As everyone knows, the economy has not been great, especially for middle market and small business. Leaders are constantly looking for ways to fix what they perceive as broken in order to get over the next hurdle. Rather than doing that, it will serve organizations much more if everyone takes a step back, pauses, and reflects on what they are doing well. Appreciating the positive, encouraging even small successes while identifying and building on strengths could reap better results than constant attempts at “fixes.”
People don’t want to be “fixed”, they would prefer to grow and develop. Displaying core values through behaviors that support them make the culture and the brand strong, The employees that exemplify those values through their behaviors are the heroes who need to be emulated and replicated. Let those who are the cultural champions lead the charge, and watch what gets “fixed” along the way.
Founders and leaders of companies may find it easy to work for the love of it. Their time spent creating an idea that becomes a company is full of passion and love. They have a strong sense of pride and investment in the organization. It is like they have given birth to something that they want to nurture, cherish and grow to become something great. What if they could pass on that same sense ownership to their employees?
Consider Bobby Jones who was the most successful amateur golfer ever to compete at a national and international level. When asked why he never went pro, he answered, ”for the love of the game.” How powerful would it be to have a full staff complement of employees want to sign up for something that gives them meaning and purpose? We can look at the individuals that join the Peace Corps or VISTA and want to capture their passion. We can stand in awe of the doctors that go to the front lines of war with Doctors Without Borders; and the lawyers fighting the death penalty for convicted felons. They have passion for what they do. They are joining established organizations because in their gut, the organization represents who they want to be.
Company leaders ideally want to hire people who can be that passionate about their work. It is not an easy task. It is easier if the leader exhibits the passion, paints the vision, sets the example and shares the values that will enable a prospective employee to get it intellectually and then feel it. As the organization grows, every person doing the hiring needs to be able to do the same thing. And it can’t be phony- it is not just for the purpose of an interview. Every company needs to live it, breathe it and reinforce it continuously. It can be done. It takes work, it takes awareness, it takes mindfulness.
People want believe in something. They want their time spent at work to be meaningful. Help them make it so. Is your passion shared by your employees? If not, are you willing to do what it takes to get them there? Are you willing to build a culture of employees who work for the love of It?
We have lived through the age of process improvement as Nirvana. We have discovered that checklists are great but they are not the whole answer. Efficiency and productivity are very important, but not to the point where they totally stifle innovation and the individual desire to search for ways to do things differently because they are better, not just different.
A culture is not- or at least should not be – a cage. It should be a set of values with behaviors attached to them, that create space for employees to do what they do best, feel good about what they are doing and to develop their skills and abilities so that they can continue to improve themselves and add value to the company. Cultures do have boundaries, as does any larger culture within which we may reside. But employees need room to make decisions, to experiment, to try out new ideas in the right places in the right way and at the right time. If those opportunities are built into the culture, then employees will have an allowed way to stretch themselves, to bring new ideas out that can help the company in ways that are beneficial.
Nobody wants to feel as if they are just checking boxes. It might be easy, but it is not fulfilling. People do want to make a difference. A culture should give everyone room to be a hero in some way. Has your company put up obstacles to this type of success? If so, how can you remove them and still remain productive and efficient?
Leaders are people too. They react to triggers, they get their buttons pushed just like everyone else. But one of the competencies that a leader is supposed to have is the ability to ignore it when those buttons are pushed. They are supposed to know that bad decisions happen when they are purely emotional, based on anger or some immediate unexpected event that provokes them.
Organizations expect their leaders to be able to make smart decisions under all circumstances. Decisions need to be rational, whether they are based on a lot of data points or one view. Leaders need to always remember that their decisions are signals to their employees and to those outside the organization who may be impacted by them. That, in decision making there is a thought process at work and there is consistency with the vision and mission of the organization.
Leaders who are reactive and who shoot from the hip might like to think of themselves as “cowboys” in the heroic sense, while they be petrifying everyone around them. Leaders need to give their teams a sense of security, of predictability, and of caring- caring that the decisions will be made with their well-being in mind.
Knee jerk reactions are the antithesis of the above. They create employees who are afraid to be in front of the boss and afraid of what the boss may do when others are in front of him or her. And fear does not fit in a strong culture
If you are leader with a quick trigger, learn to count to 100, giving you time to think before you act. You will make better, more consistent decisions and you will get better results all around. What are your thoughts?
Companies are so busy thinking about customer experience that they very often forget that it is the employee experience that creates it. Culture and brand are two sides of the same coin. For the outward facing brand to be positive, allowing for an exciting customer experience, the inward facing culture must be positive. That allows employees to feel good about the work they are doing, feel supported by their bosses and by the underlying core values of the company. As a result, they feel as if they are personally contributing to the customer experience.
Employers need to focus inside their companies to get the right results outside. They need to remember that every employee represents the brand and if the culture is supportive, the employees will spread a positive message and will engage with customers in a positive, powerful way. All of the data shows that organizations that recognize and act on this have higher customer loyalty and higher profitability.
Picture an employee in a “toxic” culture having a customer interaction after being unfairly treated by a superior. Is she going to present a positive face to a customer? Compare an experience at Enterprise Car Rental with one in a retail store of a large chain, far removed from headquarters. Enterprise gives a great experience every time. Their culture is strong. How many times have you been ignored in a store while the only employee is on a personal call? Or ignored by a waiter yakking with his buddies?
Strong internal culture equals strong customer experience. Make the employees feel valued and the customers will benefit. Does the employee experience in your company rise to the level of the ideal customer experience?