Category: Company Culture


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.

Outside-In® Culture Series: Hiring Strategy

August 6th, 2014

Never stop working on your culture. This is very hard to do when there is other work to be done in leadership. Just look around—every part of your business needs culture work. If you need a way to evaluate this just stand at your office entrance and work backwards. Here is a hint—culture is everywhere. Culture shows up in how you hire, retain, recognize, reward, and even let go of talent! Let’s start at the front door. You need to hire employees to maintain a business. Hiring employees is the perfect place to work on culture! Think about it.

A business and its leaders work very hard to know what skills and experiences are needed for an open position. This is not easy and getting it right takes time. Who has it? Does your job description or profile speak to how someone must behave? What values matter to all of your employees?

ID-100262401A business also works hard to attract quality talent. These are the basics of talent acquisition. Companies hire recruiters internally, outsource to companies like mine, and hire temps. There are many strategies to produce the work that is need to find talent, identify the sources for talent, and to get the work done. However, getting the work done has nothing to do with how your organization presents itself to the marketplace. You know you’re a great place to work and there are unique and extraordinary reasons why someone would want to choose your company over another. If you’re not clear about your culture and your values how can you screen talent and know if they are a fit in your world?

You post on a job board for an opening. Does the posting simply tell about the role or does it culturally sell your company?

During the interview process we ask behavioral questions and leaders screen for technical competence. However, there is a real opportunity to screen for culture. The questions depend on your values (common theme) and how you will frame them. If you’re a small business you probably want to ask questions about working independently or how applicants go about making decisions. If your culture is one of structure and compliance or safety then build your questions accordingly. Companies screen and hire for technical fit, however, our hiring failures often relate to fit on the team or in the work environment! Try hiring someone fiercely independent in a team culture. Good Luck.

Make sure you keep the sofa full. This is a cultural Burkhardism that has been written about and is a whole chapter in books on hiring right! Do you look for talent all of the time? Do you have your next hire sitting on the sofa in your lobby? This is a metaphor of course. Hiring takes time, money, energy, and resources. Committing to these things in a structured, proactive way enables us to hire cultural fits.

When the sofa is not full, we hire fast and we hire wrong. Hiring the wrong person is costly—slow the process down. Consider six or nine months of a person’s salary as the cost of turnover. When we cut corners and just hire to fill a seat we fail and cost the company money!

Finally, consider hiring for culture over technical abilities. This is coming from the Outside-In® Guy who runs an entire company based on values. This could be considered radical and I hope so. Hiring for attitude and behaviors (the real source of culture) is a sure fire way to build talent that fits. Many or most roles can teach the rest.

Need a culture hiring review? Can you afford not to? Can you ever stop working on culture? I say no!

An Entrepreneurial View of Failure

July 23rd, 2014

When Edison searched for something to use to illuminate a light bulb he spent months and months with hundreds of different filaments until he found one that worked. Do you think he viewed each unlit bulb as a waste of time or something irrecoverable? He knew with each failed experiment, he was one step closer to something that would work!

ID-100209779As a small business owner, I have failed many times. I have hired the wrong people, put the wrong programs in place, even launched the wrong business ideas. However, I don’t view this as failure. Rather, this is a process to make something right and unique. This is how business works. Try something, fail quickly. Tweak it. Make adjustments. Learn from it. These are the basics. This is not failure. This is how we grow and gain knowledge.

Some say that being an entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart. How do you handle the rejection? The no’s? The pats on the head when your business is just starting? Some will say, “When are you going to go get a job?” This is all part of the failing—dealing with the fact that most people really can’t handle the risk of trying.

I always feel as if I have more control of my own destiny when I am my own boss than when I work for others. That is just my my view. I would rather have tried to be a small business owner,  to have launched new services, and to have hired the wrong person because most of the times we end up getting it right. And we only need to get it right more often than not in order to be successful!

So the next time someone is taking a risk, think twice about your commentary. Risks create learning, knowledge, and opportunity. Everything changes. Why not be the one that initiates and drives change? Then failure will not be an option!

