Portland Blog

5 Principles for Getting Culture Right in Your Business
By Amy Powell
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5 Principles for Getting Culture Right in Your Business
By Amy Powell

All businesses focus on metrics for success. But measuring organizational culture is often considered a “nice-to-have” rather than an essential metric. Need to cut the budget? The culture survey is often the first to go, because culture isn’t considered to be one of the KPIs of the business and its leaders.

There are other obstacles for the culture survey. In some companies, fear is a factor. The prospect of canvassing employees and finding out what they really think seems daunting. I have often heard senior executives say, “we know how our employees feel, and what their problems are. We don’t need to ask them.” Often, the underlying issue is a fear of seeing those problems in black-and-white, and the resulting need to do something in response.

And then there’s the fact that organizational culture isn’t easy to change. McKinsey research indicates that two-thirds of culture change initiatives fail. As such, it’s a business hot potato. No one wants to end up with their hands burned.

But a great organizational culture is the foundation that enables you to have loyal, engaged employees, better productivity, and a more profitable enterprise. Ignore it at your own peril.

Based on my thirty years of experience in leadership and culture transformation, here are five essential principles you need to embrace in order to get culture right:

1. Recognize the connection between your business’s values and its culture

Values drive culture. Organizations that demonstrate positive values (such as integrity, customer satisfaction, and making a difference) have measurably better cultures than organizations that demonstrate negative values (such as blame, buck passing, and information hoarding). And research shows that organizations that have measurably better cultures are more profitable, with more productive, engaged employees.

Creating a strong culture requires strategy and commitment, but there is no other single change your business could make that will give you such wide-ranging and tangible benefits.

 2. The lived culture of the organization must be measured

Whether or not you measure it, your business has a culture. And that culture can be helping you grow, or it could be causing huge problems you will have to deal with sooner or later. Measurement is essential to understand its impact.

How do you measure a culture? You measure its values. But there is a difference between the aspirational values in the lobby, and the values that are actually at play in meetings, performance reviews, and emails. In an exceptional organization, official and lived values will be similar, but in most cases there are differences. In some situations the differences are stark.

At Enron Corporation, the official corporate values in 2000 were:

  • Communication
  • Respect
  • Integrity
  • Excellence

Had they measured the real values of the company, it’s likely that they would have found values like:

  • Greed
  • Short term results
  • Internal competition
  • Arrogance

A successful culture transformation must measure what the people in your company are experiencing every day, and use that as a starting point. It must also determine what they would like to experience, and use that as an end goal. You can only learn this information by asking your employees. Enron leaders didn’t ask, because they didn’t want to know.

3. A well-designed aspirational culture is a good start, but it’s not enough

Too often the aspirational culture is developed at the top, without any input from employees. But employees can refuse to engage with culture change initiatives if they haven’t been involved in developing them. They need ownership, as much as senior executives do.

Consider this: Who understands what kind of culture would motivate, engage and stimulate employees? Employees themselves, of course. Employees know what they want, and they are often incredibly savvy about what the organization’s values need to be in order to make it more successful. In our experience, employees always “get it right.”

If your company truly respects its people (who are often the first point of contact for your customers), you must listen to them.

4. Understand that culture transformation is more than a one-time intervention

Technologies change. Strategies change. Products change. Cultures, too, must evolve to meet the needs of their dynamic circumstances and environments.

Culture transformation is a long game. Once you’ve executed an intervention that positively impacts your organizational culture, you must ensure that it remains relevant to your ever-developing employees, customers and conditions.

In other words: Culture improvement, including ongoing review of the values of your business and its people, needs to become part of your organizational culture.

5. Make every leader responsible for culture change

In reality, organizations don’t change. People do. For your business’s culture change program to be successful, the first people who need to make meaningful changes are the leaders of the business. Studies have shown that a person’s immediate leader has more impact on their engagement than any single other factor.

Therefore, any plan for culture transformation requires a plan for leadership transformation. This means ensuring that your leaders are living in alignment with the aspirational values of your organization. There are many ways you can address this: Leader 360 feedback, coaching, mentoring, and strengthening the criteria for leadership selection, development, and promotion.

In summary: Company culture is worth the effort

Culture is integral to your company’s success—don’t allow it to form in an unfocused, unintentional way. By understanding and leveraging the power of a values-driven culture, you give employees a chance to be their best, resulting in higher engagement, improved productivity, and greater profitability.

