All Articles Leadership Management S. Chris Edmonds, on why culture matters

S. Chris Edmonds, on why culture matters

4 min read


SmartBlog on Leadership regular contributor S. Chris Edmonds is releasing his new book, “The Culture Engine,” from Wiley. He is a speaker, author, and executive consultant with his own firm and the Ken Blanchard Cos. Learn about Edmonds’ services and subscribe to his blog posts & podcasts at Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and iTunes podcasts.

Below, he answers some common questions about the book and why it’s important to focus on culture within organizations.

“The Culture Engine” launches this week. There are a lot of books about corporate culture available. Why was this book written?

Organizations around the globe are not consistently compelling or inspiring places to work today. Recent data from Blessing White indicates that only 4 in 10 employees are engaged at work. Only 45% of employees are even satisfied at work! (Research from the Conference Board.) Leaders have a great opportunity to craft work environments based on trust, respect, and dignity, every day.

Why are values important in the workplace, and why must organizations make values as important as performance?

A values-aligned workplace boosts employee engagement, customer service, and profits. Performance expectations outline what is being produced and delivered by the team or division or company (we’ll use the team context for simplicity’s sake). Values expectations outline how leaders and team members are to interact with each other and customers every day.

Unfortunately, leaders today focus primarily — some exclusively — on products and services, not on how their team operates or how safe and inspiring the work environment is! Values standards help craft clear guidelines for cooperation and civility in the team.

Tell us more about organizational constitutions.

An organizational constitution is a formal document that specifies the team’s purpose, values and behaviors, strategies, and goals. A constitution creates clarity about what the team produces, who it serves, how members are to behave, and “to what end” the team toils. It ensures that everyone on the team understands these “liberating rules” – liberating because they enable team members to enjoy shared goals and common values. Team members can relax, focus, produce, and work together in a trusting, respectful environment.

The book argues that crafting a team’s purpose and the team’s values and behaviors will take the greatest amount of time. Why is that?

Leaders typically have much more experience creating performance standards and managing to those. Leaders have rarely been asked to craft their team’s “reason for being” (purpose) and specify desired values and behaviors — they just don’t know how to do that. Nor have leaders been asked to manage to team purpose, values, and behaviors. And, these pieces are vital ones to help create consistent workplace inspiration. The book gives leaders a step-by-step process to building their team’s purpose and valued behaviors — and how to manage to them.

How do leaders make values measurable — as measurable as performance metrics?

Values are commonly defined in organizations in very lofty, vague terms. They’re not clear, nor are they observable, tangible, or measurable. Values need to be as crisply defined as performance goals are — people need to know exactly what’s expected. By defining values in behavioral terms, expectations shift from “What do they mean by that?” to “OK, I can do that!”

For example, if you have an integrity value and list “I do what I say I will do, every day” as a behavior you desire, team leaders and members can choose to demonstrate that behavior. They know what a good job looks like, now.

Ultimately, values defined in behavioral terms let leaders model desired behaviors, celebrate aligned behaviors in others, and redirect when behaviors are misaligned.