifespan, so are unfit organizations. To become fit corporately, one must dismiss the “ten day diet” versions of quick fixes or silver bullets and employ disciplines like those listed day in and day out, without excuse, and regardless of the cost.

Incidentally, the fitness of a culture is a direct reflection of its leader’s fitness. A “sick” leader has no chance of creating a fit culture.

Building a High Performance Culture Part XXII

July 28th, 2015

Words That Work: Hunger

In this post on building a high performance culture I’m adding the word “hunger” to the “words that work” category. Hungry cultures are those that regularly change, risk, and stretch—even while things are going well and all the seas appear calm.

I’ll dig deeper into hunger below; but first, quickly review the strong and weak cultural words below so you can conceptualize the ideal culture to move your organization towards, as well as what you must weed out of your culture in order to maximize your organization’s potential.

Words that work and must be woven into culture

Earn: to acquire through merit.

Deserve: to be worthy of; to qualify for.

Consistent: constantly adhering to the same principles.

Hope: grounds for believing something in the future will happen.

Catalyst: a person or thing that makes something happen.

Responsible: to be the primary cause of something.

Tough-minded: strong willed, vigorous, not easily swayed.

Loyal: faithfulness to one’s duties or obligations.

Passion: a strong feeling or enthusiasm about something, or about doing something.

Discipline: an activity, regimen, or exercise that develops or improves a habit or skill.

Commit: to pledge oneself to something.

Prune: to remove what is undesirable.

Wise: having or showing good judgement.

Diligent: giving constant effort to accomplish something.

Words that hurt and must be weeded out of culture

Fault: responsibility for failure.

Blame: to assign responsibility for failure.

Excuse: a plea offered to explain away a fault or failure.

Mediocre: average, ordinary, not outstanding.

Wish: to want something that cannot, or probably will not happen.

Entitle: a claim to something you feel you are owed.

Sloth: reluctance to work or exert effort; laziness.

Complacent: calmly content, smugly self-satisfied.

Maintain: to cause (something) to exist or continue without changing.

Apathy: a lack of enthusiasm, interest or concern.

Interest: to be curious about (as opposed to being committed).

Foolish: lacking good sense or judgment.

Micromanage: to control with excessive attention to minor details.

Hunger is defined as an intense desire, a compelling craving. Note that the definition isn’t limited to merely a “desire or a craving;” intense and compelling are the keys. If something is intense and compelling it moves you, which brings up the key point to this post: you can’t have a hungry culture without hungry people at all levels moving it forward. The challenge is that while you can motivate people—stoke embers that already exist—you cannot make someone hungry by putting the embers of desire within them. Thus, your team members must bring hunger to the table; they must give you something to work with. Hungry people normally have the following traits that make them easier to identify during an interview, or to evaluate the people already within your culture:

  1. Hungry people have compelling reasons—their “why”—that drives them to excel. Their why may include a range of motivations from buying a nicer car, moving into a bigger home, sending their kids to a private school, helping a sick parent, making a difference in the lives of others, to supporting orphans. People tend to lose their way when they lose their why, and wind up going through the motions as they miss their potential by a mile.

One purpose of an interview is determine just how specific and compelling a job candidate’s why is. This will give keen insight into how self-motivated you can expect them to be.

  1. Hungry people are rarely stuck in their ways. They change before they have to, enjoy learning and sharing new things, and would rather take a mature risk than defend a safe status quo.
  1. Hungry people want new responsibilities. They want an opportunity to learn and grow and to expand their skills. They also want increased latitude and discretion to make decisions without having to always check with a higher-up.
  1. Hungry people are more prone to seek out feedback. They know they need fast, honest, specific feedback to grow.
  1. Hungry people don’t need as many pep talks. Of course like anyone they appreciate pats on the back, but aren’t dependent on them in order to stay motivated and work hard to reach their goals.

Final note: A culture is in big trouble when the leaders have let complacency nudge out their hunger and begin leading more from the rear, than from the trenches; maintaining, presiding and administering but not having a stretch impact on the team. Frankly, lethargic leaders create lethargic cultures. Hungry leaders build hungry cultures, and more naturally attract those with the like levels of internal motivation necessary to build a great organization.

Building a High Performance Culture Part XXI

June 4th, 2015

Words That Hurt: Micromanage

In this post on building a high performance culture I’m assigning the word “micromanage” to the “words that hurt” column. Micromanagement is an often-misunderstood word, so in this piece I’ll explain what it is and is not, as well as the danger it poses to your culture, people and results.

