Podcast: Leadership Amplitude Episode 16

Creating an energized organizational culture starts with an energized leardship perspective.

Creating a High Energy Culture

We sit down with Ramonda Kyser and Edwin Mouriño to learn what it takes to energize our company culture so that we can do more, go farther and do better.


Anna Slaydon: We've all had those moments where we've been working on a project or in a group and all of a sudden everything just seems to click. We're getting a lot of work done, and its great work, but we feel good doing it and we're able to do more, go farther, do better. It's a great feeling, and it's really great for the organization. So, how do we as leaders create a culture where that's happening often for our employees? We rejoin Ramonda Kyser and Edwin Mouriño to learn more.

Dr. Mouriño: We at The BB&T Leadership Institute define engagement as enthusiasm for and dedication to work that leads employees to enjoy performing at their very best. It's when they're completely committed to the workplace and the institution and the organization that they work for. Now, a place that we also at The BB&T Leadership Institute differentiate ourselves – and this is where Ramonda can jump in and add some pieces to it – is energy. This is something different and beyond that we bring to the table that most organizations don't talk about.

Ramonda Kyser: Engagement for us is about making sure that people are bringing their discretionary effort to the table. And discretionary effort is—I may not be wholeheartedly excited about a certain task, but because I have engagement, I have pride in my organization, I'm excited to be here because I'm adding value, I go ahead and do that with a smile on my face. Might not like it, but I know it has to get done. Like my expense report. I don't really like doing it, but I know it has to get done. Or maybe a work order.

You know, when I'm getting ready to go visit a client, I gotta get my materials together. Well, my energy and excitement is in creating the product for the client, and in getting it in front of the client. Not the mundane tasks in the middle of it, but I have to have it, that energy that we bring creates that flow along with engagement where we can bring our passion, our excitement, and that flow then creates a pride that we have in the work that we do.

Dr. Mouriño: And that's an important piece to remember from a leadership perspective. Because the leader actually believes I'm here to enable my staff to provide the best service to our client. And one of the best ways to do that is to create a culture and an environment where they feel productive, engaged, enthusiastic, loyal, proud; all of those things. They don't have to look over their shoulder all the time. They know that their boss, their leaders are looking out for their best interest. 

And in turn, they're creating this great environment that people enjoy coming into, even when they have to do the mundane things that they'd rather not do. But they know that they have a leader that really has their back, is looking out for the best interest of the organization, recognizing, yes, there's an end goal. We have a mission to accomplish. But we do that through the people that I support, I lead, I enable, I empower, in order for them to be successful.

Ramonda Kyser: And it's contagious. So, if my leader is creating this environment or this culture of enthusiasm and energy, and I have it as a teammate, and then my peers have, it's contagious. And you can tell the people who, in an organization, might not have that same excitement or desire because they stick out like a sore thumb. And then instead of ostracizing them because they're sticking out, then it's important for me as an engaged employee, can I help them?

But also as a leader, let me check with their beliefs. Because we all ebb and flow. Maybe they're having a bad moment. Maybe they're not understanding where the organization's going, and they're kind of in a, what I call doubting position, and so they're kind of wait and see.

Anna Slaydon: Mm-hmm. Engagement and energy work together to create a really productive environment, which is the culture, which is determined heavily by the leadership of that, and the environment that they're creating, and how they are interacting with other people, and the decisions, the behaviors, and their own beliefs. It all kind of plays together, almost like in an ecosystem, that then spreads, hopefully in a positive way, that will ultimately lead to increased productivity, talent retention, and all those wonderful things that we're all striving for.

Ramonda Kyser: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Mouriño: Yes. And as a matter of fact, I'm reminded of a quote from Dr. Farr, who said, "The quality of an organization's performance cannot exceed the quality if its leadership." So at the end of the day, the leader creates an environment that, in turn, enables, and empowers, and engages, and really raises the energy of these folks, where they're more enthusiastic, they're sort of in their flow, they're in their focus area where they're bringing their strengths and their interests to the table. And they're very proud to be part of this group. 

All organizations have a culture. But then within that, every department has its own subculture. And so yes, the CEO may create an environment and a culture at the end of the day, and its high demands today from an employee perspective. But then so do beyond the CEO, the senior executives, and on down up to the front line supervisors create this environment where the employees can either be engaged or not.

And unfortunately, everybody probably knows it by now, there's a large group out there that are not. So, there are great opportunities for companies to differentiate themselves by creating these types of environment, particularly with high energy involved, which leads to a better culture and environment, overall.