Author: Amy Powell

Amy is the Director of Business on Purpose, LLC. She has worked internationally in the field of culture and leadership transformation for 30 years. For the past decade, Amy has used the Barrett Culture Transformation Tools (CTT) to measure and change organizational cultures. She is such an advocate for these tools that she has become a Trainer Partner with the Barrett Values Centre, enabling her to certify others in the use of the CTT suite of tools. She will be running a certification on November 5-8, 2018 in Portland, Oregon. For more information, click here.

Putting the Capital “P” in Purpose
By Vawn Hicks
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Putting the Capital “P” in Purpose
By Vawn Hicks

It’s a very simple word purpose, which means the reason why something exists or is done but the word takes on a much deeper meaning when the “P” in purpose is capitalized with the intention of self-reflection. What is my Purpose? What is my intention, objective, goal based on my deepest core values?

I attended the Association for Talent Development (ATD) International Expo & Conference in early May and the word Purpose and why it’s important to know your Purpose continued to echo as a theme throughout the conference. President Barack Obama was a keynote speaker at the conference and he spoke to Purpose. “Think about what you can do, not what you want to be,” said Obama.

Dan Pontefract, contributor to Forbes Magazine wrote about his experience listening to Obama speak at this same conference (Obama’s Three Leadership Takeaways from the 2018 ATD Conference). Dan writes,

“He urged leaders to consider the concept of purpose rather than the quest for a fancy title. As leaders, when we can help those we are leading tap into their best selves, we are helping them develop a sense of both personal and role purpose. When we set an example where our singular mission is to climb the corporate ladder, what is the real goal in that title attainment? Is it to attain a comfy corner office, or a six/seven-figure salary, or more headcount, or a larger departmental budget? The result will likely be a career that ends up not only feeling hollow but empty of genuine meaning.

Obama was crystal clear. If you seek out a life and a career that is purpose-driven, goodness will result in the outcome. When we seek the trappings of money, power and entitlement first, is that a life worth living?”

I also attended a session titled “Wired to Become: The Neuroscience of Purpose” by Britt Andreatta, CEO and President of BrittAndreattaTraining.com. She reported that in the evolution of economy, the current “Information phase” is leading us into the next phase which is “Purpose”. She explained when one has Purpose then positive outcomes such as creating successful change and great teams are achievable. Andreatta delves in deeper with scientific research demonstrating that having a sense of Purpose in one’s life is linked to the protection of neurotransmitters, brain structures and neural protection.

Dr. Britt Andreatta

Purpose also protects our physical and community health. Check out these statistics:

Neural Protection

People with a sense of Purpose have:

  • Reduced risk for dementia (50%)
  • Reduced risk for stroke (72%)
  • Slowed age-related decline
  • Reduced depression in adults and teens

Physical Health

People with a sense of Purpose have:

  • Reduced hospital stays (17%)
  • Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (44%)
  • Reduced risk of heart attack (48%)
  • Lower levels of inflammatory response
  • Increased self-care (regular screenings, exercise, etc.)
  • Longer lifespans (“buffer against mortality”)

Community Health

People with a sense of Purpose have:

  • Increased comfort with diversity
  • Decreased perception of difficulty
  • Shield from the stereotype threat
  • Improved rehabilitation
  • Increased healing through tragedy and loss

After thinking about what Barack Obama and Britt Andreatta said I couldn’t help but think about my Grandmother and how she always said being a positive thinker will help you live a longer and happier life. It is no surprise to me that one of Conscious Capitalism’s four principles is Purpose.

On Conscious Capitalism’s homepage you will find why and how Purpose is vital. In fact, in the words of University of Virginia Darden School of Business professor and Conscious Capitalism, Inc. trustee R. Edward Freeman,

“We need red blood cells to live (the same way a business needs profits to live), but the purpose of life is more than to make red blood cells (the same way the purpose of business is more than simply to generate profits).”

While making money is essential for the vitality and sustainability of a business, it is not the only or even the most important reason a business exists. Conscious businesses focus on their purpose beyond profit.

We all need meaning and purpose in our lives. It is one of the things that separates us from other animals. Purpose activates us and motivates us. It moves us to get up in the morning, sustains us when times get tough and serves as a guiding star when we stray off course. Conscious Businesses provide us with this sense of meaning and purpose.

By focusing on its deeper Purpose, a conscious business inspires, engages and energizes its stakeholders. Employees, customers and others trust and even love companies that have an inspiring purpose.

Between referencing Obama’s inspiring words about Purpose to linking Britt Andreatta’s research to why it’s healthy to reflect and live your life according to your Purpose and tying this Purpose reflection to Conscious Capitalism, it’s time you ask yourself this question: What is my Purpose?

