Challenge the Country Club Culture
At MAP, we define the “country club culture” as a workplace with little or no accountability. This is the kind of environment in which leaders have a “Que sera, sera” approach, thinking what will be, will be. They fail to set good goals and/or to create consistent habits around measuring performance, so employees don’t really know what’s expected of them. This leads to a self-destructive culture in which high performers tend to leave because these most precious assets aren’t valued for their good efforts. They also get frustrated when the poor performance of others isn’t addressed. This—along with other manifestations of this leadership transgression—leads to employee morale, productivity, retention and hiring issues.
Here are some common attributes of the country club culture:
- Lack of business controls
- Vague, unclear or no goals
- Low performance standards
- Focus on activities versus results
- Overlapping responsibilities
- Mixed messages and other challenges with transparent communication
- Minimal discussions around performance
- Trouble hiring and retaining “A players”
- Use of the “hope strategy”—just hoping things will turn out OK
- Leadership that doesn’t sufficiently delegate
In MAP’s new book, “The Disciplined Leader,” we talk about the vital importance of having the right culture of accountability. Here are a few ways to build it:
Clearly defined job descriptions and expectations. If your employees don’t get what their job is and what’s expected of them, they’re probably going to struggle with doing it effectively. Yet something as simple as writing out job descriptions and their expectations can make a huge difference in your people’s performance. While that sounds like a no-brainer, you’d be surprised how many entrepreneurs don’t do this. In the country club culture, these leaders assume everyone knows what they’re supposed to do. Not only can this lead to all kinds of misunderstandings, but it’s also not really fair to the employees—it sets them up for failure from the start. As a leader, make sure you’re providing your employees with job descriptions and expectations, outlining the job’s purpose, responsibilities, qualifications, vital goals and deliverables, and key competencies.
An accountability system. It doesn’t matter how big or small your company is, but it needs a consistent method for setting specific goals, measuring performance and taking timely, appropriate action. That’s exactly what a good accountability system does—it becomes your vehicle for driving company success. In healthy, accountable cultures, people know what’s expected and what will happen if they succeed or fail in meeting their goals. As one MAP client said of the MAP System, it helps “people know how to win.” They come to value and respect both the system and the leadership that implements it, both of which play a role raising and supporting employee morale, productivity and loyalty.
Performance reviews. Your people want to know how they’re doing at their jobs. Regular feedback helps, but you’ve got to conduct performance reviews, ideally more than once a year. Performance reviews give you a timely, consistent opportunity to document and memorialize good performance while challenging your people to do better, which most will want to do. At MAP, we’ve noticed that particularly in family owned/operated businesses, leaders often struggle to give feedback to the relatives and/or friends who work for them. In some cases, these employees have never had a single performance review! Regardless of the type of business you’re operating, it’s a mistake to skip out on reviewing performance. It is key to supporting your accountability system and also sends the message to your people that, yes, they do matter.
What are some not-so-obvious consequences of the country club culture in business?