Foundational Principle and Cornerstones
Our foundational principle, upon which you will build your Good Comes First culture, can be summed up as follows:
- Equally Value Respect and Results | Create and sustain a working environment that expects respect and drives results simultaneously.
And the cultural cornerstones that sit upon that foundation of respect and results are:
- Live Our Servant Purpose | Define and activate a servant purpose that ensures a service-first leadership approach and equitable treatment of every contributor.
- Lean on Trust, Validation, and Growth | Provide good people with a work environment where trust is contagious, validation is pervasive, and growth is constant.
- Understand Behavior’s Impact on Performance | Model, measure, and celebrate people and teams that wholly align with agreed-upon desired behaviors.
- Use Our Voice for Good | Actively look outward, working to resolve local and global issues such as inequality, poverty, health crises, and climate change.
We will get into our foundational principle and each of our cornerstones in a moment. But, if you are already asking yourself, “How many of these do we have, or do, right now?” And that is a fair question.
But we, as humans, do not get far by thinking. We reach our goals by knowing—and doing. And since you are one-and-a-half chapters into this book and still reading, we guess you would rather know and do than think. So let’s expand the five building blocks of a Good Comes First culture, one at a time, beginning with our foundational principle.
Our Foundational Principle: Equally Value Respect and Results
My team isn’t particularly respectful, but we still get results. Results can happen without respect making an appearance—for example, at start-ups, during grant-writing season for nonprofits, and during market launches for established corporations.
Push yourself hard. Push each other harder. Fight over everything. Hate each other if you must. But as long as you get the funding, the endowment, the bigger market share . . . you live to see another day. Even if, as this same cycle of grueling work and animosity repeats itself over and over, you begin to hate your life.
But this is not how most leaders want to live. And it sure is not how most employees—especially Millennials and Gen Z’ers—choose to work. You must choose respect AND results.
Once you commit to that ideal, we can look at the first of our four cornerstones . . .
Culture Cornerstone 1: Live Our Servant Purpose
Your servant purpose is what your company does, for whom, and to what end. A servant purpose describes how what your company does or makes improves customers’ quality of life. Essentially, your servant purpose is your reason for being—other than making a profit.
That higher purpose shifts your organization’s primary focus from making money (or making truck bumpers, or circuit boards, or widgets—none of which are innately inspiring) to generating tangible benefit to both your customers and your community. When a leader lives her servant purpose, she does not just serve the purpose—she also serves her people. And by doing so in a selfless fashion, she serves both the cause and the well-being of the people driving that cause.
So how does this show up in a Good Comes First company? First, a leader must ensure she is not the only leader in the organization modeling its servant purpose. Over 70 percent of people leave their job primarily due to their relationship with their boss.
This “phenomenon” has been going on for so long we have to stop thinking of it as a phenomenon! Unfortunately, there is no longer anything non-standard about having a crappy boss who is more concerned about compliance and conformity than creative work—a boss who does not care about their people, only about their bottom line. In today’s world of work, this has been—and still is—our global normal. It is a major reason far too many of our workplaces suck.
Good Comes First companies, on the other hand, actively work to change this. They employ and promote the leaders and team members fully capable of serving the servant purpose and their people. Those servant-first leaders genuinely care about personal and professional growth—and see each stakeholder (employee, contractor, vendor, and partner) as an integral part of that growth. Just as important, these leaders treat any sign of inequality—from responsibilities, to pay, to promotion—as the cancer it is. And they insist other leaders follow suit.
Culture Cornerstone 2: Lean on Trust, Validation, and Growth
Experienced executives often say trust is hard to come by—and in many cases and workplaces, that may be true. That is because, of all the traits of a Good Comes First company, trust is the most profoundly human: It requires vulnerability and commitment. Just as critical, it is counter to the autocratic leadership styles of old. And yet, if we leaders want to move our work teams closer to an ideal Good Comes First culture, we must work hard to defeat this norm. Especially as leaders, we must earn trust—or, in some cases, re-earn trust.
This earning and re-earning of trust is not an easy task, but it is more than possible. In many Good Comes First companies, leaders have already established trust. And just like engaging the “employ and promote members of the leadership team who genuinely care” concept from Cornerstone 1, earning and re-earning your employees’ trust can only be done through action. (Yes, when making the transition to a culture that puts good first, a combination of attrition and rejuvenation can be our best friend.)
This is why we say, “Lean on Trust, Validation, and Growth.” Because when trust is lacking, the best way to rebuild that trust is to demonstrate genuine care for others. And in the workplace, how do we best show an appropriate level of unmistakable care?
Every day, we validate the good work of others. Through our actions, we fully support our people and our teams. We recognize and reward not just outstanding one-off performances but the daily grind—the work that helps keep the lights on. We are the biggest champions of our employees’ productivity—and their potential.
Culture Cornerstone 3: Measure Impact of Behaviors on Culture
Now, in this third cornerstone, we start to look past the theory and enter the first door of practical application. And we show how behaviors—good and bad—impact performance.
First, some context: There isn’t a professional organization on the planet that does not know how to measure traditional business metrics. They know how to manage a profit and loss statement. They thoroughly understand the cost of customer acquisition and their net promoter score. They know their market value, profit margins, and either growth rates or burn rates. But they should also know their employee experience numbers, retention rates, and percentage of employee referrals. All in all, there are between twelve and eighteen business metrics every company—and every leader—should know. And they are not just the results-oriented metrics most business leaders are used to measuring.
When we discuss the need to focus on values as much as results, we are not asking you as a leader to do anything more than co-create—with your work team (or teams)—a list of the values and/or behaviors that impact performance. Specifically, those values your Good Comes First company will model, coach, measure, and—ultimately—celebrate.
Culture Cornerstone 4: Use Our Voice for Good
At one point in time, it was okay for an organization—no matter what was happening in the world around it—to go “full ostrich.” When trouble came, when society’s issues knocked on the front door, many leaders just hid their corporate heads in the sand. This ambivalence is not acceptable today. To put good first, we must contribute to the well-being of not only our employees and contributors, but our communities, our regions, and our planet.
Customers, employees, influencers, and many others can see what your company stands for—and what it will not stand for—and what you, as a leader, will and will not tolerate.
You are reading this book because you care about your organization and the people who work there. You want to make your company a better place to work—or you likely would not be here, on this page, at this moment. It makes sense, then, that you also want to make the world—one little piece at a time, perhaps—a better place. It makes sense for you, and it makes good business sense, too.
The most committed employees will make their concerns and disappointments known. More and more often, in one form or another, they petition for change. The rest, after they feel unheard, will walk. They will go to a company where they feel more than just a sense of community—they feel a sense of affinity or even belonging. They will take their talent and experience where they more closely share common interests, concerns—and values—with leadership. They will actively look for an employer that cares.
As we move further toward a Good Comes First culture, we as leaders must be willing to create a workplace where everyone feels a deep sense of belonging—where everyone has a voice, and where each of us uses our voice for good.