9 Characteristics of a Success Culture

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Late last year, Chartered Accountants Australia New Zealand, The Ethics Centre, Governance Institute of Australia and Institute of Internal Auditors – Australia published a practice guide on Managing Culture. This extensive resource cited a number of characteristics of a ‘sound’ culture. Here’s how to action them to build a Success Culture.

Honesty, respect, openness, accountability, competence, reliability, responsiveness, personal and organisational resilience and shared purpose. These characteristics, drawn from results of the UK Banking Standards Board’s culture assessment, are definitely great indicators of an organisation has ‘sound culture’. Here’s what these characteristics can look like on a day to day level.

(1,2,3) Honesty, Respect, Openness

Honesty, openness and respect are key communication attributes of a success culture, specifically in building trust. A culture of trust can do remarkable things for an organisation.

Research has shown people who trust each other are more productive, feel a higher degree of loyalty to their team and organisation, and are also known to give outstanding service.

What does trust look like in a workplace? Confidence. If you are a person your colleagues or clients can trust that means they have confidence in you. Confidence in you to:

  • Make decisions or work autonomously
  • Lead and advise
  • Move up or take on more responsibilities
  • Have your colleagues’ back!

Confidence in Me?

Do you want people to have more confidence in you? With a respectful nod to the great Steven Covey of the book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, here are 5 actions you can to take in creating trust, also known as, confidence.

7 habits of highly effective people1: Demonstrate respect and genuine care for others. Respect the dignity of every person on your team, especially those who don’t do anything directly for you.

2: Try a ‘what you see is what you get’ approach. Be transparent, open and authentic. Tell the truth in a way people can verify. Try to err on the side of disclosure, and don’t have hidden agendas or objectives. Never withhold information.

3: Make things right.  Don’t let your personal pride get in the way of doing the right thing. If you have made a mistake or you are outright wrong, apologise quickly. Compensate where possible and demonstrate personal humility. Don’t cover things up.

4: Communicate person to person not position to position. We’re all humans here. Take the time to learn who your team members are and what they are doing for the organisation. Ask questions with genuine interest about their role. Genuine connections between colleagues is an essential foundation to Team Intelligence™ (TeamQ™).

5: Demonstrate trust. Show your confidence in others. Allow people to be the expert they are. Listen with respect to their unique knowledge and insights. You never know they might just make a difference to your workplace environment by what they have to say. Whats more, when people are being heard, they are more likely to hear you.

blame in the workplace(4,5,6) Accountability, Competence, Reliability

Accountability, competence and reliability again are all important to building trust. But what does accountability looks like? And how can you create a culture of competence and reliability?

We wrote an extensive article on accountability where we delved deep into the extraordinary power of showing up, the truth about why we often don’t, and how easy it is to make a change, such as:

1: Giving up excuses. Making excuses for why things are not getting done is easy but be perceived as a masked form of procrastination. “I’m too busy” or “I have never done that before”  or “I don’t know what I am doing” are great excuse examples.

2: Giving up blame. Giving up pointing the finger at others for why goals or responsibilities are not getting done, and owning the problems of your colleagues, staff or customers is another way to demonstrate your accountability. Overcoming this requires us to point the finger at ourselves and admit we may, in fact, be the problem, not other people or factors.

3: Giving up looking good. Always seek clarification on what is expected of you. The most effective individuals and teams understand what they are responsible for and how they achieve the best results.

Creating a Culture of Competence and Reliability

Organisations work well when everyone is making an individual contribution – lots of small things adding up to the bigger picture. Individuals work well when they understand what their contribution is and how they can maximise it and get as much satisfaction as possible, and creating a culture of feedback is one the best ways do that.

Feedback in dysfunctional organisations comes across as confrontational, feedback in organisations with success cultures is regular, informal, constructive and safe.

Safety is a fundamental human need. Your team need to know where they stand – today and in the long run. One of the best ways a team leader can do this is to provide regular feedback on performance and clarify goals, especially during times of change. The trouble with feedback is that it is often heard like criticism which could counter the feeling of safety.

Start incorporating a culture where feedback is welcomed and acknowledged for the powerful fuel it is for breakthroughs in growth and development. Set up the right environment for casual, non-confrontational feedback. Buy a coffee, ask questions around the issue, listen and remove any sense of judgment.

