Today at the grocery store, I waited 15 minutes to buy turkey at the deli. When it became abundantly clear that I wouldn’t be seeing any turkey, I finally gave up and went about my business. The reason I was turkey-less? There were 5 high school kids buying made-to-order sandwiches in line in front of me with only one employee behind the counter desperately trying to keep up with all the demands. If you’ve ever asked a high school student to make a quick decision then you can appreciate the level of frustration for both me and the deli worker.
At the checkout aisle, I was asked what I’m sure was hoping to be a rhetorical question: “Did you find everything?” Actually, I didn’t and told the checkout clerk so. “Your manager might consider adding an extra deli employee during the high school lunch hour.” The checkout clerk rolled his eyes and said “Don’t get me started. The boss lets all the deli employees go to lunch at the same time because they want to socialize and customers are left hanging. I’m an old timer and I don’t believe in this new-fangled permissive management. Shees.” On that we were in perfect agreement.
The FLC of Businesses
What’s your company’s FLC (Frequently Lamented Concern). You know you have a few FLCs. Unfortunately, a corporate culture that is infused with too many FLCs without decisive corrective action can teeter on the brink of collapse. If there is a single FLC among the leaders we work with, it’s “We need greater accountability from teams and from our people.” Every time I hear that I recognized that this particular FLC is code for a variety of concerns that all have an impact on a company’s corporate culture:
- Not Owning Results: The moment a company team or staff member gets something right, they’ll be lining up for their “Way to go!” congratulations. However, what happens when something goes wrong? Crickets. You have to own results on both ends of the success/failure spectrum.
- Being Afraid to Ask For Help: When was the last time you were in over your head? More importantly, when was the last time you admitted you were in over your head? File this under the category of “not admitting mistakes.” What should be ingrained in employees is the ability to cry “Uncle” when appropriate and bring in the extra resources to complete a project. Without that ability, failure is imminent.
- Forgetting Who the Customer Is: This is “trench warfare thinking.” Who are you in business for? Yourself or your customer. Without the former, the latter won’t have much to do. Too often employees become so focused on being right that they forget who they need to be right for.
- Assuming What the Boss Wants: “When we assume we make a….” You know the rest. There is a fine line between knowing and assumption. Knowing comes with clarity. Assumption is based on guesswork. Which is better for your business?
- Simple Laziness: There are some workers who you just can’t reach. A task that should take a day to complete is stretched on for a week. Is this ineptitude or simple laziness? And is it time for a new employee evaluation?
- Lack of Inspiration: This aspect of the FLC spins right back to management. Unless you can inspire your workers you won’t find inspiring results.
Being Accountable Vs. Being Nice
This all spins back to that issue of accountability or rather the lack thereof. Boil it down to a primary root cause? Our society (and by extension our workforce) is falling prey to the growing trend not to speak up and speak the simple truth plainly and swiftly. We like to call it “Parenting-We-Never-Got Syndrome.” We SO want to be nice! We SO want approval! We SO want to be liked! Anything that threatens those feelings will be pushed aside. There’s no way we can admit a mistake.
This folds into believing that “Consensus is King!” Consensus can also kill innovation. Whether this is all a backlash from child-rearing in a post-Puritan era or just increasingly fuzzy communication skills it’s wreaking havoc on performance in the workplace. That is a type of corporate culture you should be taking proactive steps to change.
The truth of the matter is that most employees would love to be held to a high standard. To be challenged to do great work. Unfortunately, mediocrity has a way of creeping into a company which can sap the success right out of a business.
Want to harvest better performance? Plant the seeds in regular conversations with your reports about employees performance. Admit your own errors in judgment (to a degree). Be open to that one voice who isn’t going along with the consensus. And when you start to see the FLC piling up, nip them in the bud. The first time you force true clarity is the hardest. This is how you can effect a positive corporate culture change. It helps if you make it a habit. It really is one of the elegant and simple answers in a complex world.
What kind of FLCs are you struggling with in your business? Perhaps we can help. Let us know.
Lisa Jackson and Gerry Schmidt are corporate culture experts and authors of the book “Transforming Corporate Culture: 9 Natural Truths for Being Fit to Compete.” They assess cultures and train leaders to align their corporate culture to strategy, to innovate faster and perform better in an age of rapid change and transformation.