You may or may not have heard the expression “company culture is what makes us, us.” While purposely simple and somewhat vague, it is an amazingly accurate descriptor.
It shapes how our team members work together, how their attitudes fit in with their jobs, and contributes to a company’s overall success. While many factors influence a company’s culture, one of the most significant is our ability to execute—turning ideas into actions and getting the results we need from it.
In this article, we explore the profound impact that execution has on company culture and provide practical insights for leaders to enhance their organization’s culture through effective execution.
Understanding Company Culture
Before we dive into the relationship between execution and company culture, it’s necessary to understand what company culture entails. “Organizational culture is about shared values and beliefs that guide its thinking and behaviors” (Eades 2019). It is an outcome of the many positive and negative things an organization does.
For example, if your company believes in innovation and creativity, what is it doing to facilitate that? An organization might approach this opportunity by allocating 4 hours each week on Friday for team members to work on any project they’re interested in or want to pursue (business-related, of course). The point is that the organization provides time to stir innovation as part of its commitment to creating a culture of learning and creativity. Cultural effort cannot be imposed from the top down because it results from team members’ collective experiences and actions.
Why Execution is a Cultural Matter
Execution, in the context of company culture, refers to the organization’s ability to implement its strategies, achieve its annual strategic objectives, and generally complete what it wants done. It’s about turning plans into tangible actions that drive key initiatives at every level of the organization—Initiatives that support those strategic objectives.
Effective execution is crucial for several reasons:
- Alignment with Vision and Values: When a company executes its plans consistently, it reinforces its commitment to its stated values and vision. Alignment embraces a culture where team members understand and respect their organization’s purpose and work toward achieving it.
- Accountability: Execution requires individuals and teams to own their job responsibilities and carry goals over and above their day-to-day duties. Ownership aids in creating autonomy and helps move the organization forward. Genuine accountability means more than doing our job well each day; there’s an additional expectation that everyone commits to assisting the organization to learn, grow, and improve in some way. A culture of accountability teaches team members to own their work and deliver on needed results.
- Adaptability: Adaptability is essential given the high percentage of strategies that change annually (estimated to be as high as 93%). Companies that expect change adapt to circumstances more quickly and proficiently. They are better equipped to respond to changing market conditions, internal and external disruption, and customer needs. A culture that values execution must have the discipline and flexibility to continuously adjust, modify, or pivot to keep it operationally on track for success.
- Employee Engagement: Effective execution also must include collaborative effort between team members. When people work across functional lines and get involved with essential projects, they see their contribution to company success in a much bigger way. They are more energized and motivated and create bonds of support with team members they may not have known. Being seen and heard is an outcome of getting your people actively involved.
- Continuous Improvement: Execution is not a one-time event but an ongoing process. A culture that values execution encourages constant improvement and learning from mistakes, successes, and failures. Success happens when everyone on the team is managed daily through a performance plan that provides support and accurate direction.
How Execution Impacts Your Culture
Now that we understand the importance of execution, let’s explore how it influences or impacts company culture.
- Setting Expectations: Effective execution begins with setting expectations. These expectations must all have three requirements: be clear, relevant, and engaging to all those assigned to them. Leaders who clearly communicate their vision and goals create a culture of transparency and shared understanding. When employees have expectations, they are more likely to align their efforts with the company’s objectives and help them come to fruition.
- Accountability and Ownership: Execution requires individuals and teams to take ownership of their goals, tasks, and projects. A culture that values execution inspires team members to be accountable, take pride in their work, and go beyond the minimum. It values individuals who get results.
- Team Collaboration: Execution often involves collaboration among different teams and departments. A company culture that encourages teamwork and cross-functional cooperation promotes effective execution. When team members see and experience the value of working together, they are motivated to support one another’s efforts.
- Recognition and Rewards: Recognizing and rewarding team members for their contributions to successful execution reinforces a positive culture. Team members feel valued and appreciated when motivated to give their best.
- Learning from Failure: Execution has many hills and valleys. It’s important to know there will be setbacks and victories along the way. A healthy company culture acknowledges every setback or failure as an opportunity for growth and learning. When leaders encourage a growth mindset and view failures as stepping stones to success, it creates a culture of resilience and adaptability.
Practical Steps for Leaders
As a leader, you can shape your company’s culture through effective execution. Here are some practical steps to take:
- Lead by Example: Demonstrate your commitment to execution by setting high standards for yourself. Your actions and behaviors set the tone for your company’s culture, impacting the entire organization.
- Communication: Repeatedly communicate the company’s vision, goals, and strategies to all employees. Ensure that every team member understands their role in achieving these objectives.
- Empower and Delegate: Trust your team members to take ownership of their work. Give them proper direction and autonomy to make decisions and delegate responsibilities appropriately.
- Provide Resources: Ensure your teams have the necessary resources, including the tools, training, and confidence to execute effectively. Removing barriers is sometimes needed by the people on your teams. Your support is a resource to them. Do you have their backs?
- Feedback and Recognition: A solid rewards and recognition system, driven by team member feedback, helps guarantee that execution-related achievements are valued and repeated often.
- Learn from Mistakes: When execution doesn’t go as planned, use it as an opportunity to learn and improve. Document these opportunities to memorialize what needs to change or how an individual team member gets better. Mistakes must be seen as opportunities for growth.
- Promote Collaboration: Build a collaborative environment where your people and teams know they can work with anyone on the team to achieve common goals. Encourage cross-functional collaboration and knowledge sharing.
- Measure and Monitor: Hold regular progress meetings (every 30 days) between each manager and their direct reports to monitor, measure, and track progress. Don’t think of these as mini-performance appraisals but as coaching sessions focused on supporting team member success.
Execution is About the Results
Execution is a powerful force that can help shape any organization’s culture. It influences how your team members work together, share a level of engagement, and contribute to the company’s overall success.
By understanding the relationship between execution and company culture, leaders can take practical steps to create a positive and effective work environment: one that attracts customers, clients, prospective team members, and other potential stakeholders.
When execution is a core behavior within your organization, it drives short-term success and focuses on long-term sustainability and growth.
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