Category: Company Culture


Company Culture: Superheroes on a Mission to Mars

January 21st, 2015

ca1227df115dbb88This is the Outside-In® companies’ theme for 2015. I am Green Arrow, billionaire crime fighter extraordinaire. (We all like to play make believe, right?) I admire how he fights for good and backs the underdog—all things I aspire to do on a daily basis. Being Tony Stark or Isis at work has its perks, too. Our theme is fun and unique. However, our message is important and we want all to remember our theme and relate it to our plans and priorities. On our mission, we are very focused on being sustainable and relevant both as individuals and as a company. We really have three parts to this mission.

The first part is sustainability for our business. We want our profit to grow, we want to invest, and we want to remain resilient to economic ups and downs. We are striving to do all of these things while continuing to run our business in an Outside-In®, customer centric way. This takes success and bottom line results to execute. And we know this creates great opportunities for our people, our partners, our customers, and our stakeholders.

Part two of this mission is about our role in the community and planet around us. We care about people and our causes and we long to make a difference. What Superhero doesn’t look to our web page to see our focus supporting a different charity each month. This month, our focus is with SPARC Delaware. Helping today’s youth in the marketplace we serve with workforce skills and coaching is a direct way to lend some knowledge to our future workforce!

Our final part to the mission is about each of us as employees and our growth plans at work and at home. I know life and work can be both challenging and exciting. We want to energize and focus on our well being in many ways. We know part of this is about being Superheroes in all of our many roles as Mom or Dad, Recruiter or Leader, Board Member, Soccer Coach, or Civic Member. All of this takes energy and a plan and we are excited to help all figure out the best plan for them! This will take focus on health, exercise/nutrition, development and training at work, and a supportive culture that embraces modern workforce ideas that give staff flexibility while ensuring that the company also remains sustainable!

Your company doesn’t have a theme? Then how do you create alignment across the company and keep everyone informed on where the business is going and how you’re going to get there? Themes are not for every business, however, knowing that having fun is a big part of our culture we make it a part of our everyday lives. Traditionally, goals and plans are presented with PowerPoint presentations and Excel spreadsheets. Don’t get me wrong, these things work. However, all of us remember and retain important company information in different ways. Some like to listen, others absorb handouts and presentations, while others remember it through experience. This is where the annual theme appeals to all different types of learners!

What if There Was a “Back to Business” Holiday?

January 7th, 2015

ID-100263930Now that the holidays are behind us, I find myself waking up with the Holiday Blues. The holidays are a constant buzz of exciting activity and stimulation. All of us get so busy preparing, traveling, eating, and then recovering, that the world slowly limps into that first week or two of January. Even if you’re a Scrooge and intend to plow right through the holidays, the world around you is going to slow down so much that there will be less you can do to feel active!

Although the holidays are much needed (and well deserved) for employees, they are not very beneficial for the shareholders and customers of the business. The holiday season causes delays in production and hinders decision making due to limited staff in the office for meetings. Getting back into work and beyond the blues is easier said than done. It will take a few days to dig out from all of those emails, for schedules to free up, and for important meetings to take place. Then maybe decisions will be made and maybe next week business will be normal again.

The frantic pace that built up to the holidays when everything was either done by December 19th or left to January 2nd to deal with has officially dwindled. My point is that it has been a while since we have had a normal business week. I’m not sure we can all survive a five day work week after the frenzied rush before holidays and the post-season blues!

All joking aside, I think we are longing for some normalcy. Forget all of the January stereotypes regarding goal setting, New Year’s resolutions, and new annual business budgets that go live this month. There is so much pressure on performance both personally and professionally; yet there’s only so much we can do about it. I would like to see a business holiday formed inspired by the idea of going back to work now that the holidays are over. Everyone go to work that day and know that the playing field is equal and all businesses will be getting back to the grindstone at the same time—Imagine that!

Now that we’re back in action, we want the phones to ring, the emails to start flying, and for business to get back to normal. We all need this fast because before you know it snow and MLK day will cause the next business delay!

