It’s Personal – Instill a Quality-Focused Company Culture

By Carole Wehn

“Quality is Job 1.” “Quality is our recipe.” “Quality is our middle name.”

It’s no surprise that many companies cite quality as a key component of their value proposition in serving customers. No doubt your organization also focuses on delivering the highest quality products and services to meet your customers’ needs.

However, do your employees focus on quality because of the need to meet performance metrics? Or because quality is inherent in who they are and how they do their work?

Making Quality Personal

At CultureWise, our company culture is defined by a collection of employee behaviors, which we term Fundamentals. We have a Fundamental called Make Quality Personal, and we describe it as:

Take pride in the quality of everything you touch and everything you do. Always ask yourself, “Is this my best work?” Everything you touch has your signature. Sign in bold ink.”

David J. Friedman, CEO of CultureWise, describes this further,

The essence of this Fundamental is the personal pride you take in wanting everything you do to be done with the highest level of quality.  But here’s the really interesting thing about this Fundamental:  it’s not about doing quality work because of the result.  It’s about doing it for its own sake, because it simply matters to you, in a deeply personal way. 

In other words, while we know that if we do quality work, lots of good things will happen – we’ll have happier customers, we’ll sell more business, our boss will be happier, and all that stuff, that’s NOT the reason to do great work.  We’d do it even if none of those things happened, simply because that’s just how we are.”

In Friedman’s first book, Fundamentally Different, he also describes this concept as “A+-ness.” He calls it “the habit of making sure that everything you do is of the highest quality.” Think about it as the extra effort that differentiated an A in school from that A+ level.

It’s great when you can attract and retain staff who have this natural desire to bring their best every day. Their work product is a symbol of who they are and what they value.  They wouldn’t think of doing anything less than performing at their highest capability.

Whether they literally sign their work or not, it reflects their pride in the organization and commitment to delivering a quality product or service.

How do you cultivate an entire workforce that takes pride in their efforts and does quality work just because they can’t imagine it any other way?

The State of Workplace Pride

Some workplaces and jobs naturally foster pride.  Perhaps you’re truly curing cancer! Your organization may be a long-standing pillar of the community with a storied history of meeting customer needs. 

Yet others may be in industries deemed undesirable by outsiders. Some roles are inherently repetitive and considered boring. So the workplace or job responsibilities alone may not be enough to spark your employees’ pride and a desire to do their best work.

Forbes published the results of a 2021 survey by WorkProud that found:

  • 43% of respondents reported that they have the highest level of pride in their work.
  • 33% said they have a high level of pride in their company.

Your organization needs your employees to find fulfillment in their work and be proud of the company they work for. Pride is a more powerful motivator than compensation in producing quality products and improving business results. It also helps ensure positive behavior during challenging times. Yet the survey shows that more than half of employees lack a strong sense of pride in their work or their employer.

Self-Serving vs. Intrinsic Pride

Jon Katzenbach, in Why Pride Matters More Than Money, notes that there are two types of pride found in the workplace: self-serving and intrinsic or institution-building.

Self-serving pride is the desire to advance in one’s career, earn more money, and get recognition from others. While this drives people to do good work, it doesn’t mean that their objectives align with the organization’s goals. Further, those employees with self-serving pride are the first ones to jump ship when a more attractive opportunity arises.

Money is most effective in attracting employees rather than encouraging them to excel long-term.  Plus, it only works when you are paying more than the competition.

Katzenbach explains intrinsic pride in this way:

“Think for a moment about the exhilaration that you feel when a customer or client says that you saved the day for them by getting a critical product delivered when all others had failed. Or recall when one of your colleagues praised you strongly in front of your workgroup for winning over a difficult customer, thereby enabling them to meet their sales target; or when a respected superior singled you out as a role model of how others should deal with unexpected problems.

Those feelings of pride are intrinsic to what you do, how you do it, and with whom you do it; they have little to do with money. More important, such feelings of pride are institution-building rather than self-serving. And, in most cases, they motivate people to excel far more effectively than money or position.”

He continues that intrinsic or institution-building pride,

“feeds on character and emotional commitment that tends to further collective rather than strictly individual sets of interest. Since a monetary scoreboard is less relevant here, people focus on the more basic performance factors of customer satisfaction, peer and mentor approval, capability development, and quality of work products.