Servant Leadership: Vacation & Days Off

July 2nd, 2014

At Outside-In® Companies, we work hard to share content and to communicate regularly with our employees, customers, and other key stakeholders. When this week’s marketing went out, mostly automatic responses came back. “I am sorry I am out of the office until July 7th, the 14th, or whatever it might have been. Please contact (fill in the blank) if you have any urgent matters.” I stopped and thought about all those that left working—those employees who got the extra call, email, or workload because you or someone else was out on Holiday.

ID-100135888Don’t get me wrong, everyone needs (and earns) their time off. Generally speaking, the average employee never seems to take all the time off that they have earned. However, with technology only a touch screen away, work always seems to get in the way.

I have a culturally-led goal for Outside-In® Companies—for leaders to encourage the newest or least senior person get that choice week or Friday off before the Holiday weekend. Leaders should be in the office working and getting things done. And yes, you should close the office down. (I am not bragging but four of my leaders were working and wrapping things up long after 5pm on July 3rd so that others could get started on their long weekend).

The average leader works so hard to climb the corporate ladder, to have the title, company car, three-week vacation, or big bonus that we have forgotten what servant leadership is all about.  To be a servant leader, you need to anticipate and meet the needs of your employees. You must be honest, direct, and fair. Leaders must share the truth. Especially when it prevents an employee from being good or great in what they do.

However, being a servant leader also means showing sacrifice and equality. If you expect your values to be real and for all to be equal, you must show it in your actions and policies. Next week take a look around the office. Are all the leaders on vacation and the employees working hard? Or is their servant leadership in place? Either way, all can live this trait. Take on the burden and offer to close the office for someone. That is what servant leadership can be; especially when your staff is getting the job done!

World Cup: Who Wears the Yellow Arm Band?

June 25th, 2014

Almost half of the entire planet is watching the World Cup. Perhaps not where you live, but here in the Mid-Atlantic it’s all we have. Hockey and basketball are over. Our baseball team stinks. And football has not started just yet. The sentiment of local sports radio personalities is that the World Cup is boring. Soccer does not score enough. This is cross country running with a ball! In fact, the radio folks seem restricted in their ability to talk about it, even if they are one of the few DJ’s that will embrace the sport and the Cup.

ID-10056952Well, not in my house. And frankly the public sentiment is changing. Today kids play the game and parents socialize on saturday mornings on the sidelines and at tournaments. Soccer is becoming a lifestyle here in the states. Now I will get off my soap box!

As a leadership coach, entrepreneurial leader of a company, and a high school soccer coach, I tend to see the world of soccer through a different lens that comes from an adoration for the sport and the study of what makes a leader in any life situation. What has fascinated me most is what it takes to be Captain. In soccer, this is signified by the yellow arm band. My curiosity lies within the question of if the traits of a leader are the same on the pitch as they are in the board room. What do you think? My sense is that you can insert the President, the VP or a Manager in any of these situations if they represent good leadership behavior.

What it takes to wear a yellow arm band:

  • You have to have players that will follow you. Every leader must have followers. Leaders can’t send a message or create a vision if no one believes in it. No one can be Captain without buy-in from the players!
  • A Captain is vocal in both big and small ways. A captain knows all aspects of the game. And they put their teammates in the right place while on the field. They communicate constantly. They direct and put players in the right position. The team listens and respects the chatter. This mental direction is so critical in the game. The smallest mental lapses in spacing, positioning, and decision making on and off the ball create most of the goal scoring opportunities for your opponent.
  • A Captain can put the game on their back as they say. No matter what is required. Shut down the other team’s best player. Make the critical play or pass. Even the score—go ahead and make a goal.
  • The captain must lead the team 24/7 on and off the field. Winning and being competitive is not contained in a 90 minute game. The season begins the day the last one ends. Being a leader is learning more about the game, playing it, getting in better physical condition in the off season, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
  • Captains do everything with intention. Every meeting, every Friday night game or spaghetti team dinner is with a purpose. Closeness in a team off the field relates to trust and understanding of your teammates on the pitch.
  • The captain respects the entire team and knows that all have value. However, the captain also understands and respects individual roles and contribution levels.
  • A captain knows the team values and communicates with them. All action, word recognition, and discipline stems from living the values or helping teammates do it better.