I’ll dig deeper into micromanage momentarily, but first quickly review the strong and weak cultural words below so you can conceptualize the ideal culture to move your organization towards, as well as what you must weed out of your culture in order to maximize your organization’s potential.

Words that work and must be woven into culture

Earn: to acquire through merit.

Deserve: to be worthy of; to qualify for.

Consistent: constantly adhering to the same principles.

Hope: grounds for believing something in the future will happen.

Catalyst: a person or thing that makes something happen.

Responsible: to be the primary cause of something.

Tough-minded: strong willed, vigorous, not easily swayed.

Loyal: faithfulness to one’s duties or obligations.

Passion: a strong feeling or enthusiasm about something, or about doing something.

Discipline: an activity, regimen, or exercise that develops or improves a habit or skill.

Commit: to pledge oneself to something.

Prune: to remove what is undesirable.

Wise: having or showing good judgement.

Diligent: giving constant effort to accomplish something.

Words that hurt and must be weeded out of culture

Fault: responsibility for failure.

Blame: to assign responsibility for failure.

Excuse: a plea offered to explain away a fault or failure.

Mediocre: average, ordinary, not outstanding.

Wish: to want something that cannot, or probably will not happen.

Entitle: a claim to something you feel you are owed.

Sloth: reluctance to work or exert effort; laziness.

Complacent: calmly content, smugly self-satisfied.

Maintain: to cause (something) to exist or continue without changing.

Apathy: a lack of enthusiasm, interest or concern.

Interest: to be curious about. (as opposed to being committed).

Foolish: lacking good sense or judgment.

Micromanage is defined as “to control with excessive attention to minor details.” Here are seven thoughts on micromanagement and how it will influence your culture.

  1. Holding people accountable for tough standards is not micromanagement. It’s important to note that there are a handful of things within a culture that are not up for debate, must be held in a iron grip, and thus may be wrongly perceived as micromanagement. Managers who are diligent in holding others accountable for living company values and following prescribed processes are often erroneously accused of being micromanagers. This reflects a failure to understand that micromanagement involves “minor” details, and values and processes are major matters and must be vigorously enforced and upheld.

 

  1. Making every decision, solving every problem and having all the ideas are signs of micromanagement. You’ve conditioned people to count on you so heavily they cannot think for themselves. Micromanaged people lack passion and tend to play not to lose.

 

  1. Over-involving yourself in others’ jobs, especially in areas where you have little expertise, may constitute micromanagement. While your authority allows you to set clear expectations and deadlines for results for the various aspects under your charge, you err when you then nitpick and continually second-guess those responsible for producing the results throughout the process.

 

  1. If you hire the wrong people you’ll have to micromanage them. This is a sad truth, because it’s foolish to empower incapable or corrupt people with latitude and discretion and expect anything positive to come from it.

 

  1. Micromanagement is a primary de-motivator for top performers. High achievers resent having to check with you for everything. They feel that their past performance should earn them the trust to move faster and with less supervision than less-proven team members.

 

  1. Micromanagement works in the short-term. It’s always easier to personally make a decision or perform a task than to teach someone else how to do it. But this strategy causes you to plateau, and stunts the growth of others over the long haul; you become overwhelmed doing too much personally, and others never get to try new things or venture beyond their comfort zone.

 

  1. Micromanagement is rooted in pride and to a large degree, insecurity. Micromanagers feel that if someone else performs tasks or makes decisions without their involvement it makes them less important. They may also feel that “if they want it done right they have to do it themselves”, overestimating their own abilities while they sell short the potential of their teammates.

 

In summary, micromanagement overwhelms you, demotivates others, and creates an oppressive culture. Face it: if you’ve hired people who must be micromanaged that’s your fault; if you don’t train people to do their jobs more independently, that’s your fault; if your ego doesn’t allow you to empower others, that’s your fault. Are you seeing a pattern here? The good news is that you can fix what is your fault. The bad news is that most micromanagers are too full of themselves, or busy doing everything themselves, to even bother trying.

Building a High Performance Culture Part XX

April 30th, 2015

Words that Work: Diligent

In this post on building a high performance culture I’m adding the word diligent to the words that work column, although diligence can hurt you if you’re investing it in the wrong habits or activities.