Institution-building pride fosters inner feelings of fundamental self-worth, respected group association, and personal development satisfaction.”

How to Develop Intrinsic Pride

Employees’ pride can be developed just like any other skill. However, it requires managers to understand what gives employees job satisfaction. Unfortunately, many managers think that employee performance is stimulated by money, pressure, and threats.

Executives’ motivators can be different than those of front-line workers. They are more likely to focus on career advancement and monetary incentives. Senior leaders can see a clear linkage between their accomplishments and the company’s net income, market share, or other performance indicators. 

Managers may assume pride is the natural outcome of great performance. They may not realize that fulfillment should be an ongoing feeling about one’s work, which can be nurtured to produce higher levels of performance.

In seeking to cultivate intrinsic pride among your employees, get to know what satisfies them currently. 

If they are in customer-facing roles, they may delight in seeing a client’s face light up when they receive your product or service. They may be proud of what your organization does to make a difference in people’s lives. They might take pleasure in knowing how much your company gives back to the community. Or they may enjoy being part of a high-performing team, knowing that management has empowered them.

As noted by blogger Ambika Sharma in Entrepreneur, “pride comes with the realization that you make a difference.”

Once you understand the pride drivers, you can continue to provide more of the same opportunities.

Four Keys to Instilling Pride

Bill Taylor, the co-founder of Fast Company, observed in the Harvard Business Review,

“If you truly want people to elevate their performance, you first have to build up their pride. It’s much more likely that people will do things in exceptional ways if they believe deeply in what they do.”

Following are four ways to build up your team’s pride.

  1. Recognize employees

Let your people know exactly how they’ve made a difference.  Celebrate wins—all of them, minor successes as well as major milestones. Even if it’s a silly award, let people know that you see their effort and you appreciate it. Pride should be in the job itself, not the achievement of a production goal.

  1. Communicate, communicate, communicate

Share the organization’s goals. Let people know what the priorities are and how what they do supports those goals. Always explain the “why” – why jobs are performed a certain way, and why they are important to internal and external customers.

  1. Empower your teams

Give people the direction and tools they need to do their jobs, then get out of their way. Seeing that you trust their judgment and ability will go a long way in making them feel good about what they do. Investing in your team’s learning and professional growth also demonstrates your belief in them.

An important component of empowerment is allowing people to fail without fear. Sometimes things will go wrong, and it’s important to use blameless problem-solving to turn those mistakes into learning opportunities.

  1. Be an example

As with any company initiative, you cannot expect your team to embrace something that you do not do. Let everyone know how proud you are of your company, its history, and what it does.

If you emphasize quality, customer satisfaction, and continuous improvement, you show your pride in the company and your role in it. Performance metrics in these areas provide tangible measures of your commitment.

The leaders who instill pride in their workers are the ones who actively listen to their employees, ask questions, and get to know them. This develops the team’s trust in their leadership. These managers do not simply motivate employees to commit to the company’s goals. Instead, they inspire them to own those goals and to feel good about pursuing them.

Does Remote Work Diminish Pride?

Managers may fear that remote and hybrid workforces have less pride in their work and their employer than those that go into the workplace every day. Can you still have pride in your work when you’re Zooming at the kitchen table? Absolutely.

For example, the WorkProud survey found “the data show no significant differences between remote workers and on-site workers in the pride they feel in their work and for their companies.” But to facilitate pride in a remote environment, managers need to ensure they connect with their team on a personal level, even if it’s over Zoom.

They need to understand their remote team members’ sources of fulfillment, provide recognition, and show their own organizational satisfaction. It may be challenging, but they need to provide employees with more opportunities to feel good about their work and their company.

I Need Culture Help!

Getting your employees to make quality personal and helping managers instill pride in their teams isn’t easy. At CultureWise, we provide resources for turning your company culture into one that not only values quality, but also one that exhibits all the behaviors that drive your company’s success.

Check out the resources found on our website, and get a free two-chapter download of CultureWise CEO Friedman’s second book Culture By Design, which explains our eight-step approach. And be sure to sign up to receive Culture Matters, our complimentary weekly newsletter on all things related to company culture.