Author: Vawn Hicks

Vawn Shandy Hicks is the Marketing Communications Manager for Conscious Capitalism, Portland. She has worked in Marketing, Healthcare and Human Resources, most recently at Oregon Parks and Recreation where she received the agency’s Process Improvement Award. Vawn is an avid music fan who loves to cook, dance and one of her bucket list goals is to explore the country in a vintage Airstream travel trailer.

The Consumer Needs to Change First and This Broken Cycle Needs to Finally Rest
By Erik Croswell
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The Consumer Needs to Change First and This Broken Cycle Needs to Finally Rest
By Erik Croswell

There are no good guys and bad guys. There are people who choose to consider the perspectives of others and people who don’t pay this much mind or simply can’t see it.

Any issue that we see at the tops of our news feeds are generally more complex than they might let on to be but are often disguised to represent over simplified, two-dimensional solutions for three-dimensional problems. One group will point a finger of blame at another who will respond with “No no. Hey now. We only do this because they make us.” And this rusted chain eventually ends up wrapping back around in a loop to the beginning, starting with a brand new day of blame gaming, back patting, and scape goat farming.  It’s broken and inefficient.

We can generally see this cycle push through three common groups: government systems, consumers, and corporations.  There is an undeniable truth that for any genuine change to actually happen, all three must adapt. However, we believe there is a functional process to get there which might be able to make some real change once and for all, and it starts with the consumer.

“Conscious consuming” is by no means a new idea but it’s certainly not one that’s caught on in the way that it needs to, and that’s because it hasn’t yet had the power to become a mass movement.  While it might feel good to pay the extra fifty cents to buy a more energy-efficient light bulb, critics of this ideology are right in saying that this behavior is not nearly enough.

But now, in a world of extremely powerful social media and e-commerce systems, the consumer has more power than they’ve ever had before and more of us are figuring this out everyday.  An educated consumer is now capable of looking deep into the ins and outs of a company and is able to make decisions on who deserves their support vs. who should have a social media hashtag boycott movement lead against them.

As consumers, we generally make decisions that align with our own standards or the standards of our peers, but corporations and government systems are generally more complex. If a president feels strongly about making an important environmental change, they’ll need to get a bill approved through the house of representatives and congress. If a CEO of a major corporation wants to start offering higher wages to their employees, they’ll need approval from a board of directors, and if this decision does not lead to a clear path of growth for shareholders, the CEO might be promptly replaced by someone who will play along with the profit-first structure of the corporation. While ethical changes from a government or major business certainly offer a much larger and more important change for our world, the barriers against free will are greater than that of consumers.

So what do you do about it? Vote with your dollar and your voice! We don’t have to feel helpless. With proper research, we can make a big impact.

For instance, if you’d like to avoid contributing to a greater climate footprint for your food, we can look up where a company’s processing plants are, what other organizations they’re giving money to, and how the farmers of the original raw ingredients are treating the crops.  And If there is a company that shows a significant level of social responsibility and you feel good about supporting them, let others know and continue to support them! This will help drive demand and reinforce that their responsible practices are capable of influencing profit, which should encourage other companies to follow suit when they learn of these trends.

At Bridge City Media, we care about giving a stronger voice to innovative companies that are pushing to make a positive change in public health and the environment. We believe that helping these businesses connect with an educated consumer base could help in this great movement of change we’d like to see in the world.

If we lived in a world with a more active and educated consumer base, everything would change. For example, to fight major health epidemics in America, we can be vocal about our trust in foods with a nutritious balance of ingredients and honest marketing. This gives these companies more power to continue growing and thus puts pressure on other companies to start holding themselves to higher standards of ingredients to secure their profits, which allows major CEOs more freedom to make decisions in favor of better ethics. This then creates a wider base of lobbyists and bureaucrats that will encourage federal legislation toward better opportunities of subsidies for companies that yield more positive impacts on public health.

Where we choose to put our money is what shapes our society. While this power might bear greater weight in the hands of others, it is still a responsibility that we all share. If we don’t like the balance of the current structure, we can change it! The ways things are right now favor companies that constantly bully our public health and our environment, this needs to stop and we need to start believing that we can do something about it.

Author: Erik Croswell

Erik Croswell is a Portland entrepreneur that founded Bridge City Media, a video marketing company that focuses on working with higher practice businesses.

Outside of film, he likes to travel, hike, and climb. He think there’s a lot to be gained from exploring other parts of the world and being exposed to new perspectives.