The Collaboration Effect on Profits: How Great Culture Drives Business Results
03 / 26 / 19

The Collaboration Effect on Profits: How Great Culture Drives Business Results

Simon Sinek, author of the perennial bestseller “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Action,” put it best when he said, “Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.”

Let that sink in for a moment.

Do your employees genuinely love working for you? Or, do you get the sense that many of them are there merely to collect a paycheck, biding their time until they can find something better?

After all, when employees are unhappy or disengaged, that attitude spreads throughout the entire organization like a virus, ultimately “infecting”—and repelling—customers.

But when people love where they work, they cannot help but talk about the company to anyone who will listen. And that enthusiasm becomes infectious, raising the energy level and performance of everyone on the team, creating an environment that attracts the best talent and the most profitable customers.

Put another way: A great culture produces strong business results.

And at Legacy Advisory Partners, we call this dynamic the “Collaboration Effect on Profits.

The idea is that when you create an environment where leadership and rank-and-file employees alike are all working together in their optimal roles toward the same vision, that culture becomes a force multiplier to achieve breakthrough profits. As a Deloitte study concludes, “There is a correlation between clearly articulated and lived culture and strong business performance.”

So, how can you create this Collaboration Effect on Profits in your company?

The answer is found in what we call the eight “Breakthrough Workshops.”

Leadership Virtue to Business Value

In a series of articles the past several months, we’ve been unpacking eight leadership virtues from my book, “The Great 8: A New Paradigm for Leadership” to help you build a company that your employees—and customers—will love.

But virtuous leadership isn’t merely about high-minded ideals. It’s about being intentional with connecting the dots between cultural virtues and real-world business value.

And that’s where the Breakthrough Workshops come in—to help you connect virtue to value in a way that taps into the power of the Collaboration Effect on Profits.

How?

In this article, we’ll give you an overview of the eight Breakthrough Workshops we conduct with clients, with each Workshop corresponding to its “Great 8” leadership virtue.

Then over the next several weeks and months, we’ll be writing a series of articles that deep-dive into each Workshop, giving you a vision of the possibilities, with practical takeaways that you can apply immediately to your business.

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The Workshops below are classified into three categories:

  • Team Vision & Strategy
  • Team Engagement
  • Team Communication

Team Vision & Strategy

Workshop #1: Vision & Strategy

Virtue: Courage

Objective: Define your Why, How, What

In Simon Sinek’s terms, your Why serves as the North Star, a frame of reference to ensure that your business strategy is taking you and your team in the right direction.

How would you explain your company’s Why? What about everyone on your team—can they articulate it?

Your Why should guide all vision-casting—”What do we want to achieve?”

Then the How and the What comprise your strategy for how you will go about achieving your vision.

What is your strategy? Can your team articulate the strategy?

The key here is to set the right direction by establishing a courageous vision that’s built on both personal conviction and sound business metrics.

Team Engagement

Workshop #2: Role Optimization

Virtue:  Humility

Objective: Identify and bridge any gaps between actual and optimal roles

As Patrick Lencioni writes in "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable," “If you could get all the people in an organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time.”

When you and your team have a clear understanding of your company’s Why, How, and What, the next step is to evaluate everyone’s roles and giftedness—to get everyone into their optimal role, all rowing in the same direction.

Unfortunately, what happens far too often is that good people get stuck in bad roles (for them) that don’t fit their interests or fully capitalize on their skills. As a result, they tend to feel disengaged, underperform, or become a bottleneck to growth. And even when they give their best effort, they may not meet expectations because they don’t have the appropriate skill for the role.

As you evaluate your own and your team’s job performance, is everyone placed in the best position to succeed on a personal and professional level? If not, what adjustments need to be made to bridge the gaps between actual and optimal roles?

Workshop #3: Most Important Tasks (MITs)

Virtue: Empathy 

Objective: Identify the most important tasks for each optimal role

When you get the right people in their optimal roles, how do you coordinate everyone’s efforts so they’re all moving in the same direction?

That’s where MITs—most important tasks—come into play on both an individual and team basis.

The idea here is that you should identify your two to three most important tasks that must be done each week that have the greatest impact on your company’s success. In other words, if you got nothing else done this week, at least you completed these tasks. And if the tasks are not completed, the vision cannot be achieved.

Then you take the MIT development process to the next step: The group feedback session. Each person shares their individual MITs with the others on the team to get their input and feedback. After all, it is one thing to set your own priorities, but the value in this is when the team affirms each other’s most important tasks. Everyone understands and agrees on the importance of the roles on the team.

As you share your MITs and listen to the others in the group share theirs, you begin to look beyond your own role to understand the big picture. You’re now able to see just how interrelated and interdependent each person’s roles and responsibilities are to the success of the whole organization.

Workshop #4: Line-of-Sight

Virtue:  Attentiveness

Objective: Regularly review progress toward the vision in a weekly meeting

A major cause of underperformance we see when consulting with leadership teams is when employees have limited (or zero) line-of-sight to the company’s metrics, goals, targets that support the vision.

"Line-of-sight" refers to an employee's ability to understand precisely what the target is and how they, in their individual roles, can help the company reach that goal.

What often happens is that the owner or chief executive may have clear line-of-sight to the vision, but others on the team are left in the dark.

