Have you noticed that things tend to slip?
Yeah, you noticed that.
It’s like you’re walking up a sand dune…if you stand still, you’ll start sliding backwards. And that’s reality for all the people in your business.
Among all the issues on your radar, there are three that you really have to reinforce. And I mean all the time. Those three are Values, Processes, and Accountability.
#1 Values Must be Reinforced
Notice that I did not say “Culture must be reinforced.” Your culture is the sum of the values you live out. (Just like on a personal level, your character is the sum of the values you live out.) When you reinforce your values, you are leaning on the levers of culture.
Patrick Lencioni tells us that 55% of American businesses have “integrity” listed as one of their core values. That value must be reinforced. Buttressed. Shored up.
So how do you reinforce a value?
Simple. You recognize people when they act in line with that value and levy consequences when people ignore or defy that value.
When was the last time that you recognized an employee not for performance or production but for living out one of your core values? If you’re not doing that every month, people will not notice the emphasis.
You can also reinforce a value by telling true stories of how people in your company lived out that value in the past. Dig around and find some good stories. Then start telling them. Our stories shape our values.
#2 Processes Must be Reinforced
Entrepreneurs are the worst at this.
If you started your business, or if you consider yourself an entrepreneur, then I’m talking to you. Entrepreneurs are really awesome at starting things. But they tend to be really lousy at following processes (even the ones they invented). Start with yourself and ask, “Am I personally, as a leader, following and reinforcing our processes?”
Processes slip because people relax and begin to cut corners.
- That requisition doesn’t really need to be filled out—I’ll just tell Bob in purchasing what I need.
- I don’t have time to find that vacation form, I’ll just email Jill in HR and let her fill it out.
- I don’t have time to run a full quality check, and besides, the last batch didn’t have any defects, so this one is probably OK, too.
A short cut in electronics is called a short circuit. It cuts other components out of the loop and may overload or fry components that needed a buffer or filter. Your org is the same way. Short cuts in processes leave people out of the loop and overload or fry others.
#3 Accountability Must be Reinforced
Bosses think that accountability is about making sure people do what they’re supposed to. Employees know that accountability is about being valued for who they are and for what they do in the organization.
No one likes sending their work or their messages off into a black hole. Lack of accountability signals to people that their work is not valuable, their time is not valuable, and their voice is not valuable. People who are not valued will stop giving their best, and they will start looking for job opportunities in companies that will value them.
For both reasons—both ensuring work gets done and ensuring that people feel valued—leaders must constantly reinforce accountability. If you are having trouble holding people accountable, it could be that your Leadership Equation is out of balance. Read that post to learn how to do a quick mental diagnostic and keep things balanced.
Lots of stuff needs your attention, but Values, Processes, and Accountability should never drop off your list.
Drop a comment below to share how you reinforce the most important things in your org.
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