How to Balance Being and Doing at Work
Many leaders tell us that they struggle with the right cultural balance of Being and Doing at work. Both are imperative for workplace success and represent a critical cultural dimension that must be aligned if you want to create high performance. Let’s start with some definitions:
While every leader expects people to behave well and deliver results, every company has minimum and different standards for the balance of Being and Doing that are acceptable and expected. For example, at some organizations, WHAT gets accomplished outweighs everything else; the ends justify any means. This is not bad; it is just the way things are if you want to fit in and be successful. At other companies, you are expected to forego results if they will step on someone else’s toes or cause relationship harm.
Companies High on the Doing Scale
While companies that are high on the “Doing Scale” also have reasonable standards of HOW work gets done, they generally believe that WHAT is accomplished is the most critical part of success and:
Companies High on the Being Scale
While companies that are high on the Being Scale also have reasonable standards of WHAT work gets done, they generally believe that HOW things are done is the most critical part of success and:
This is usually where leaders get a bit uncomfortable. They argue that that everyone needs to behave correctly and deliver results. We agree. Both behaviors matter. Performance without values or values without performance have a negative effect on the overall culture.
But when it comes to shaping and aligning a high performing culture, the details and nuances matter if you want your culture to help, and not hinder, your unique strategic priorities. While healthy levels of core values like integrity, innovation, trust, collaboration, transparency, diversity, equity, and accountability are a given for any business, different business strategies require different cultural norms to make them go.
Even though the above definitions may feel extreme, we know many leading organizations that believe in winning at all costs (e.g. The Houston Astros) and others who believe that how you behave and treat people trumps everything else (e.g. Outward Bound).
While, in our organizational cultural work, we certainly choose to work with companies that align with our personal values, we do not judge cultures as “good or bad.” We think of cultural dimensions as “aligned or unaligned” with their strategies.
And each cultural dimension is critical to get aligned because strategies must go through people and culture to be successfully implemented.
The “Right” Behaviors
The definition of the “right” behaviors will vary from one workplace to another just as each organization’s marketplace, strategy, and goals differ. Each situation is unique. Leadership’s job is to define the desired behaviors for their unique situation and then create the culture that support those behaviors.
In general, you want to reward and provide positive feedback for the behaviors and performance that you seek. But you have to make sure that your recognition systems offer a reward that is not only aligned with your desired behaviors but also valued by your employees and perceived as proportionate.
For example, a bonus for individual work when you are trying to encourage more collaboration would be at odds with the behavior you are trying to encourage. And a significant raise in salary would not be in proportion to a worthy but unexceptional effort on a small project.
Doing Organizational Culture Work
While culture work can seem nebulous and daunting, workplace culture can be measured and shaped by understanding the way people think, behave, and work. This includes the known and unspoken values and assumptions that drive key business practices and behaviors.
If you know the specific behaviors that you want to promote and the specific outcomes that you desire, you can explicitly design an organizational culture that consistently promotes and reinforces them.
The Bottom Line
Your workplace culture exists by design or by default. It is either helping or hindering your ability to execute your strategy consistently across your organization. The “Being” and “Doing” spectrum is just one of ten cultural dimensions that must be explicitly understood and aligned to create higher performance. The Balance of Being and Doing matters.
To learn more about how to align your culture and your strategy, download the 3 Research-Backed Levels of Culture to Create Higher Performance
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