Everything Communicates – The Values Foundation


Many companies take their leadership team offsite to develop the vision and mission for the organization, then return to work without a plan to integrate the information into the day-to-day work of the organization. In addition, often they fail to focus on what the company really values and what is currently communicated through the behavior of everyone within the organization. Unless an organization takes time to assess the current state, how will they understand when progress is made? Also, leadership needs to take time to identify how the values will look like in their organization. They may generate words like innovative, passionate, excellence and integrity, but the meaning to those words lie in the people, not the words themselves. What integrity means to one employee, may mean something different to another. To create consistency across the organization, leaders need to help employees understand the meaning at their organization. This integral step will help to create a clear understanding of what it means and how it will be measured.


Let’s start by identifying why values are developed for companies. Core values support the vision of the company, shape the culture and reflect what the company values.  They are the principles and beliefs on which the company says they operate. Today’s workplace is increasingly stressful and values provide guidelines for individuals especially during chaotic times. They are also provide guidance during times of change…employees can think “how do I implement change based on our values.” Additionally, values can be a good recruiting tool and a way to measure of success for individuals. Clients may be attracted to your organization if the company values align with their own. The key is to make them real and observable throughout your organization.


When company values are merely words on the wall or website and not integrated into the workplace behaviors, they are meaningless. In fact, they often can make matters worse if the espoused values are not modeled by leadership. When defined in terms of behaviors values help employees understand what they need to do to create consistency for your organization. The key, however, is that everything communicates and if leaders just talk the talk and forget to walk the walk, a cultural transition will not take place.


It starts with recruiting and using your human resources department more strategically. When employees are recruited based on fit into the corporate culture, and then taught the values by which they should work, the culture is supported. During my research interviewing CEOs from Great Places to Work, many simple, creative ideas emerged helped to reinforce the values and get employees utilizing them from day one. Then when those behaviors are rewarded, all employees are reminded of what their company stands for and how to better live and work by those principles. It is a good way to recognize and reward people as well as reinforce the importance of your values. One of the reasons for recruiting based on values and cultural fit is the importance of aligning personal values with company values. Working only for the money is no longer acceptable with today’s employees and there needs to be alignment between the company and the employee. The benefits of achieving this alignment is imperative as it will create employees who are actually in sync with their organization and intrinsically motivated to accomplish the goals of the organization.



5 Keys to Developing a Culture of Accountability



Organizations are only as good as their people and their people will work as defined by the culture within which they reside If the culture is one of accountability, people at every level of the organization will understand what is expected of them and how their work serves others. If the culture is not one of accountability, there is usually a low level of trust and plenty of finger pointing. The culture determines the outcome. Every manager wants employees who follow through on assignments in a timely manner and show a commitment to their work. That being said, a study by AMA Enterprise, found that 21% of the respondents to their survey found that leaders reported 30-50% of their workforce showed a significant lack of accountability. To which I say, don’t blame them! Somewhere, somehow, they have gotten the message that their behavior is acceptable.


A culture of accountability is developed when leadership develops a communication process that helps to ensure that people have a clear understanding of where the organization is headed. Although creating a culture of accountability may start at the top, it is really the job of front line managers to execute it. For this reason, they need to have the skills to hold their people accountable and take ownership in the process.

  1. Relationships: When supervisors work to develop relationships with their people, it is a bottom line imperative. People who feel respected and acknowledged by their supervisor will work harder. This also includes holding them respectfully accountable. When supervisors understand the small things they can do to engage their people, productivity and profitability follow.
  2. Expectations: People know exactly what they are expected to do, and the desired outcomes coupled with clear two-way communication. They also need to know the consequences if they choose not to meet the goal. Clear communication helps to define who owns each role and who is responsible for the final outcome. When you are clear on these points, your people will meet their goals faster.
  3. Vulnerability: Leaders at all levels of the organization also need to own their part and step up when something has not gone as planned. Your people need to know what occurred and what you are doing so it will not happen in the future, and learn from it. Ironically your people will respect you for your transparency and work to collaborate with you in a new way.
  4. Tools for success: Make sure your people have the resources they need to do the job you’re asking them to do. That can be training, coaching, relevant information or autonomy to make the decision. By helping them to understand the bigger picture, it enables them to make better decisions.
  5. Feedback: Leaders at all levels of the organization have to understand how to constantly give feedback regarding how work is progressing and what needs to be changes to ensure the goals are met. All people desire recognition so leaders need to offer recognition in a timely manner. Too often the only feedback people receive is when something is wrong, and this disengages people and leads to excuses and finger pointing. When recognition is given in a public setting it can also encourage others to step up their efforts.