Everyone is a Leader—How Do You Lead?

December 31st, 2014

Everyone is a Leader is the hardest Outside-In® value to live and the most important value for us to get right! Culture is our secret sauce and our choke point. Our culture is “free.” Anyone can see it, read about it, experience it, and copy it. Then why is it so hard to mimic? Ego, success, habits, what exists, to name just a few. Giving everyone a chance to be a leader when there are so few good ones? Well, that just might be the point after all. Would you rather have one, or two, or many? I think getting all to embrace and understand the essence of leadership gives us a real marketplace advantage.

ID-100260051Imagine an organization and the advantage it could possess if its workforce dedicated itself to learning about leadership? Would growth be more manageable as key openings were easier to fill? Especially if you can fill these roles from within?

Living a value and being a great leader are obviously different. For our companies we want and expect:

  • All to have a say, especially in customer matters
  • All to learn how to make effective decisions
  • All to learn how to develop leadership capabilities
  • All to practice leadership skills

Leadership Mastery is a 10,000 hour pursuit. Thats 3 hours a day for a really long time—over ten years! Living the value of Everyone is a Leader frankly takes just as much organizational energy. But like I said if we do it well it is a free advantage that is extremely difficult to copy!

Customer Service: Nth Degree Mindset

December 17th, 2014

There is so much talk about customer service yet so little of it sticks. Every business, every leader, every single one of us, has good intentions. None of us go to work saying, “Today I am going to plan to disappoint a customer when I interact with them. Let’s hang up on them. Avoid them. Get their order wrong. Misinterpret them. Let’s just be average and kind of ‘blah.’ That is where most of us end up really. In the Valley of Blah, we don’t quite fail or flob, however, we are far from memorable. Being memorable requires you to understand those critical “Moments of Truth.”

ServiceNMoments of Truth are those customer points of intersection. A great culture helps. At the Outside-In® Companies, we have a value “Service to the Nth Degree” and our goal is to go above and beyond expectations. We provide service without boundaries, limits, or governor. Just push service as far as you can. A good culture helps an employee trust that they can serve without barriers. The company system supports and rewards those customer service behaviors! Have you ever had an experience where a cashier or customer service representative indicates that they need manager approval and the manager never comes or arrives in what seems like an unacceptable time frame? All of this for a simple product return or change in your purchase! That’s a poor business system at it’s best.

We think empowering employees to think to the Nth Degree is just part of the answer to providing an Outside-In® experience. This enables us to create Nth Degree moments that are spontaneous and authentic.

However, the real magic in creating Moments of Truth is to think about those key moments of interaction with your customer. How can you save them time? Speed up the process? Enhance the experience? How can you make that moment memorable and ensure every customer experiences that Moment of Truth? Our goal is to make Outside-In® and Nth Degree a repeatable thing. Full of great in the moment Moments of Truth and planned Moments of Truth.

The sky’s the limit to Nth Degree service thinking. The key is to take each part of your business and brainstorm how to be more Nth Degree. One of the ways we practice our Nth Degree value as a team is to partake in charity work for our community. We have a charity of the month program where each month we fundraise and donate our time and services to a charity in need.

Try and pilot it. Measure it. Operationalize. Then repeat!

Here’s to Nth Degree moments!

3rd Annual Holiday Infographic

December 9th, 2014

Happy Holidays from the Outside-In® Companies!

We looked back on our year through mint, gold & rose colored glasses. Take a look at our year in numbers through our 3rd Annual Holiday Infographic!

 

Happy Thanksgiving from Outside-In® Companies!

November 26th, 2014

Each year, the Outside-In® team likes to express our gratitude in a fun and unique way. This year we asked our team members what they are most thankful for and had them write it all down on a piece of paper to create an appreciation wall. View our video below to see what we are most thankful for!

Wishing all of our customers a safe & happy holiday!

A “Healthy” Culture

November 19th, 2014

ID-100268432To be healthy and to have energy most of us know that we must “eat right” and exercise. Living a sedentary lifestyle is not good for the body. Getting up and moving is the key to building a strong, resilient, and flexible body. Most of us have a dozen excuses for not working out. We are busy, life gets in the way, kids, commitments in the community, yard work, organizing your sock drawer. Did I mention kids?