Ramonda Kyser: It's really important, though, for an organization to really define what those behaviors are that determine high levels of engagement. Because what one manager may say is high levels of engagement may not look the same for another manager. And so then those cultures are, there's a dissonance. And as an organization, it's important just to make sure that we're all operating from the same page.

Because, Anna, you may be engaged, and how you do it is very different than how I may be engaged. I'm pretty extroverted, and how I interact with coworkers and getting my work done. Whereas somebody who's more relaxed or introverted, someone could say, "Well, they're not engaged because they don't look like it." But, it's best to not go on looks. Let's look on behaviors.

Anna Slaydon: Mm-hmm. How would a leader—particularly one that's top of the house, so to speak—be able to understand what kind of subcultures and what the engagement of the overall organization is?

Ramonda Kyser: So, I think that takes us back to podcast three, when we talked about those seven steps or roles of a leader: define it, assess it, walk it, live it. And if leaders are actively using those seven roles, you're helping to identify what that culture is, and if you need to make some course corrections, if there are behaviors that aren't supportive of the culture, there's an opportunity to evaluate it and modify it.

Dr. Mouriño: Yeah. I would also suggest, too, that senior executives can get into the organization, work with their lower-level managers to make sure, hey, what's working and what's not around here? We claim that we have a great engaged workforce. Yes, we do the surveys, and so forth. But I want to make sure that between the numbers, between the lines, we really have our pulse on the organization. So how can I as a senior executive, how can I make sure that this is not just words out there, that where their manager is, to make sure that their managers are enabling this process, too.

Ramonda Kyser: Well, and you know if we're asking for feedback at that senior level, we as senior-levels have to be willing to do something with that feedback.

Dr. Mouriño: Yes, very much so.

Ramonda Kyser: Because then you're creating the culture of you're asking for feedback. You're not going to do anything. People are going to say, "Well, why are they asking?"

Dr. Mouriño: Yep.

Anna Slaydon: Hmm.

Ramonda Kyser: So it's a—

Dr. Mouriño: Just if you're going to ask for the feedback, make sure that you're—

Ramonda Kyser: You're prepared.

Dr. Mouriño: —you're prepared to act on it. Because you will lose credibility in an instant if you don't.

Anna Slaydon: I'm wondering if there's any other well-intentioned pitfalls that people can fall into as they're trying to implement what we've learned over the last four episodes.

Dr. Mouriño: I would suggest, and make sure that policies and practices are supporting the words you're putting out there.

Ramonda Kyser: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Mouriño: You can't have HR practices and policies—I've heard of organizations in the past where they say, "We want everybody engaged, but we've got a rank-and-stack process." That is dysfunctional. It doesn't work. And a lot of organizations are getting away from that.

The other thing that the newer generation is really pushing for is ongoing feedback. So you can no longer have a once-a-year performance feedback sit-down.

Ramonda Kyser: Or twice a year.

Dr. Mouriño: Or twice-a-year performance feedback. It should be ongoing, just in time, and not only, “By the way, you made a mistake.” More importantly, “by the way, thank you for what you did,” Because that's what people are looking for at the end of the day. So it has to be ongoing.

Anna Slaydon: In our last episode, I invited you to e-mail me and let me know what you've tried from the podcast. Paul Winston from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, wrote in and said, "I love the suggested practices of honoring the employees' autonomy. If my own leadership journey and observing other leaders is any indication, this practice is challenging for most. Leaders may master the skill of tactically delegating responsibilities, but at the end of the day, they don't trust that it will be done correctly. Leaders then find ways to check in on employees' work, which is a huge violation of trust."

Paul shared three steps that he uses to build relationships and enhance communication. First, with employee input, he determines specific deliverables. Then, agrees on a schedule for conversations about milestones and progress. And finally, communicates to the employee that he doesn't plan on engaging in any of the delegated work and will not be checking in, but is still available in case the employee wants to seek assistance or get additional feedback.

Thank you so much, Paul. We love those tips. And please continue to e-mail us at LeadershipInstitute@BBandT.com. That's LeadershipInstitute@BBandT.com. And let us know what you're trying and how it's going for you.

In our next episode, we'll be meeting with Bev Wise and Ramonda Kyser from The BB&T Leadership Institute to talk about having a proactive talent management strategy. In the meantime, make sure that you're following The BB&T Leadership Institute on LinkedIn for access to video interviews, articles and white papers, podcasts and event announcements, and behind-the-scenes photos.

For more information or for today's show notes, visit us on the web at BBTLeadershipInstitute.com. Leadership Amplitude is a podcast production of The BB&T Leadership Institute, all rights reserved.

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