I’ll expand on diligent in a moment, but first do a quick review of the strong and weak cultural words so you can conceptualize the ideal culture to move towards, as well as what you must move away from culturally in order to maximize your organization’s potential.

Words that work and must be woven into culture:

Earn: to acquire through merit.

Deserve: to be worthy of; to qualify for.

Consistent: constantly adhering to the same principles.

Hope: grounds for believing something in the future will happen.

Catalyst: a person or thing that makes something happen.

Responsible: to be the primary cause of something.

Tough-minded: strong willed, vigorous, not easily swayed.

Loyal: faithfulness to one’s duties or obligations.

Passion: a strong feeling or enthusiasm about something, or about doing something.

Discipline: an activity, regimen, or exercise that develops or improves a habit or skill.

Commit: to pledge oneself to something.

Prune: to remove what is undesirable.

Wise: having or showing good judgement.

Words that hurt and must be weeded out of culture:

Fault: responsibility for failure.

Blame: to assign responsibility for failure.

Excuse: a plea offered to explain away a fault or failure.

Mediocre: average, ordinary, not outstanding.

Wish: to want something that cannot, or probably will not happen.

Entitle: a claim to something you feel you are owed.

Sloth: reluctance to work or exert effort; laziness.

Complacent: calmly content, smugly self-satisfied.

Maintain: to cause (something) to exist or continue without changing.

Apathy: a lack of enthusiasm, interest or concern.

Interest: to be curious about. (as opposed to being committed).

Foolish: lacking good sense or judgment.

The word diligent is defined as “giving constant effort to accomplish something.” High performing cultures are those where the right things are done consistently, and where the team members diligently persist to see those right activities come to completion.

In order to maximize results, discipline must precede diligence. In other words, one must be disciplined enough to choose and execute the highest leverage tasks from the outset, and to say “no” to the distractions that arise in the process, before diligence is beneficial. Frankly, giving constant effort to stick with, or accomplish, the wrong something, or a low-return something, hurts an organization and stifles results.

The word consistent is a cousin of diligent. To be consistent means to “constantly adhere to the same principles”. Thus discipline chooses the right activity or principle; consistency ensures those same things are done repeatedly, and diligence ensures the actions are not only initiated but followed through to a successful completion.

Discipline, consistent and diligent are critical success traits demonstrated by highly successful people, and are a trait of highly performing cultures overall. Without discipline you’ll consistently put second things first, as you diligently move forward majoring in minor things.

Building a High Performance Culture Part XIX

March 18th, 2015

Words that Work: Wise

Words that Hurt: Foolish

In this post on building a high performance culture I’m adding the word “wise” to the words that work column, and “foolish” to the list of cultural words that hurt.

I’ll expand on traits of both wise and foolish people, as well as strategies for dealing with both below. First do a quick review of the strong and weak cultural words so you can conceptualize the ideal culture to move towards, as well as what you must move away from culturally in order to maximize your organization’s potential.

Words that work and must be woven into culture:

Earn: to acquire through merit.

Deserve: to be worthy of; to qualify for.

Consistent: constantly adhering to the same principles.

Hope: grounds for believing something in the future will happen.

Catalyst: a person or thing that makes something happen.

Responsible: to be the primary cause of something.

Tough-minded: strong willed, vigorous, not easily swayed.

Loyal: faithfulness to one’s duties or obligations.

Passion: a strong feeling or enthusiasm about something, or about doing something.

Discipline: an activity, regimen, or exercise that develops or improves a habit or skill.

Commit: to pledge oneself to something.

Prune: to remove what is undesirable.

Words that hurt and must be weeded out of culture:

Fault: responsibility for failure.

Blame: to assign responsibility for failure.

Excuse: a plea offered to explain away a fault or failure.

Mediocre: average, ordinary, not outstanding.

Wish: to want something that cannot, or probably will not happen.

Entitle: a claim to something you feel you are owed.

Sloth: reluctance to work or exert effort; laziness.

Complacent: calmly content, smugly self-satisfied.

Maintain: to cause (something) to exist or continue without changing.

Apathy: a lack of enthusiasm, interest or concern.

Interest: to be curious about (as opposed to being committed).

Wise is defined as: having or showing good judgment.

Foolish is defined as: lacking good sense of judgment.

Keep in mind that wise doesn’t necessarily mean book smart, and a fool isn’t necessarily an untalented dullard. In fact, sometimes the “fool” is the brightest person in the room. And while most people show signs of both wise and foolish behavior from time to time, the trait that dominates should best foretell their future with your organization.

