What Top Tier Companies Do That You Don’t

Steve Jeffs – Chief Innovation Officer at People Acuity, a Strengths Strategy Company

If you look at turbo-charged companies, defined as those delivering high growth and performance, strong innovation, and a hearty return to shareholders, you will find that they all have one thing in common. They are obsessive about company culture. In fact, Aon describes them as having Obsessive Culture Disorder (OCD). There are good reasons to be obsessed with creating a strong positive culture, including:

High Retention. Culture is among the chief methods of attracting and retaining top talent. At a time when 50% of the workforce stays at their jobs for less than two years, and high-performing talent is in demand, culture is why good people look for you and stay with you.[1]

Strong Engagement. Culture creates engagement. The world’s best organizations have high employee engagement, boasting a 70+% engagement rate, compared to the current global engagement rate of 15%.[2]

Increased Revenue. Company culture aligned with strategy creates advancement, achievement, and growth and increases the likelihood of meeting the Malcolm-Baldridge organizational excellence award criteria (including financial, partner, HR, operational, and leader performance, social responsibility, competitor comparison and customer satisfaction). This award is given to top-tier U.S. organizations, all of whom demonstrate alignment between culture, strategy, and execution. Notable two-time award winners have seen a median revenue growth of 92%[1] by their focus on alignment between culture, strategy and execution.

Imagine your company achieving optimal results in all eight of these categories, along with the 92% increase in revenue growth. What would be different than today? What would you be doing? Where would you be focusing your efforts?

If you are looking for a clear way to get there, here are three things that top-tier companies do.

Focus on Four Spheres of Influence and Engagement – Not One

Leaders are “see-ers”. They are visionary and they see a broader perspective, including holding the eight areas where high performing organizations excel. As you study the Four Spheres of Influence and Engagement model below, along with the Malcolm-Baldridge criteria shown on the left, you will see the first clue about what these companies do differently to meet the rigorous performance excellence criteria.

Leaders understand the necessity of focusing on four spheres of influence and engagement in their organization, not just one. Too often, leaders attend to the outer two spheres, Organizational Excellence and Team Performance, and miss the inner two levels entirely. When this happens, the truest essence of lasting culture growth (Self-Leadership and Interpersonal Effectiveness) has been entirely overlooked. Culture, after all, grows from the inside-out.

Think about what happens if employees and leaders constantly live in fire-fighting and reactivity and do not learn Proactivity, the core driver of Self-Leadership.  This bleeds into Interpersonal Effectiveness, and compromises Confident Vulnerability™, the core driver in this sphere. If Confident Vulnerability™ is missing, you have no real trust in relationships given that Interpersonal Effectiveness is not built on confidence alone, and vulnerability is needed for connection. If Interpersonal Effectiveness is not solid, Team Performance will be compromised and Team Connection missing, as will Organizational Effectiveness and Work Joy.   Also missing will be engagement, retention, and revenue, given that each of things are tied to a culture where individuals choose to fully enroll their hearts and minds at work (a proactive Self-Leadership decision that each person must make).

Relentless Focus on a Few Key Mindsets and Practices

Culture change can seem daunting and complicated. In reality, however, culture is simply having a set of shared mindsets, language, and practices that are embraced by leaders and employees alike. This means that mindsets, language, and practices need to be intentionally taught and modeled by approximately one-third of your organization before they start to take root. This is the magic tipping point Malcolm Gladwell describes and it is when positive peer pressure begins to reverse negative patterns.

All high performing organizations share three mindsets that help them SEE differently, and three practices that support people who are trying to be different. They are practiced in all four spheres of influence and engagement.

Create a Culture Evolution, Not a Transformation

You might be asking, “What’s the big difference between a culture evolution and a culture transformation?” This may seem like a minute difference, yet it is more important than you realize. If you start from a “transformation” mindset, you can easily get caught in focusing on what is wrong and the need to fix it. This “transformation” mindset comes from a deficit orientation and brings frustration and skepticism into the process. It reinforces the feeling that you are creating another “flavor of the month” initiative.

Culture evolution, on the other hand, presumes that you already have many good things happening from which to springboard. It holds that culture growth is not a series of check-in-the-box activities. It’s not a change initiative or project. Rather, it is a continuous improvement journey that never ends. This is because the potential of your people is endless, as is the business growth that comes from having a strong, aligned culture.

What Top Tier Companies Do That You Don't

The culture continuous improvement process includes an ongoing approach designed to Build and expand knowledge, Develop skills, and Embed them habitually into the systems and processes in each of the four spheres of influence and engagement. It includes the need to Assess growth and allow individuals to see their own individual culture change – not just acquire data at the organizational level.

It is important to understand that your business growth cannot evolve beyond your culture evolution. If you want retention, engagement, and revenue to Shift Up, you will that beginning with a culture evolution focus and applying the mindsets, language, and practices of top-tier companies will make all the difference. You can guarantee that your influence and engagement in all four spheres will increase as you do!

To hear the story of a top-tier leader and learn one specific action you can take to help move yourself and others toward greater excellence and effectiveness, watch this brief clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xa2m_-upARo. To discover the Six Company Culture Secrets Every Leader Should Know and how to create your own company culture blueprint, download the free whitepaper today here.

This article has been written by DeAnna Murphy, Lisa Gregory, and Steve Jeffs, who lead the People Acuity Thought Leader team and are the authors of the book Shift Up! Strengths Strategies for Optimal Living. They are also the creators of a validated measurement tool evaluating the core drivers at each of the four levels of influence and engagement: Work Joy, Team Connection, Confident Vulnerability™ and Proactivity. Between them they have worked in nearly 50% of the Fortune 500 and Global1000 firms and collectively hold over one hundred certifications and international and national recognitions.

[1] Freidman, Zach. 49% Of Millennials Would Quit Their Job Within 2 Years. Forbes. May 22, 2019.

[2] O’Boyle, Ed, and Harter, Jim. 39 Organizations Create Exceptional Workplaces. Gallup Workplace. April 18, 2018