People want to do a good job and helping leaders at all level of the organization will help to develop an engaged workforce focused on achieving results. By giving your supervisors the tools, you will be surprised what your people can accomplish and how your organization will excel.


Communication – A Travel Stress Reduction Technique!


Have you ever arrived at a location where a conference is being held and have no idea where to go? Sadly, it happens all too often. Last year I had the opportunity to speak at the 16th International conference on Knowledge, Culture and Change at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. There were no instructions sent prior to arrival so I arrived about 30 minutes before registration started. Upon arrival on campus, we approached security to ask where we needed to go. Their response, “I have no idea, what is the conference?” He searched through information he had and found no mention of a conference. He suggested we go to a set of buildings he said sometimes hosts conferences, but found it was not the location. A person there suggested going to a building with large green steps which we finally found and at the foot of the stairs was an 8X10 sign announcing the conference was upstairs! By the time I arrived at the conference, we had spent 25 minutes looking for a location that we could have found in 5 minutes with proper signs.


When it comes to visual communication, Tampa International Airport does it well making things run smoothly and efficiently. Whether you are picking someone up or have a departing flight the stress of travel is lessened due to clear instructions. Upon entering the airport areas are clearly marked regarding where to go for arriving and departing flights as well colored signs denoting the various airlines. Red and blue signs easily guide a person to the correct airlines.


Cell phone lot: Upon arrival in the cell phone lot we were pleasantly surprised to find not only rest rooms and snack machines, but a board with real time flight information. The flight we were waiting for was to arrive at 12:25, yet the board informed us that the flight was arriving 15 minutes early. There were also clear instructions to give your party 20-25 minutes to retrieve their luggage before picking them up, as individuals will not be allowed to wait. Approximately 20 minutes after the flight arrived our party texted us that they were ready to be picked up. It made for a very efficient system.


Departing flights: For our departing flight, we needed to return our rental car and get to our gate. The route was easily identifiable through the red and blue signs which allowed us to find our way to our airline. After checking our bags, the rental car was returned. Once again, the route was clearly marked. Upon leaving the rental return, signs led the way to our gate allowing us to arrive at our gate with plenty of time to relax and have a cup of coffee before takeoff.


Website: The website of the airport reinforces the information given on the signs and helps people to understand what they need to do to easily navigate the airport.


The ease of communication increases customer satisfaction and the experience your customers enjoy. It takes a little forethought, but with a little effort you can enhance the experience your customers have which will increase the chance they will want to return. Look around, how easily can your customers navigate your organization. Is it clearly understandable? Do people know where to park? Is the entrance to your organization clearly marked? Is there communication prior to arrival to help individuals understand the requirements of their visit? For example, are closed toed shoes required? Will the person need to a lot some time to listen to a safety video? Does the visitor have the contact information for the person with whom they will be meeting and instructions about who to call? By taking a little time to put yourself in a customer or prospective employee’s place, you can really improve how the person perceives your organization and this can only help you to be more successful.


“No Jerks Rule!”


A crucial factor in defining a culture is to clearly state behaviors which are expected from all employees. The “No Jerks Rule” has been stated by the CEO of Doctors Hospital of Sarasota which has been named one of the 150 Great Places to Work in Healthcare for the sixth year in a row by Becker’s Hospital Review. They clearly instruct employees to treat others as they would like to be treated. The payoff is “We continue to be recognized as a great place to work due to our continuous efforts to ensure a positive workplace environment, and due to the high level of engagement of our staff.” said Bob Meade, President and Chief Executive Officer.”


What does it take to not only be nominated, but to maintain a place on this distinguished list? Although not rocket science, it takes consistent attention to details that work to create an environment where people choose to stay. In discussions with Theresa Levering, VP of Human Resources at Doctors Hospital of Sarasota, our conversation focused on the many small things that start with two very important elements, hiring the right people and then maintaining communication with them to ensure they feel a part of the team. Theresa stated that they go through a structured 5-part hiring process that focuses on “cultural fit” in addition to technical skills. “The technical skills get them to the interview,” then they are assessed as to whether they have a fit which is right for the culture at Doctors Hospital.