What can accurately help you determine how to categorize one as wise or foolish is in how they respond to the feedback you give them on their behaviors. Author Dr. Henry Cloud specifically mentions the following differences. Pay close attention, because in order to build or sustain a strong culture it’s essential you have wise people throughout; those who respond as follows when receiving feedback on their behaviors and performance:

  • They thank you for it.
  • They own it; take responsibility for it.
  • They show remorse for unhealthy behaviors when you bring it to their attention.
  • Your relationship with them strengthens as a result of the feedback.
  • They change their behavior as a result of getting feedback.

You can take wise people far in an organization; your investments in time, dollars, training, coaching and mentoring return to you exponentially over time as they grow and increase their capacity to contribute to the organization.

Unlike a wise person, the fool does the following when you give him feedback:

  • Externalizes it: He will blame others, conditions, and even you for their behavior or results: “You do the same thing!” etc.
  • Minimizes it: He will try to convince you his behavior or result isn’t that big of a deal: “I was only ten minutes late. What’s the big deal?”
  • Rationalize it: He will excuse it; say he had no choice based on the situation he was in, the options available: “Given the hand I was dealt, I didn’t have a choice”, etc.
  • The relationship weakens as a result of your giving feedback; the person withdraws, pouts, resents and tells others how unfair you are.

Your future with foolish people within your organization should be brief, at best. They demonstrate character flaws you cannot fix or change. They can fix or change them, but don’t seem to see the need for it.

Building a High Performance Culture Part XVIII

February 2nd, 2015

A word that works: “Prune”

In this eighteenth post on building a high performance culture I want to put in the “words that work” column a word normally associated with gardening, but whose applications for improving an organization’s culture abound; prune.

I’ll expand on how pruning benefits culture momentarily, but to review the portrait of high performing cultures this series has presented take a moment to review both what must be woven into, and weeded out of, a culture to create optimal performance:

Words that work and must be woven into culture

Earn: to acquire through merit.

Deserve: to be worthy of; to qualify for.

Consistent: constantly adhering to the same principles.

Hope: grounds for believing something in the future will happen.

Catalyst: a person or thing that makes something happen.

Responsible: to be the primary cause of something.

Tough-minded: strong willed, vigorous, not easily swayed.

Loyal: faithfulness to one’s duties or obligations.

Passion: a strong feeling or enthusiasm about something, or about doing something.

Discipline: an activity, regimen, or exercise that develops or improves a habit or skill.

Commit: to pledge oneself to something.

Words that hurt and must be weeded out of culture

Fault: responsibility for failure.

Blame: to assign responsibility for failure.

Excuse: a plea offered to explain away a fault or failure.

Mediocre: average, ordinary, not outstanding.

Wish: to want something that cannot, or probably will not happen.

Entitle: a claim to something you feel you are owed.

Sloth: reluctance to work or exert effort; laziness.

Complacent: calmly content, smugly self-satisfied.

Maintain: to cause (something) to exist or continue without changing.

Apathy: a lack of enthusiasm, interest or concern.

Interest: to be curious about (as opposed to being committed).

To prune is defined as: to remove what is undesirable. When pruning a bush, less than optimal branches and buds are removed so they no longer zap vital resources from those with the potential to become great. If left on a bush, the dying or dead branches create a visual blight, and cause the healthy branches to go over, under, and around their interference in order to reach their peak form.

In business a candidate for pruning—what is undesirable and needing to be removed somewhat, or altogether—may range from ineffective or underperforming:

  • Policies
  • Processes
  • Strategies
  • Vendors
  • People
  • Products
  • Services
  • Investment dollars
  • And more.

Unlike a sick branch, you don’t automatically remove the listed underperforming entities in organizational culture. Rather, there are three categories of pruning each may fit into.  Understanding these three options creates a useful decision-making filter that allows you to make the right choices to build a high performing culture.

Category one: the entities that are good, but have little chance of becoming great. These are normally areas where, regardless of what you put into someone or something, you reap a diminishing return. Since it is good you don’t remove it, but realign time or resources into the aspects of your culture that have a chance to become great. The key word here is: realign.

Example: A solid performer you want on the team; but regardless how much time or training you give them they still produce around the same amount. You’ll need to realign some of what you’re investing in this person into someone who has higher upward potential.

