(This bylined article by Gregg Lederman, Brand Integrity CEO, appeared on HR.com, the largest social network and online community of HR executives that shares knowledge on best practices, trends and industry news in order to help them develop their most important asset – their people.)
“The secret to success is good leadership, and good leadership is all about making the lives of your team members or workers better.” — NFL Coach Tony Dungy
Leaders understand this mindset and strive to live it every day. And while it seems simple in theory, it’s not easy in execution. Yet, time and again, the most successful leaders find a way to overcome obstacles and create vibrant, powerful cultures within their organizations. How? Because leaders who instill successful, lasting change share three distinctive traits that help them find the ideal balance between performance, accountability, and humanity to create better places to work, while still achieving business results.
These traits can be boiled down to 3 Cs: Compassion, Courage, and Commitment.
When leaders have a healthy combination of those three qualities— and show their employees that they do— meaningful and sustainable culture change follows naturally. And while the words themselves may seem fairly obvious, it’s important that each facet of the 3Cs be properly understood in order to fully incorporate them into your management style.
When it comes down to it, wanting to make a real culture change has to start with having heart.
Instinctively, CEOs care about business metrics, like profitability, growth, and retention. But the CEOs who also lead with Compassion, or “heart,” believe that the quality of an organization’s culture is an equally important measure of success. Great leaders know that creating a purpose-driven environment where employees are engaged is, by itself, a desirable outcome.
Leaders high in Compassion can be heard saying:
“The numbers are important, but I want it to feel good to work here.”
“Our culture has a competitive advantage that attracts, and helps us keep, the best people.”
“The ROI on culture may sometimes be hard to measure right away, but it shows up in the extra effort and teamwork our employees demonstrate every day.”
Ultimately, leaders who demonstrate Compassion want their employees to have a great place to work, to take pride in their company, and to be passionate about the work they do.
In order to build a passionate team, leaders need to be courageous in their mission to achieve their desired culture. If you’re a leader who has attempted multiple culture improvement initiatives that didn’t yield results, you’re not alone. Many leaders have been in the same boat— but what sets a good leader apart is Courage and willingness to continue trying. What can often happen is that everyone wants change, but very few are willing to change.
But to create real change, you need to actively do things differently—and sometimes that requires Courage.
Take this story for instance. The CEO of one of our clients made a promise to his team: If his efforts to drive culture change were not successful in three years, he would resign. (Let that sink in.)
Bold? Perhaps. Risky? Very. So why did he do it?
He realized that his team was discouraged after living through several failed culture initiatives, and that lasting change (and better morale!) would only occur by continuing to try something different.
Two years have passed, and the work environment is becoming the one he sought to create. The Courage he had in trying something new, then owning it from a leadership perspective, was proof to his employees that he took the initiative seriously, and that the consistent focus on it isn’t going away… and, as a result, neither is he.
This is the most crucial of the 3Cs, and for good reason.
One of the biggest reasons engagement programs remain an “initiative” is because leaders don’t make a Commitment to them for the long haul. Employee engagement is not something you launch, then sit back and expect everyone else to do. Leaders who lead vibrant, engaged workforces are the ones who commit to these best practices and do them consistently:
• Model the expectations. Define your culture with actionable, company-wide behavior expectations. When leaders demonstrate these behaviors consistently, the workforce follows suit.
• Talk about it. Behaviors can’t exist solely on posters or job descriptions. You need to implement them in performance reviews, and highlight them in one-on-one meetings with team members.
• Recognize and share good work. Leaders who consistently recognize the actions their employees are taking— specific behaviors that have a positive impact on coworkers, customers, or the business— are tapping into what employees crave: a culture of appreciation for the work they do.
• Discuss survey results. When employees take the time to submit their feedback, their expectation is that someone is listening. Leaders who discuss survey results with their teams, then identify and act on opportunities for improvement, show employees that their input is valuable.
• Hold yourself, and others, accountable. Hold yourself to the same set of standards that you do your employees. Lead by example!
Most of all, Commitment in relation to culture change simply means pushing through difficult times. While change never comes easy, creating a stronger culture of respect leads to both higher retention, and higher productivity. A good leader knows that leading an engaged workforce is not only the right thing to do, but the smarter way to do business, too.