Interesting to note, leadership behavior is just as hard to notice in a soccer game as it is in the game of business. You really have to look for it because it is effortless for good Captains and good leaders.

Create a Culture Holiday!

June 18th, 2014

How do you reinforce and teach the right organizational behaviors to your employee base? Leaders want their company to have a culture that reflects the values they put in place, but how can you do this from a practical day to day perspective?

Generally, we want to tell stories around our values. We want to reward and recognize values-based behaviors. And then we want to keep repeating and reinforcing. Not so hard in theory, but it can be difficult in a practical sense.

At the Outside-In® Companies, we have established a values holiday calendar. We have quite a few values, so every three to four weeks we celebrate one of our unique values for the day. Employees partner up and work on a value to find a way to bring the values to life. The value gets reinforced at our morning huddle. Legacy stories might be shared. A module of learning might be created. Handouts and visuals placed on desks or in prominent places to reinforce the message. The key is the simple routine and consistency. The challenge is to keep it fresh and changing.  And to make the story and symbolism meaningful.

When you encourage employees to take on a value they must become learners in order to act as teachers. Allowing all to be innovative and unique in how they communicate it is simply part of our culture. This reinforces taking risks and being knowledge-based workers.

Screen Shot 2013-08-01 at 1.39.32 PMSpeaking of risk taking and holidays. Check out the $9 dollar bill with my face on it. This was the handout on for the Risk Takers values holiday. I always say make $9 dollar mistakes. Involve others when its goes to $99 or perhaps $99,999 or up. Once you bring the values to life in a meaningful way the rest will fall into place as employees live and breathe your culture. Humor. Education. Recognition. Rewards. Repeat.

Take Advantage of The Lazy Days of Summer

May 28th, 2014

We all know the sayings – “The early bird gets the worm” or “The harder I work, the luckier I become”. Our mindset and approach to getting ahead is unfortunately prone to external influences like time of year and life events! Kids are now getting out of school for the summer. There are several long weekends ahead of us. Vacations are  being planned. Graduations, end of school picnics, concerts and pool parties start to fill our calendar. The beginning of summer is similar to the November/December holiday season for a lot of us. We look forward to it. It is tempting to lose some of our typical drive and determination to feel that we deserve the time to ease off just a little.

ID-10030008This time of year it can be hard to not be just a little lazy. After all, that is why they call it the Lazy Days of Summer, right? Being lazy during the weekend or when you’re taking much deserved time for vacation is expected and ok. We all need to take a break sometimes! The challenge becomes when that starts spill over into the rest of our days. When we perceive and rationalize that fewer people are working and push things off because we feel like we won’t really be able to really get any results. If you’re in a customer facing role, it can be hard to reach people, hard to make schedules work for meetings, to find the time personally to be planned and prepared. After all life’s distractions are often more pleasant then our work.

I will actually take this whole notion fighting off the lazy days a bit further. This time of year is the chance to truly get ahead in whatever it is you do. Putting the time in today can get you ahead of the curve and create opportunities for you.

So play hard when you’re off! In fact, use that time to disconnect and turn off the distraction of work when you’re not working, put that tablet or smart phone away. However, don’t be the one that feels sorry for yourself when others are off and you are working.  Don’t lower yourself to that level. It is easy to coast when fewer are looking. This is your chance to get ahead just for you! The skills, knowledge, output, and results are going to make you better and probably make you more valuable to your career and your employer in the long run!

If you are interviewing or looking for a job, use this time to get ahead in your job search when others are rationalizing that “No one hires this time of year”. Don’t fall prey to that sort of justification. Good people are getting new jobs everyday. Interviews are taking place right now. Trust me, my companies have them scheduled all day, every day with our customers.

If you’re in a business development role and playing golf today or heading to happy hour early, ask if there is anything else you could be doing to ensure you are on plan for the month and the quarter (or for the year!). Because there is always something meaningful to do in customer centric roles and to keep your relationships going.

Taking the extra time in your day to go the extra mile and putting in the extra effort can really pay off in the long term!

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