We find it hard to set a routine up and stick with it. Have you ever heard anyone say, “I have been exercising like clockwork for 6, 10, 14 months and it was the worst decision of my life. I have lost weight, have more energy, and have less stress in my life. Terrible decision.” Not likely.

I think culture is the same way. In order to have a healthy, energetic culture, an organization and its leaders must do the equivalent of exercising and eating right. The company must have a plan to work at its culture! Leaders don’t time to have a cultural plan, right? I think you don’t have time not too. Your culture, when alive, aligned, and clear, does a very nice job of creating meaning and a bigger purpose for your customers, employees, and key stakeholders. Quite frankly, your culture sends a clear message whether it’s alive and aligned or not.

The great thing about culture work is that I don’t think it matters where you start as long as you start somewhere. Starting will create action and ideas that will keep your culture work alive and vibrant.

Looking for some ideas on where to start?

  1. Define your organizational values with your team. Find ways to talk about them at staff meetings, training sessions, daily huddles, etc.
  2. Reward, recognize, and hold accountable employees to the values.
  3. Meet with employees. Ask them what the organization must stop, start, and continue doing.
  4. Create cultural priorities.

What I Do, Why I Do It, and How I Do It

October 29th, 2014

The Outside-In® Companies exist to optimize customer talent challenges. I believe this is best accomplished by making sure our culture acts as our internal compass. Everyone is in charge of their own career and our values exist to enable employees to maximize their performance in their work. This natural culture promotes quality customer work in the purest sense—if you’re empowered, have challenging work, good training, and a servant leader mentality, you will create a special work environment.

ID-100278237I listen. I listen to customers, prospects, employees, and applicants. Even partners and suppliers. Then I aggregate information to see patterns and trends. This is our R&D. This is how we will build new service lines and brands for the Outside-In® Companies. We all want to survey customers and have focus groups. Formality in market testing ideas is fine, but knowing what your market place needs is a risk I see us continuing to take.

We will continue to listen. We must continue to be workforce and workplace experts. Our customers need the consultation as being in business and its many changes really impact how work gets done today. The workforce knows it needs different skills and assistance today—we must be its agent to help navigate.

The economy seems to be in constant change and flux and we are in industry that celebrates and suffers along with it. We need to continue to look to reduce that volatilty with our plans. I imagine this will take on a combination of geographic expansions, customer penetration across our brands, and the inevitable expansion into new and different service lines.

I create the routine. My job is to create the pulse for the business and to drive its rhythm. How do we communicate to whom? How do we plan and share information? I keep this pulsing like clockwork.

I encourage the heart. We want to create an environment where hard work and living our values creates extrinsic/intrinsic rewards for employees. Anyone can solve a problem, tackle a project of their choosing, or speak to whomever they want in the business. The why may not be obvious here. Innovation, confidence, proactivity, and engagement all come from within when the right environment is nurtured.

I am a teacher and a coach first. I love to help others know more and believe that knowledge should not be used as a bargaining chip in business. The more my team knows, the more confidence and self esteem they have and I trust the correlation between the two. We must be a market leader with training—there is only a cost when you don’t train.

I help my team interact with prospects and customers differently. We are consultative in a world where this is typlically just considered words that mean nothing. I continue to show that when you’re able to translate your expertise to your customers’ challenges and opportunities, the rest comes easily. The very act of learning their business builds lasting relationships and a trust that fully takes you from being in sales to a trusted partner.