Remember to demonstrate your trust, person to person, and you might even get to know each other a little better.

(7) Responsiveness

Responsiveness by definition is the quality of reacting quickly and positively. For successful multinationals like Tesla, Apple, Amazon, Marriott and Salesforce where reputation and bottom line relies heavily on the experience of the end user, excellence in customer service is a priority and that means excellence in responsiveness.

And what’s the best way to work out your responsive strategy? Ask questions! Asking the right questions will gather the vital information your customer needs to hear and experience. Not only will it give answers, it will help you build rapport.

Combining the valuable information your customers provide about what is important to them with your team’s unique insight and intelligence about your customers, systems and products, will give you the invaluable answers for how you can respond effectively to the needs of all your stakeholders.

building resistance(8) Personal and Organisational Resilience

It is almost impossible to avoid stress in the workplace, but we can build resilience to it.  Let’s look at one of the biggest causes of stress: change. Change, whether at work or in our personal life, positive or negative, generally requires us to adapt in the way we think or the way we do. Here are three ways to deal with change:

  • Acknowledging any discomfort around this change can help the transition.
  • Remember that change is a shift in external conditions and transition is your individual response to that change – you control your response!
  • Practice VBA: Take time to Vent about the change; Brainstorm ways to deal with the change and then plan your steps for Action to deal with the change.

The other big ‘scary’ is the fear of failure.

Why do we fear failure?

One of our favourite authors, speaker, and marketer, Seth Godin, believes the reason goes back to a time when fear and failure meant a whole lot more than looking bad.

The components of fear were put together long before we were even born when our primitive brain (which still affects the instinctive part of our thinking) required a whole different set of survival instincts in order to get through the day.

This was a time when we had to rely on our reptilian brain to cope and we literally had to run (take flight) or be prepared to fight, hence the common term, ‘fight or flight’. It was our first suit of armour.

When asked how do we overcome our reptilian fear, Seth says that we cannot and should not fight against the fear, rather, we should “dance with the lizard”.  In other words, we should acknowledge that we are fearful and do it anyway.  We should do the opposite of what the lizard is saying! (Unless the situation will actually cause you physical harm!)

So now with these concepts in mind, let’s take a look again at the words fear and failure with some management strategies thrown in.

What is fear and how to deal with it?

Fear is how our body reacts to any kind of threat (being rejected, speaking out, sharing an idea, not being good enough, asking questions) like we are on the run from a Tyrannosaurus Rex. We get stressed. We might fumble, sweat, not think straight, even have heart palpitations or shortness of breath.

Now while it is near impossible to avoid our fears, stress, or “threats” in our day to day, we can build resilience to them. We can learn to ‘dance with the lizard’. A popular strategy, we’ve seen work countless times, is to re-label your stressful/fearful event from a ‘crises’ to a ‘challenge’.

That’s right, by simply swapping words you can change your mindset, with remarkable effect on how you deal with a situation. From facing a fear to facing a challenge.

successful fun culture(9) Shared Purpose

When it comes to developing workplace synergy, defining the right core values for your business is one of the best ways to bring your team together and keep them on track.

Values are how you do things to make you successful and they take time to develop. So where do you start? We believe there are 5 Steps to Creating a Success Culture which include:

  • Starting with Your Why
  • Questioning Your Values
  • Strengthening Your Team Intelligence™ (TeamQ™)
  • Taking Action, and
  • Keep Moving

When it comes to setting guiding principles for your organisation, it is important to align your personal values with the values of your company, and its culture for success. To do this, your purpose needs to be clear and you need to articulate how your values are actionable on a daily basis.

You also need to understand your team and their needs. When leaders and teams listen, really listen, using empathy to comprehend what each individual is thinking or feeling without attempting to change or fix them or solve the problem, the person feels appreciated as a human being; they feel valued. And this is the space where trust and highly effective teams evolve – effective teams with a shared purpose.

Final Word

To build a success culture you need a healthy ecosystem where all stakeholder needs are being met. Values like honesty, respect, openness, accountability, competence, reliability, responsiveness, personal and organisational resilience and shared purpose, are great benchmarks to get your organisation there.

Just remember that everything takes time and small steps matter, so keep moving in the direction you want to go and eventually you will get there.

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