At its core, performance is about how people view their work. Employees become jaded, frustrated and complacent if they perceive their leaders as concerned with profits at the expense of integrity, values and purpose.
Chief executives often confide in me that they are frustrated about stagnant growth and stale results. I’ve seen many large companies struggle with creating an inspiring culture, while focusing on accountability, control and predictable outcomes.
In 2010, a North Carolina-based healthcare system with five hospitals and more than 100 facilities sought to flip its performance with a renewed outlook on culture. When an assessment revealed that the majority of operational practices were focused on the budget, they created a new set of values that focus on the patient. As service, quality of care and problem-solving all became part of the culture within these hospitals, employee engagement scores and patient satisfaction rapidly increased, and infection rates dropped by 25 percent. The healthcare system went from mediocre results to being on track for top-tier performance within 18 months.
When leaders deride or openly manipulate customers, how else will employees respond? If you don’t care about your customers, employees believe you don’t care about them either. People want meaning, Smith says. They want to belong. They take their cues from their leaders’ behavior and conversations.