Outside-In® Chronicles: He Who Can Provide Outside-In® Leadership Has the Whole World with Him

October 15th, 2014

Each month our leaders focus on learning and development. Do you consistently allocate time for shared leadership experiences and discussion? This form of renewal really brings the team together and gives us time to think about how accurately each of us lead. Recently, we have been working from Dale Carnegie’s original self-help book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. This book is one of the most important influences on the way we do things as a business—specifically how we deal with people!

images2We have been focused on Chapter 3, “He Who Can Do This Has the Whole World with Him. He Who Cannot Walks a Lonely Way.” My leaders discussed and discovered that we have a tremendous role in understanding our staff’s needs and wants. How many times do we present ideas or share our opinions in a way that is good for us? How often do we think, write, or present in a way that is of the other person’s interest? We all think about ourselves before others—this is simply human nature. However, to be truly Outside-In® leaders, we have to start with the other person’s interests first. As the book says, we must learn to “bait the hook to suit the fish.” Just because you like something doesn’t mean that others will and vice versa. Are we really ready to talk in terms of someone else’s interests? We better be.

We can use our title as ammo or yell as a leader to get things done for a moment. Cracking the proverbial whip works once or twice but only for a very short period of time. A sales person can be successful every now and again when they talk about what they want, their product and service, their quota, their tough day, etc. However, consumers want to feel like they are really being listened to. They want to buy, not be sold to. And they want to know that their needs are being met.

How can you take into account the other point of view? We made our list together as leaders.

  1. Listen. Talk less. Be clear that we understand what others want and need.images
  2. Be clear about what needs to be done, especially as we understand how staff wants to do their jobs.
  3. Create a reminder of the hook and the fish concept. What bait do you need to have an effective employee, customer, or family discussion?
  4. Be aware of wants and needs as we delegate. If done correctly, delegation is the key to knowing exactly what these wants and needs are.
  5. Be clear about expectations.
  6. Give staff the opportunities to explore.
  7. Remember that not everyone’s way works all of the time. Sometimes a good leadership push is in order.

Outside-In® Chronicles: Why Values and Culture Matter More than Rules and Handbooks

September 17th, 2014

DSC_0372-300x199As a leader of a successful recruiting company and the coach of a local high school soccer team, I’ve come to understand that too many organizations attempt to create order and discipline through handbooks and rule books.  Don’t get me wrong – they have a place. However, I believe that too many organizations make rules for the 1 in 100 that take advantage of the system, and then 99 have to suffer because of it. Yet, values are forever. They force a union and ownership amongst employees and leaders just as they do players and coaches. Values are enforceable by an entire organization, and there are a lot more players then coaches! This puts the emphasis on all having say and ownership!  Like the saying goes, “Treat people the way they wish they were treated and they just might live up to that standard!”

So if your not convinced, picture me coaching in a game. Imagine my superstar player who is losing his cool or maybe drawing attention to himself in away that puts him above the team. I can promise you that this happens. I might need to talk to him, but 18 other players will step in remind him of the value that  team comes first at all times! Or perhaps we get behind in the score and some players get down on themselves. I hear over and over again about the value that our soccer program never, ever, ever, ever gives up.

My personal favorite though is “Nothing negative said, nothing negative received”. I think every business, HR firm or not, needs this value. This one is about team or group trust. Too many times we assume that something said was negative, and too many time we hear it as such. We want a positive atmosphere, where we maintain a benefit-of-the-doubt team culture. We want to trust the gap between what we see and hear and what happened!

I hope you enjoy seeing how our values work for the team. By the way, this is my third year with the team and results come slowly (when they are going to stick)! This is the year we win some games! Our philosophy: Our goal is not to win alone, but to build and improve every day in order to play the game perfectly.

Below is a list of values that we hope all players at Elkton High School can embrace. If we can accept and practice these values, we can better our team and the soccer program, but more importantly we can better our lives and better serve others around us.

Elkton Soccer Program Values:

1. We never, ever, ever give up.

2. Nothing negative said, nothing negative received.

3. Our goal is not to win alone, but to play the game perfectly.

4. We will outwork our competition on and off the pitch.

5. We will follow our player agreements.

6. Everyone plays, that is how we get better as a program.

7. Team comes first at all times.

8. We will play with emotion, not show it.

9. We will do everything with intention (practice, training, pregame, off the field).

10. We must be willing to teach and learn.

11. Every player, regardless of their background, brings an important and necessary element to the team.

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