To create a workplace culture that engages and motivates employees, leaders must make personal development a top priority.

The number-one driver of employee engagement and workplace performance is culture, so why do so many companies fail at establishing one that wins?

When your workplace culture is working, it is something that the senior leadership propagates and leverages as a competitive advantage. However, when your company culture is dysfunctional — or not working at all — it becomes a deterrent to productivity, innovation, and employee morale.

The culture you construct is one of the most pivotal cogs driving the success of your business. But many business owners, managers, and CEOs are unaware as to how big of an impact culture really makes. So, how do you build a culture that wins? It begins with you, as a leader — you must become the M.O.R.T.A.R. that holds it all together. Let’s break down the M.O.R.T.A.R. culture method from start to finish.

M: Motivate

Leading begins with clearly envisioning the overall mission and then communicating that purpose in a way that moves, touches, and inspires followers to align with and support your vision.

The mark of a great leader is someone who shapes his or her work culture around a compelling and stimulating mission. A leader who creates a compelling vision — and articulates that vision in a way that moves people into alignment and action — is a leader who gets high-quality, mission-fulfilling work done, through others.

There are two keys to creating a culture of people who are intrinsically motivated and operate in service of delivering on the purpose of the enterprise. The first is the leader’s capability and commitment to communicating the vision to his people in a way that generates enthusiasm, inspiration, and alignment. The second is the leader’s ability to link each individual in the organization to the purpose of his or her specific role — and how that role relates to the overall purpose of the organization. When this happens, people accomplish great feats and enjoy themselves while they are doing it.

O: On-board with purpose

When new hires come on board, the most powerful way to connect them to the bigger purpose and vision is to make it a priority for the business leader to share the purpose of the business and the reason it exists, as well as the core operating values that each and every employee is expected to demonstrate in their day-to-day role. When a new hire begins with the end in the mind , that person is set up for success because she is taught from the get go that it is about much more than the task at hand.

R: Rein in negativity

Every business deals with setbacks, challenges, breakdowns, and disappointments. The real difference between leaders who carry their people through those tough times and leaders who have carnage to clean up along the way is taking the time to check in with how people are feeling. Leaders who succeed are those who intervene in the negativity and work to reverse it.

When it comes down to it, all negativity or upsets stem from one of three incidents: an unfulfilled expectation, a thwarted intention, or an undelivered communication. When managers are present and aware of their employees’ feelings and work style, it is very apparent when someone is off kilter or upset. The astute leader is right on top of those upsets and provides support for their people to overcome and get through these motivational killers.

Inspiring people is a core competency of great leaders; great leaders who foster alignment and engagement in employees do this by inspiring people to bring their best selves to work. Therefore, leading others for the long term requires that you are able to recognize and bring this energy. People become inspired when they start believing they have more ability than they thought they did.

T: Train

Every person, at every level in an organization, needs some degree of training and development. The rate of innovation is accelerating at a mind-numbing pace, and no matter what role a person holds, the skills of today will become insufficient for the work of tomorrow. Whether it is in the area of people readiness, a deeper technical expertise, management training, or an ability to take feedback as constructive guidance; the development of the workforce must be a core tenet to any winning workforce strategy. The greatest gift a leader can give their people is the gift of developing them professionally.

A: Align

A key component to fostering alignment with employees — and creating buy-in for the business vision, mission, and values — is to find a way to connect the bigger picture into each and every employee’s heart and head. When the leader has an emotional commitment to the business mission and understands how her vision satisfies her peoples’ needs, that leader has direct access to igniting engagement within her team. Without followers, you can’t be a leader — followers will only voluntarily engage in something they think satisfies their needs as well as your goals.

When people can connect their personal mission and purpose with the greater good of the company, they naturally feel compelled to do better and give more of themselves at work.

R: Rewards and consequences

In taking action and moving toward completion of your mission and vision, there will inevitably be surprises and unexpected results. A person skilled in leading will continually assess the plan for achieving the stated goals and make course corrections along the way. Leading requires a focus on the milestones along the way, as well as an eye on the long-term mission.

The bottom line

While accountability is not black and white, it is a fundamental building block of any highly effective organization. Great leaders inform their people of what they are expected to accomplish and how their work connects to the company’s mission. People do best when they have a full picture of the intended outcomes and the systemic impacts of their contribution.

In order to create a culture that drives your business initiatives forward and fulfills the intention of your mission, you’ll need to invest time and energy toward developing yourself as a leader of that culture. How well you communicate your intentions — and how often — will be critical to the success of your cultural alignment initiative. To be the M.O.R.T.A.R. that holds your workforce together, you must make developing yourself a top priority.

Magi Graziano

Magi is a leading talent management expert, keynote speaker, and author of “The Wealth of Talent” with over 20 years of real-world, hands-on experience in hiring strategy and talent development.

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