After a new employee has been hired, the onboarding process starts before orientation with a call from the Director of Nursing to welcome the new employee. Then the CEO or COO open orientation by welcoming everyone and Theresa says, “Congratulations, you made it. We are incredibly selective about who we let into our family.” At orientation, they are “buddied up with a preceptor” who helps them get acclimated to the workplace, and to answer any of their questions.


There is a 30-day check-in during a breakfast or lunch in which the new employee is encouraged to share their experience. This is where Theresa said they discuss things that the employee struggled with such as where to find the departmental phone book so they have an easier time reaching their colleagues in different areas of the hospital. There is then a 90-day evaluation with the director of nursing where employees are asked “if they have the tools to do their work.” Senior leaders are required to get to know their employees and what is going on in their personal lives, and are also encouraged to touch base monthly with every employee. Doctors hospital of Sarasota also uses “Stop Light Reports” based on employee feedback, in which leaders report what changes have been accomplished (green,) what changes are in process (yellow,) and what changes cannot be made and why (red.)


Organizations which make Becker’s list are committed to fulfilling missions, creating outstanding cultures and offering competitive benefits to their employees. They also encourage professional development among employees to create tomorrow’s leaders through recognition programs, mentorships and benefits to make an employee’s life easier. These are many of the reasons that Doctors Hospital of Sarasota repeatedly makes it on Becker’s 150 Top Places to Work in Healthcare.


Accountability – Whose Job is It?


A manager’s ability to hold their employees accountable is the single, most important skill and yet one lacking in many places of employment. When you think of all the leadership skills a person must possess to be a great leader it all boils down to whether a manager can get their people to complete their work in a quality manner and in a timely fashion. It seems so simple, the manager gives an assignment, ensures the employee has the tools and knowledge to do the work then monitors the employee to verify things are running smoothly. People throughout the organization are dependent on those around them to complete their work so the fallout from a lack of accountability is far reaching.


Getting angry at your people when they fall short of your expectations is not a productive way to hold people accountable and almost always affect motivation and performance. The key is to ensure the managers has the skills to hold their people accountable for what they need to do.

  1. Clear expectations: The best way to ensure a clear outcome is to be clear about what you expect and how it will be measured. This can be a collaborative conversation to engage and utilize the skills of your people or an idea coming directly from you. This requires a two-way conversation with opportunities to clarify on both sides to minimize the opportunity for miscommunication. A follow-up email or conversation will help to ensure the message sent is the message received.
  2. Skills and capability: It is important the manager checks to ensure the individual has the skills and capabilities to complete the task. It also means the culture of the organization needs to be one that will allow a person to be open about what they need. Is it safe for the person to say they lack something to complete the job? If not, you are setting them up for failure.
  3. How will success be measured: After ensuring the person has all they need to complete the task and clear expectations of the outcome, they need to know how success will be measured. A good way is to set up a timeline with weekly measurable objectives. The individual may also need help with prioritizing tasks if they have a great deal on their plate. With regular feedback, it will allow you to identify solutions to help get your employee back on track.
  4. Clear feedback: Open and honest feedback given on a regular basis is critical. People need to know where they stand and it should not come as a surprise. Is the person following through? Are they meeting their commitments? Do they understand who is depending on them to complete their work? The feedback should also be two-way and both parties need to be open to hearing the truth about the project. Ensure you are listening to your employee and giving them the support they need to follow through.
  5. Consequences: If you have been clear about expectations, ensured they have the skills and capabilities, helped them understand how they will be measured and given clear feedback you can be reasonably sure they will be able to complete the task. Will there be a positive outcome for success? What if the person fails to meet the goal?   When a person clearly understands the consequences of meeting or not meeting an outcome, you have a better recipe for success.

These are the building blocks for a culture of accountability, but they need to all be in place to help keep a project going. When people are not accountable managers need to ask themselves whether they are giving their employee all they need to succeed. If not, they may need to look in the mirror.


