5 Questions With Company Culture Expert Anese Cavanaugh

Evolving your human resources processes sometimes means updating to the latest tools and introducing new systems to your workforce. But, for many companies, new tools come with new skill sets. For example, filling out a performance review once per year is something most managers have learned, as using performance reviews is fairly pervasive across industries and has been for many, many years.

As companies, including many of Reflektive’s customers, start to innovate their performance management, they find their managers need new skills, like the ability to give good feedback and recognition. The application of company values to day-to-day tasks is a new focus. We spoke with leadership advisor Anese Cavanaugh to get some tips for how companies can develop their managers and workforces as they are changing the structure of their human resources processes.

Read: GE re-engineers performance reviews and pay

Cavanaugh, author of Contagious Culture, regularly writes about company culture for outlets including Inc.om, and has been a speaker for Stanford University and Inc. Women’s Summit.

Read on to learn more about how HR leaders can create a contagious culture in their organizations.

How do managers benefit from giving feedback to employees and holding regular 1:1s?

One-on-ones eliminate surprises, create more of an open and inspiring dialogue between manager and employee, create a shared purpose in working together to keep up-leveling their impact and performance together, reduces anxiety — and assumptions or “storytelling” — from employees wondering how they’re doing, and puts everything on the table so communication is consistent, honest and just a part of their everyday practice.

Constructive feedback is in service of the individual

Done well, with the right intention, energy and presence, feedback can become inspiring, helpful and something to actively seek out, versus terrifying, inconsistent, and something to actively (or passively!) avoid.

What does constructive feedback look like in a positive, contagious culture?

Constructive feedback is in service of the individual, it’s specific pointing them to the next thing to do instead, is actionable (and something they can do something with), it’s supported (meaning the giver is willing to support it and be responsible for impact in giving it), and it is delivered with positive intent, life-giving energy, and healthy presence (what I call effective IEP or Intentional Energetic Presence).

Note: If it’s NOT in service of and specific, and/or your IEP is off, hold off — don’t give it until you can deliver it in a clean manner.

How do you equip managers to give regular recognition to employees?

Managers should seek to find employees doing things well, and use feedback not just for constructive feedback but for acknowledgement and stretch feedback as well. Give it regularly, and have them connect with who they SEE the employee becoming — short cut is to check in with the heart here and really SEE the “being” of the employee. Who are they being? Who are they becoming?” And give recognition from there. That’s the honey pot.

Use cultural tools and systems to give shout outs and capture feedback.

Logistically, use cultural tools and systems (that resonate for your organization) to give shout outs and capture feedback, integrate “appreciation sessions” into team meetings, make positive feedback and recognition simply the norm in your culture, and shoot for an authentic and positive ratio (i.e., 5 positive/recognitions to 1 constructive – whatever is true for you) of productive feedback. There are different schools of thought here 4:1, 5:1, I just heard 8:1 — I don’t worry about the exact ratio as much as I’m interested in it being authentic and helpful.

If the IEP is in the right place, perfect ratios become less important. (Because when the intention is clean, you’ll know when to acknowledge and when to construct … and you’ll do it well.)

What’s important to know about developing culture at a diverse organization?

People often think that culture is about hot lunches, foosball tables, karaoke nights, cultural events, team building, training initiatives, values sessions, etc. All of these are great structures and benefits to support culture and provide a healthy container for people to work in. However, you can have all of these and still have a non-healthy culture … so while these are great — they’re not IT.

[bctt tweet=”Make positive feedback and recognition simply the norm in your culture” username=”reflektive”]

Culture is more about the people and how each person Shows Up … whether they’re conscious of it or not, each individual in the culture emanates the culture they want (or don’t want) to be a part of. So the more you can emanate the culture you WANT by how YOU show up and the intention, energy, and presence you bring to the table everyday, and the more you take accountability for creating culture, the better your chances of creating a healthy and positively contagious culture. Regardless position or “rank,” each of us set the tone.

Culture starts with each of us individually. (Yes, of course, the more exposure and responsibility an individual in the company has, the bigger the ripple effect of their tone and IEP, so the greater their opportunity and responsibility — AND AND AND … everyone contributes to culture by how they show up. EVERYONE.)

What’s the most effective way to train employees to thrive as managers?

To get results from employees, model it first. It always starts with how you show up and what you’re modeling. Be present with them — incredibly present. I’m not talking about hours and hours at a time; even a five-minute “in service of” conversation or interaction can create major impact in having an employee feel seen, heard, cared for and inspired. Sit down with them regularly to discuss how they’re doing, who they’re becoming, who they want to be, and how they want to show up. Have them set intentions for what they want to create and what kind of manager they want to become.

Give them regular and productive feedback to continue to up-level their own game. Co-design three-step plans with them to help them keep moving forward, what are the next three highest-leverage things they can do and BE to help them get there? Look at their skills, but even more importantly, look at their presence, their mindset, and who they’re being.

[bctt tweet=”To get results from employees, model it first.” username=”reflektive”]

If you really really want them (and your company) to thrive, make sure you integrate, and support, the importance of self-care and personal nourishment so they can be the best instrument of change possible, feel great, and have plenty of energy for the rest of their lives outside work as well — burnout is not an option if you want to thrive, so invite and support them, intentionally and pro-actively, to set themselves up for success here.

Finally, make sure you keep pointing them back to purpose and why all of this is so important to them in the first place. The more you can tie what they’re doing into what’s most important to them and the impact they want to have with their lives and work, the more inspired and energized they’ll be to keep growing and stepping up.

[insert page=’cta-company-culture’ display=’content’]