But when team members have a clear line-of-sight to the vision they are better equipped to take ownership of their role to make sound decisions that help the company, as a whole, to succeed.

The key point here is to establish a weekly meeting routine where all team members review the key metrics and progress toward the vision.

For example, at Legacy, we have a weekly meeting to talk about the status of our MITs—most important tasks—for that week.

We go around the table. If you fulfilled all your MITs, you give a thumbs up. And if you didn’t get to all your tasks, you give a thumbs down.

The purpose of this meeting is to create an environment where you take ownership of your performance. After all, you don’t want to arrive at the meeting having to give a thumbs down if you can do anything about it. And excuses will only compound the problem. So the weekly meeting reminds you to stay focused on getting your MITs done during the week.

But if you’re encountering bottlenecks impeding your progress, these weekly meetings can also be a productive forum for collaboration to help solve these challenges to get you—and the entire team—back on track.

Workshop #5: Achievement Reviews

Virtue: Accountability

Objective: Develop systems for timely, consistent, and useful feedback between managers and employees

When each member of your team has taken ownership of their role in helping the company succeed, how do you help ensure everyone stays on course?

That’s where Achievement Reviews come in. Most organizations use this exercise to let someone know how they are doing from a performance evaluation standpoint. But this process is broken—in many cases the process is a “check the box” for assigning pay raises or bonuses.

Why? What is the fundamental flaw? Gary Markle, in his Catalytic Coaching Guide, describes this as the judging method. And as he puts it, “Judging ends the conversation.”

Instead, coaching is a dynamic activity that promotes conversation and discussion between the manager and employee with feedback being provided by both parties. Emphasis is on personal development and professional development. How is the person growing as an individual, team member, and skilled employee?

But you can’t wait to do Achievement Reviews exclusively on an annual basis. By then, the feedback won’t be useful for the employee or the company.

Instead, smart companies develop systems of accountability that provide valuable feedback within much shorter intervals—daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly—so that everyone knows what they do well and what they can adjust and improve upon to stay on track.

The key takeaway here is to schedule coaching sessions to capture personal achievement and growth ideas. The line-of-sight team meetings focus on how the team is doing collectively. These Achievement Reviews capture how the employee is doing personally in the role.

Team Communication

Workshop #6: Personality and Leadership Profiles

Virtue: Acceptance

Objective: Discover how you work best on a team

You can have a compelling vision with everyone’s roles and goals in perfect alignment with the company. But any communication breakdowns caused by personality differences will bring progress to a halt.

So if you can understand, appreciate, and even embrace the diversity of personalities and leadership styles on your team, you will go a long way toward removing communication barriers that undermine performance.

And that’s where Workshop #6 comes in. Personality and leadership style assessments equip you and your team with a common vocabulary for talking about each other’s differences—how to listen and speak to one another based on the knowledge of where everybody fits in their profile.

When you accept and understand everyone for who they are (and who you are), you gain much deeper insight into how to communicate effectively and efficiently with your team.

Workshop #7. Interpersonal Communication

Virtue: Integrity

Objective: Practice clear and effective communication that fosters mutual trust and respect

At the basic level, communication requires a sender and a receiver. But we all know that communication is often more complicated and difficult, especially when you’re navigating differences in cultures, backgrounds, and experiences.

And when the stakes are high—such as when your team is working toward a courageous vision—how can you and your team break through these communication barriers?

Take these scenarios, for example. How do you feel when someone talks down to you? Or you sense that they aren't completely honest or forthcoming? Or they grumble and complain to you without considering their own role in causing the situation?

In each of these situations, you’re likely to feel disrespected, which causes you to put up a wall between you and that person, shutting down the prospect of genuine communication and collaboration.

And if this dynamic persists and spreads throughout the company, it will become a huge productivity killer.

But when you and your team understand the best practices for how to communicate effectively with one another, you will develop a culture of mutual trust and respect that unleashes the power of collaboration.

Workshop #8: Conflict Promotion and Management

Virtue:  Peacemaking

Objective: Promote healthy conflict, resolve the bad conflict

Healthy conflict leads to the best ideas and is a sign of a strong, virtuous team.

But many leaders try to avoid conflict as if it shouldn’t exist, pushing everyone to “be positive” and dismissing any dissenters as “negative influences.” But instead of eliminating conflict, they’ve merely suppressed it, creating a culture of resentment that will ultimately sabotage the company’s success.

The idea behind Workshop #8 is to equip leaders and their teams with the best practices, strategies, and tools they need to work through conflict in a productive way that helps the team discover the best ideas.

The Bottom Line

When you invest time, money, and energy into building an amazing culture that employees will love, you will see the Collaboration Effect on Profits in full force, producing business results that exceed your greatest expectations.

So stay tuned. Over the coming weeks and months, we will deep dive into each one of the eight Breakthrough Workshops to give you a vision for how you can grow a company that attracts the best employees and customers.

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About the Author:  J. David Harper, Jr. serves as CEO and principal of Legacy Advisory Partners, an Atlanta, Georgia-based firm that provides total retirement plan advisory services that give clients a greater competitive advantage to attract and retain top talent. David is also the author of the book “The Great 8: A New Paradigm for Leadership” that teaches business leaders how they can tap into eight timeless “virtues” to expand their influence and achieve sustainable success for their organizations.