Defining Success – A Critical Life Skill


What does it take to feel good about yourself and your life? While watching a television documentary on stars who appear to have it all and yet commit suicide, the thought came to mind that people often look to these individuals as a person who has arrived. They have the fame or monetary rewards that could define success, but does it? If a person who attains this level of “success” is not content, what does it take? The answers all lie in how a person defines success and the answers lie within.


What is success? A simple definition as defined by Webster’s online dictionary is “the fact of getting or achieving wealth, respect, or fame.: the correct or desired result of an attempt.” If that is true, then why have these individuals committed suicide? They had achieved” wealth, respect and fame,” yet it was not enough for them. The answer appears to be much more, and is a very personal thing. What drives one person may be radically different from another and one that each person needs to define for themselves. To me success is about achievement big or small. Success to me is about spending the majority of my time doing things that fulfill me and help others in meaningful ways. It is about finding the smallest things that can create opportunity such as a smile at someone or an occasion to lift a spirit. Success to me is doing better than you did before and not about perfection. Taking a critical, and nonjudgmental look at yourself and trying to do better. It is about not taking things for granted and feeling gratitude every day.


How do you define success for yourself? Think of these things when you define success for yourself.

  1. Is it attainable? Are you setting yourself up for failure by expecting too much too soon? That does not mean you do not reach for the stars, it means you understand what star is best for you.
  2. Give yourself credit for small successes. Your goal is to go to the gym 3 times a week and you only get there twice. Do you beat yourself up or do you give yourself credit for getting there twice and put a plan in place to try to get there more often.
  3. Do you take time to celebrate successes big and small? Give yourself credit for what you have achieved and celebrate in an appropriate manner that does not undermine your goal.
  4. Ask yourself what you really want and if your goal will achieve it.
  5. Find balance in your life. Are you using your time on this earth in the best possible way and if not, make adjustments.


These are all things that will help you to feel successful regardless of how others define success for themselves.


Day One Must Haves


In order to help an organization build a culture of engagement, your people need to know they matter and what they are doing is helping the organization. When consulting, Individuals often tell of horror stories regarding their first day at work. Many years ago, my first day at a job left me feeling I had made a mistake after the first day! To rectify this situation leadership needs to understand that humans need to know they have a place from day on and work to create the environment in which a person feels a welcome part of the team. It also means the need to put processes in place that support the employees, and means taking time to help your employees understand how their work matters and how it fits into the overall goals of the organization. How can leadership accomplish this?


It starts before an employee even starts working for your organization. Think about it… what is the first day like for your new employee?

  • Has anyone been in contact with the person before their first day?
  • Do they know where to park and where to go once they arrive?
  • Will someone meet them and if so who will it be?
  • What is the expectation for the first day?
  • Does the person have a work station set up?
  • Do they have computer access and passwords?
  • Did they receive their business cards on day one?
  • Are they introduced to people who can help them learn the ropes?
  • Do they have a mentor?


These things communicate to the person and at day one a person either starts to engage or disengage. The first 90 days will determine whether your new employee is invested in the company or looking. Take time to gather information from other employees about their experience and make changes to bring the person onboard in an engaging manner.


Creating the Customer Service Experience


Last week-end, I thought of what Maya Angelou said, regarding human interaction during a visit to my eye doctor. She said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” My experience at DePaolis and Ryan of Visionary Eye Associates, now Flaum Eye Institute, brought home the fact that it is how a customer feels that determines their customer experience.


When I awoke on Saturday and switched on a light, pain immediately shot through my right eye, and my eye was so sensitive to the light I quickly turned it off. Unsure of what was going on, I called my eye doctor’s answering service and Dr DePaolis responded within a short time. Although Dr. DePaolis is not my normal physician, he made some suggestions then told me he would call back in approximately 30 minutes which he did. He asked if the symptoms had subsided and I told him they had somewhat, but the light sensitivity didn’t, so he asked me to come in to their Webster office which was open on Saturday and called ahead to let them know I was coming. I normally go to the Brighton office and although no one knows me at the Webster office, I enjoyed the same wonderful experience as I do in the Brighton office.


