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A Culture of Execution and Why it Matters, Part 2

The culture of a company is a gravitational force that is either propelling your team into high achievement, or driving them to disengagement and unproductive time on the clock. If you can develop your company’s culture such that an invisible force is propelling them to aligned execution, you will feel the difference. There are four cultures when it comes to execution – two good and two not so good.

  1. A culture thriving on execution
  2. A culture striving for execution
  3. A culture striving to avoid blame
  4. A culture thriving on avoiding blame.

Thriving on Execution vs. Striving for Execution

The first, and best, place to observe what kind of culture you have around execution is in the relationships within your team, specifically where trust in relationships comes from, how it forms and how it is reinforced. In a culture that is thriving on execution, there is complete alignment of camaraderie and accountability. Trust grows from, and is reinforced by, knowing my peers will hold me accountable for what I said I would do. In this kind of culture, if I know Earl will bring up in the weekly meeting if I don’t execute AND this causes me to trust Earl more, building that friendship, then I’m in a culture that thrives on execution.

However, if camaraderie and accountability are in competition with each other, but both are emphasized in the work environment, then it is a culture that is striving for execution. If I know Earl will bring it up in the weekly meeting, but that does not make me trust Earl more, then that culture is not thriving on execution. Stress will be much higher, there will be a certain guardedness, and meetings will seem much tenser. Yet, there will still be a desire for connection, so extra teambuilding time will be necessary to offset the relational drain of the accountability happening in the weekly meetings. This culture is still tugging your team toward execution, but not with the same force or ease.

Striving to Avoid Blame vs. Thriving on Avoiding Blame

What if accountability is not happening at the weekly meetings? You may have a culture that is striving to avoid blame. The primary difference between a culture that strives for execution and a culture that strives to avoid blame is whether any real accountability happens in the weekly meetings. In the culture that strives to avoid blame, camaraderie and accountability are not aligned. Instead of accountability happening in the meetings, a unspoken focus is put on avoiding blame. Confusion then reigns and notes are not consistently taken. There is little clarity about tasks and follow up, and when the weekly meeting comes everyone is smiling and just hoping no significant time is focused on them.

However, in a culture that thrives on avoiding blame, relationships are built on team members helping each other avoid blame. In this “I’ve got your back” mindset, there is often a meeting before the meeting in which Earl says, “If such-and-such comes up in the meeting, I’ve got your back. I’ll redirect things and cover for you”. In cultures that thrive on execution, this is a cause of significant distrust among team members, but in cultures that thrive on avoiding blame, Earl becomes my new best friend very quickly.

So, pause a bit and ask yourself: what is the relationship between camaraderie and accountability in my company?

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