Building A High Functioning Culture
The team is a reflection of the leader, therefore in order to have a high functioning team, it’s imperative that the leader models excellence.
The Influence of the Leader
Hey, it’s Hugh. Thanks for joining me today. Today’s topic is how to build a high-functioning culture. I spent 40 years as a musical conductor. I will use musical analogies; I can’t help it. I know how to build a high-functioning culture. I worked for 40 years building choirs, hiring great orchestras, and putting them together to create great ensemble. The name of my company is based on the combination of the words “synergy” and “vision.” SynerVision represents, in a non-musical situation, that sense of ensemble which defines a higher functioning culture.
Although these very competent musicians don’t give up their skill to be in a group, they enhance that skill with paying attention and performing together at a much higher level. The conductor doesn’t make it happen; the conductor inspires it and gives the space, just like a leader of a charity, a corporation, a nonprofit, a church, or a business creates the space for people to function. I find that the biggest limit to high-functioning cultures is the autocratic leader who says, “Do this and do it this way.” That just pours cold water on human initiative and enthusiasm.
I call myself the Transformational Leadership Strategist because I am not a coach nor a consultant. I represent the integration of strategy and performance. We have a piece of music, as a conductor, that is just a piece of paper with dots. Nothing happens until we make it happen. The performance mode is key. We are only as good as the team around us. If your team is not functioning, if your team is not representing your principles and values, you are in trouble. Assimilating a high-performing team is an art.
Let me give you my four steps. This is a surefire way to make sure you have the right people in the right seats on the right bus. Building a high-functioning culture in the organization you are leading is very intentional. We talked in the last session about creating a strategy, and I gave you some beginning thinking points. Certainly it is a lot more complex than I can give you in a podcast. I gave you some of the fundamental principles in the place I sent you before, thedefinitiveleader.com. There are some leadership lessons there, and there is a free report there called “Building a Sustainable Enterprise.”
It’s not done by accident. We must create the strategy. Out of the strategy we define the competencies we are going to need in our organization: on our board, on our staff, the collaborators, affiliates, joint venture partners, it’s a culture of high performance. We, as the leader, define that culture. Transformational leadership is a leadership system that is a high functioning, high-performing culture. The culture responds to every nuance of the leader, just like a very skilled orchestra responds to every nuance of the conductor. It’s no accident. We influence and empower people, and we limit people.
After we have worked on ourselves, which is the first step, followed by the strategy, now, and only now, can we find the right people to fit the values and the principles we have defined in our culture and the strategy.
Here are the four steps. By the way, when you go to hughballoupodcast.com, you get the link where you can print out the lesson if you can’t write it down or are driving. Hughballoupodcast.com will take you to the landing page that lists all of these podcasts and the transcription of what I am talking about. We don’t expect you to remember it all, so we have written it out for you. If there is a download, it will be linked on that page.
1) Competency: You want to make sure you have defined the competencies for the people you want on your team. We have done this in the strategy. You sit down and make a list. Here are all the people I need, and here is the sequence. Your strategy defines what you need when. When do you need this competency? Do you have the resources to pay them? Do you have the resources for their office? Do you have the resources for the marketing budget that they need or the office space? Have you thought through the sequence of when they come on? When they do come on, you have already defined the competency.
In this series, I have an interview with Justin Recla. He does background checks. In business and in charity, there is an alarming amount of money that disappears because we haven’t done the sufficient background check. He will give you some things to think about. A lot of leaders lose a lot of money. I don’t care if you are running a dentist’s office, a local charity, or a multi-national enterprise. All of these leaders lose money because they haven’t put some safeguards into place. We can’t skip over verifying the competency. If they said on their resume that they have an MBA from Harvard, you should check out if that’s true. Do they really have an MBA, or did they go there briefly and take a couple of classes? There is a huge difference.
Check out the competencies. Make sure that this person has the competencies you need. The number one step is competency.
2) Role and responsibility: I suggest that you do a statement of your role. For instance, your role is marketing. Your responsibility is to create and implement marketing plans that will increase our revenue by x percent and increase our profit by x. You want to do both. Increase your sales, and increase your profit.
This replaces the standard job description. Don’t build silos. “That is not my job.” You have heard that statement. No, your role and responsibility is not only to do marketing, but also to collaborate with others on the team. If we are going to build a budget, we have to know what our needs are. Part of defining your marketing plan is defining your marketing budget and defining the outcomes.
Your role and responsibility replaces a list of tasks, and we don’t place people in the box of a job description or have them create silos. We create a culture of collaboration. It starts with everybody sharing role responsibility and how we work together.
3) Culture Fit: Make sure this person fits our culture. Part of our strategy is we have looked at our core values. What do we believe to be true? What values, if they are missing, would be deal breakers? From those core values, we have written guiding principles. The guiding principles define your culture.