Upon arrival, I was greeted by Iris the receptionist who has such a caring nature, I commented on the tone of her voice. I was taken in and a young man did the pre-work before the doctor came in. Again, he was so thorough and kind, I mentioned it to the doctor. This was the first time I had seen Dr. Shearer and yet left feeling very cared for and thanked her for getting me in. Her comment was something like we understand caring for our patients Is not a 9-5 operation. When I returned home, Dr. DePaolis called me back to ensure I was seen and when I told him I had a scratched cornea he gave me additional ideas about how to care for it.


When I see my usual physician Dr. Ryan or eye care specialist Jane Beeman, I have grown to expect this type of care and excellence, but no one I saw that day had ever had me as a patient. My experience was exactly the same, as in Brighton. What they know is that consistent customer service is the key not only to health for their patients, but will bring them back time and again. Kudos to all of you …. You made me feel cared for every step of the way!


More Important than a Strategic Plan


Tom Peters discusses a study regarding doctors done by Graupman in which he asks, what is the best source of information on a patient. The obvious answer is of course the patient. Then he asks, “How long is it before the doctor on average interrupts the patient before they start diagnosing? Shockingly, the answer is 18 seconds! The doctor fails to listen to the best source of information regarding a condition then gives their opinion on what to do! Tom Peters then states he is not stating this to disrespect the doctors, but to make the point that there are a lot of 18 second managers out there as well. In fact, he states that 7 out of 8 managers are probably 18 second managers.


What happens when an employee comes to a manager with information only to be shut down within a few seconds by the manager telling them what they need to do? Employees usually stop sharing information and become disengaged. People need to know their voice matters and when it does not, they quit communicating. Tom Peters said the single most important strategic strength of an organization is not a good strategic plan, but a commitment to strategic listening at all levels. Listen to your people, your customers, your vendors and each other, and you will be ahead of the game.


To improve your ability to listen:

  • Be present for the person: Make eye contact and focus on the points the person is trying to make
  • Minimize distractions: Put your cell phone down and unless it is an emergency do not interrupt the flow of conversation
  • Use minimal encouragers to show interest: Nod, or make audible indications that you are interested
  • Questions: Ask relevant questions to clarify
  • Underlying issues: Try to identify if there are underlying issues that need resolution
  • Suspend judgment: Wait until the person has finished to comment


Listening tends to develop positive relationships and helps to build trust and rapport. With a little effort, a manager can minimize miscommunication and help engage the employees. A win-win for both the organization and the individual.


Avis – Not Preferred Customer Service


While in Florida combing work and a vacation, what Maya Angleou said played out in dealing with Avis Car rental. She said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” We were sitting at a stop light in Port Charlotte, Florida when a young woman rear ended our vehicle. Thankfully there were no serious injuries although she hit us very hard. A police officer happened to be sitting across the street and witnessed the accident, so help was there immediately.


While my husband and his friend spoke to the officer, I called Avis to report the accident. My initial call to Avis the agent inquired if we were all okay and told us that there was an Avis office just down the street which he called for us. An additional officer arrived shortly to do the report, and took all our licenses as is the custom in Florida. The other driver was ticketed, so it took some time. We were told if we had the car towed it would take between 1-3 hours to get a replacement and that only two of the four of us could go leaving the other two standing by the highway. The officer told us we could drive the car although the left tail light was broken, so we planned to drive the short distance of a little over a mile to the new Avis agent.


The officer told us they had to run all the licenses so it would take a few minutes. I wanted to keep the new Avis location updated so I looked up the number and called them directly to tell them that the officer was just wrapping up and we would be there momentarily. I was shocked when she replied, “I close in 6 minutes!” The officer finished at that point and we rushed to the Avis office and arrived at 2 minutes before it closed. We ran in and she locked the door behind us. She asked for our contract and I told my husband to wait inside as I got it as I was unsure if she would let us back in. We had to unlock the door and she relocked it when we came back in. We were given a replacement that was dusty and the agent acted annoyed that we held her up. Although the first Avis agent was very caring the second agent is what left a lasting impression.


As an Avis Preferred Customer, and a consultant who teaches Customer Service, I was sadly disappointed in the service I received. Not only was it less than expected for a “preferred customer,” it did not meet the standards of basic customer service. It also proved the behavior of one employee influences how the entire organization is seen. Ensure that all of your people understand their role in creating a customer service experience that reflects well on the whole organization.