Meet S. Chris Edmonds, Founder and CEO of The Purposeful Culture Group

Forbes Coaches Council is an invitation-only organization for successful leading business and career coaches. In this spotlight series, we profile our incredible members and share their advice with you. This week: S. Chris Edmonds.

S. Chris Edmonds is a sought-after speaker, author and executive consultant who is the founder and CEO of the Purposeful Culture Group. After a 15-year executive career leading high performing teams, Chris began his consulting company in 1990. He has also served as a senior consultant with The Ken Blanchard Companies since 1995. Chris is one of Inc. Magazine’s 100 Great Leadership Speakers and was a featured presenter at SXSW 2015.   Chris is the author of the Amazon best-seller The Culture EngineLeading At A Higher Level with Ken Blanchard, and five other books. Chris’ blog, podcasts, research and videos can be found at Driving Results Through Culture. Thousands of followers enjoy his daily quotes on organizational culture, servant leadership and workplace inspiration on Twitter at @scedmonds.

What inspired you to become a coach?

I’ve been a speaker and facilitator for over 30 years. Presenting proven concepts in an actionable form while entertaining audiences with relevant stories and humor seemed like a dream job. The problem was that neither exceptional content nor my brilliant facilitation guaranteed that the receiver actually applied the concepts. The pathway to behavior change was coaching — caring, sustained, expert coaching that helps leaders and team members embrace effective behaviors and toss ineffective ones over time.

Without coaching, evolution as a leader or team member is left to chance. With coaching, there’s a very good chance that desired shifts in behavior occur — and keep occurring.

My specific expertise is in organizational culture, workplace inspiration and servant leadership. I coach senior leaders for 12-18 months to help them (1) model servant leadership and their desired culture — in the form of observable, tangible, measurable behaviors, (2) coach others — next level leaders and team members — to do the same, and (3) hold themselves and others accountable for consistently modeling those valued behaviors in every interaction. They can’t tolerate misaligned behavior any longer.

The most gratifying work I do is this coaching. It’s a terrific feeling to enable leaders to make this shift — from “hoping” their culture improves or “announcing” new practices or decisions to “living” their desired behaviors and holding others accountable, firmly and kindly.

What one piece of advice do you find yourself relying on most? Why?

My best boss, Jerry Nutter, taught me (and many others) a multitude of best practices for leading others, serving others, and guiding an effective team culture. The single most valuable piece of advice he offered was, “everything a leader does either helps, hurts, or hinders their team’s effectiveness.”

The leader’s impact is not neutral. Leaders have a heavy impact, for better or worse. The only way leaders can be certain that their plans, decisions and actions help others is to ask — to invite feedback from their peers and team members, to learn others perceptions of their impact. Only then can leaders build an organization where everyone is treated with trust, respect and dignity in every interaction.

What is the biggest hurdle your clients face? What advice would you give others struggling with this issue?

My clients come to me knowing that their organization’s culture doesn’t serve everyone well — or they’re trying to scale a great culture as their organization grows.

Out of all my clients, 90% don’t know how to proactively manage the quality of their organizational culture. They’ve never been asked to do that. They see their job as managing results. That’s what they know (and likely that’s what their bosses know).

What my clients hope is that they can build a purposeful, positive, productive work culture by formalizing their organizational constitution (which includes their servant purpose, values and behaviors, strategies and goals). Once that document is finished, most leaders believe they can simply announce the “new rules” and everyone will align with them.

Furthermore, “managing by announcements” doesn’t work. We should know that by now. The only way to ensure everyone in your organization embraces these “new rules” is for senior leaders to model those behaviors, praise those behaviors in others, redirect misaligned behaviors, ad nauseum, every day, for the rest of your organization’s existence.

We humans do the same “managing by announcement” approach all the time. How many times have you told others that you’re on a new diet that’ll help you feel better, lose weight, etc.? I struggled with my weight for years. I blamed it on my business-traveler life. That was simply an excuse.

When I finally got serious (with Tim Ferriss’ slow-carb diet) in 2010, I not only announced the changes I was going to make, but I committed to them, every day. It meant giving away (or ignoring) foods not on my diet — and ordering only foods on my diet when on the road. When I actually embraced the new rules — I lost weight, lost inches, and gained strength. I’ve been on it ever since.

Don’t be tempted to simply announce a desired change. Leaders must share their new rules, then live their new rules, every minute. Only then will the change effort gain creditability and strength.