I used to love to go to Disney World in Florida when my kids were growing up. I don’t know who had more fun, them or me. What I noticed was that everybody we saw and interacted with, no matter where they worked, treated us as the guest. They entertained us. Their principles are that everybody, even the people sweeping the streets, will stop, answer your questions, and make sure you are happy. They want you to have a good experience. Everybody working for Disney understands that. I don’t know for a fact, but I do know from observing the culture that their culture is very clearly defined. It works. They also make a lot of money, and they have a lot of satisfied customers.
Number three is making sure they fit your culture. If they don’t fit your culture, it will be like a cancer that affects your culture and will always cost you money. It costs money to hire people, to replace people, and to keep a person on board who is not working. It really poisons the culture. That is a very important step that most people overlook.
4) Expectations: It’s the assimilation piece. We don’t think about assimilation. We just say, “They’re an expert. Just go to work.” Wait a minute. How do we ensure their success? They are fitting into a culture we have already established, or maybe we are starting a culture, just launching an enterprise. Either way, it is important to understand that they know how they are going to succeed. There are two kinds of challenges with a start-up and somebody joining a business that is already underway. We want to make sure they are going to be successful because we have done a good job of finding the right person.
The missing document here is performance expectations. Okay, they are going to be in charge of marketing. What will they accomplish in what period of time? This is a very specific set of targets. Milestones for the year. You have a conversation with a new person, saying, “Here are my expectations for this position. How will you make that happen?” We don’t tell them. We have hired a competent person. They get to prove what they say. We want them to define the pathway because they are in fact the marketing expert, not us. If we aren’t, we need to get out of their way. There is a reason you have hired the person. Let them do their job.
When I hired orchestras for my mega-churches, I would hire the best players possible. I did not get the best oboe player in town and then tell them how to play the oboe. What I did was say, “Let’s shape the music. This is my interpretation.” And a consummate professional understands that dynamic. They are very good at what they do; I am very good at the big picture.
Same thing here. You have a champion marketer. You shape the results, and they play the notes. We want to let them play the notes, but we tell them what the outcome looks like.
Performance expectations are like mini goals. What happens the first week, second week, third week, first month, second month, third month? We can’t do too much detail past 90 days. But we can say what we need to accomplish in the first year. And in the first 30, 60, 90 days, here are some milestones. They can help you check to see if it’s reasonable. They can help you think about how to make it happen.
They will write down the tactics and the deliverables. The deliverables are your action items. The deliverables are completions; they are not activity. They are results-based completions. Don’t write up those. The person writes them and gives them to you. If they write them, you will have a validation that they have understood. Sometimes we tell people what we want, and we think they have understood but they don’t really understand. If they write down, “Here is how I am going to get there. Here are the expectations,” then you know they have understood. Part of over-functioning as leaders: we write it up and give it to them—no, they write it up and give it to us. We get to approve it and modify it.
Then we have weekly flash meetings. How are you doing? We have a regular check-in where we are not micro-managing. We are mentoring. This is a risk reduction strategy. We don’t delegate and forget. We delegate and support. Make sure they have the information needed. Make sure the objectives are really clear. Make sure there is an accountability of weekly check-in meetings. We have measurable outcomes so your objectives and deliverables are written in present tense. “I will have accomplished x.” Very important.
Your team is the core of your organization. Your culture defines your organization. Everybody in that culture represents your organization. Why do we treat this so casually? I don’t know. Hiring is a very skill-based operation. It’s already hard. Let’s make sure that we mitigate our risks. It’s not good for the person or for us if we hire the wrong person and put them in the wrong position. By the way, this applies to board members, businesses, churches, and nonprofits. This applies to volunteers. You don’t want to ask somebody to volunteer in a charity for something they have no competency for.
Leadership is based on relationship. Communication is founded on relationship. Results, finances are based on relationships. If you, the leader, find the right people, learn to delegate, figure out what you shouldn’t be doing, make sure you assign it, then support and mentor, you raise the bar of functioning in your culture. The high-functioning culture defines your results. I see so many leaders who get stuck, and their organization can’t go any further. John Maxwell calls it the Law of the Lid. It’s our inability to lead that limits the organization.
The second limit is the people around us, which is still our ability to lead. But we need to lead the right people in the right place with the right set of instructions.
This is Hugh Ballou, the Transformational Leadership Strategist, wishing you success. Here is a tip for the weary and frantic. You are weary and frantic because you have not spent the right time in vetting, qualifying, and asking the right questions of your team. When you are exploring the fit for the culture, ask open-ended questions. Listen carefully to the answers. Observe what is going on with them. You observe with your eyes and listen with your ears, and you can determine a whole lot of stuff. We can eliminate us setting up something that will cause us stress, and then be weary and frantic because we don’t know how to fix it. Do your job. Do your due diligence. Get the right people, empower them, and get out of the way.
This is Hugh Ballou, the Transformational Leadership Strategist. I will see you in the next session.
Thanks to Wordsprint for sponsoring this post.
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