Unlocking great workplace culture (Guest commentary)

Focus on 3 areas to drive ‘straight A’s’ of attitude, aptitude and action
By Tim Cork
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 11/08/2011

When it comes to unlocking the full potential and limitless possibilities of an organization, keep in mind the “straight A’s”— attitude, aptitude and action. Like any combination lock, you need all three to be successful.

Any training or educational program and philosophy introduced to a company must build on and closely link to critical success factors and key or core competencies. The focus of the training program must align with the corporate mission, vision, values and purpose — or why an organization does what it does.

As human beings, for anything to stick and become a habit, we have to repeat it numerous times. If we watch or listen to someone training, teaching or educating us, we only retain about 10 per cent of the information. When companies invest in programs to educate, engage and retain employees, they need to look at ones that stick or create some sustainability.

The average person’s attention span is only about 15 to 30 seconds. So it’s critical to keep mission, purpose and vision statements short. Make them easy to remember — try to narrow them down to seven words or less. I use my name as an acronym — TIM — to explain to others what I do or my purpose: “Touch,” “inspire” and “move” people to take action on their goals and passion. Really, that is what I do and what my company does.

What do you do? What does your company do? Can you articulate it in seven words or less and keep it to 15 to 30 seconds? Remember the average attention span — if it was five minutes long, all commercials would be five minutes, not 15 to 30 seconds.

Here are three areas to focus on to drive an attitude, aptitude and action culture:

Practice G3: G3 is simple — give, give and give again. It’s the attitude of, “What can I do for you?” If you go into every encounter and meeting with this attitude, you will create an amazing culture. It’s not about “take” or “What can you do for me?” That’s short-term thinking. It’s about the gift of giving. It’s about giving, to you, the gift of leadership by influencing and helping others.

Determine what’s important to others: When you are talking to people inside or outside your organization, find out what’s important to them. We can work for years with people and never find out what’s important to them.

Here are three things to do every time you meet a new person: One, find out two things that are important to her and write them down. If she has kids, pets or hobbies, capture it and put it into a contact database. Next time you see her, ask her how her son Geoff or her daughter Ritu is doing. Watch her face light up.

Two, find out at least one thing you have in common with her and capture it. Remember, with common ground, the barriers will come down.

Third, based on what you know, what can you do for her? How can you help her or impact her? You can’t do this for everyone in your company but start with one or two per month and build from there.

Don’t take yourself too seriously: Take what you do seriously but don’t take yourself too seriously. You have to have fun and love what you are doing. When you are passionate, and truly find what you love, then it’s genuine and becomes contagious. Can you imagine how that will make your customers feel, both internal and external?

Here are a few other simple “gives”:

• Compliment people, but make sure it is genuine.

• Listen — you have two ears and one mouth, use them proportionately.

• Smile, laugh, say, “Please,” “Thank you,” share, collaborate and recognize people.

• Ask others how you can help them.

• Praise often.

Tim Cork is the Toronto-based president of Straight A’s, a firm specializing in leadership development, coaching and sales training, and author of Tapping the Iceberg. He is also president of the Toronto chapter of the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA). He can be reached at contact@timcork.com or visit www.timcork.com for more information.

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