Category two: entities that are struggling and not getting better. These are policies, people, strategies and the like where business as usual is not an option; something must change. You’re not ready to remove it yet, but you need to revitalize it.

Example: A marketing strategy that used to bring results but seems to have run its course. You’re close to abandoning it, but will try one new angle, a new medium, a new something to attempt to revive it. It could also involve a poor performer whom you’re close to terminating, but will try one last time to revitalize through training, or by transferring to a position they’re better suited for.

Category three: entities for which there are no hope. On a bush, this would be the branch that has died and is taking up space. In business this is someone or something you’ve tried to realign and revitalize, but you’re still not getting the desired results. This aspect of pruning mandates that it’s time to remove it.

Example: The performer that, despite your efforts to coach, motivate, and train continues to miss your standards. It could also be a product or product line that has outlived its usefulness; no marketing campaign has been able to save it. It’s time for it to go.

By realigning, revitalizing or removing what isn’t desirable, you are able to efficiently execute the disciplines within your culture that increase your success. Pruning is a key ally to leaders who understand that mediocrity is a dangerously seductive cultural infection; and unless they act on it their culture will become a host and carrier of its disease.

Building a High Performance Culture Part XVII

December 29th, 2014

Words that Work: Committed

Words that Hurt: Interested

In this seventeenth post on building a high performance culture I want to put in each the “words that work”, and the “words that hurt”, column a word that separates the good from great in any conceivable endeavor; one who is committed versus one who is merely interested.

I’ll expand on committed vs. interested in a moment, but to bring you up-to-speed on this culture series, please review the following points and words from past posts:

  • Culture is never done. Thus, the “words that work” concepts must be consistently woven into your culture to strengthen it.
  • The words that hurt, and their ensuing mindsets, must be just as diligently weeded out of your culture.
  • These two categories are designed to build an evolving portrait of what a high performance culture looks like so you can evaluate your own culture, and continuously strive towards the ideal.

Words that work:

Earn: to acquire through merit.

Deserve: to be worthy of; to qualify for.

Consistent: constantly adhering to the same principles.

Hope: grounds for believing something in the future will happen.

Catalyst: a person or thing that makes something happen.

Responsible: to be the primary cause of something.

Tough-minded: strong willed, vigorous, not easily swayed.

Loyal: faithfulness to one’s duties or obligations.

Passion: a strong feeling or enthusiasm about something, or about doing something.

Discipline: an activity, regimen, or exercise that develops or improves a habit or skill.

Words that hurt:

Fault: responsibility for failure.

Blame: to assign responsibility for failure.

Excuse: a plea offered to explain away a fault or failure.

Mediocre: average, ordinary, not outstanding.

Wish: to want something that cannot, or probably will not happen.

Entitle: a claim to something you feel you are owed.

Sloth: reluctance to work or exert effort; laziness.

Complacent: calmly content, smugly self-satisfied.

Maintain: to cause (something) to exist or continue without changing.

Apathy: a lack of enthusiasm, interest or concern.

I’ve had leaders attend my workshops whose first reaction to my asking if they’re interested in, or committed to, becoming a great leader and building a great organization respond: “What’s the difference?” Frankly, the difference is staggering. Take a look:

  • Interested: to be curious about.
  • Committed: to have pledged oneself to something.

Consider how weak, unconvincing and uninspiring being interested sounds when compared to commitment:

  1. I’m curious about what it would be like to become a great leader.
  2. I’m curious about what it would be like to build a higher performing culture.
  3. I’m curious how it would feel to have our best year ever.

On the other hand, “pledging oneself to something” indicates you are willing to pay a price; and understanding that it’s not likely to be a one-time, lump sum payment; it will be an installment plan. But you’re willing to keep plodding on for the long haul because you understand that the prize of excellence, the payoff for operating at your fullest potential and achieving what you never dreamt possible, is worth the price.

Eventually, every parent, spouse, team member, business leader, coach, teacher, pastor, everyone, must decide which column they’re in: interested or committed. All must embrace the reality that high performing cultures are shaped by, strengthened by, and protected by, those who are committed to consistently excellent performance.

By the way, the column you choose doesn’t have to be announced. You never have to tell others “I’m committed”, because when it’s true they can tell by watching you. They see the price you pay, the disciplines you develop, the tough decisions you make, the sacrifices you endure and, ultimately, how your talk about becoming great and your daily walk align.