Creating a Business Culture That Values People
The following excerpt is from Jeffrey Hayzlett’s book The Hero Factor: How Great Leaders Transform Organizations and Create Winning Cultures. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books | IndieBound
No matter what type of company you do business with, you can feel the culture of a company -- or, more precisely, how the people make it feel, individually and as part of a team. Don’t tell me you don’t feel that "Hero Intensity" in a company that has it -- and that it doesn’t matter. This feeling runs deeper than what we call “mood.” It speaks to how an organization’s core values serve and respect others. Companies that have hero cultures also have teams ready to disrupt and challenge the status quo. They’re more than just great places to work -- they’re places where people can’t wait to go to sleep so they can get up and go back to work the next day.
But you can’t impose a culture like that; you have to live and develop it over time. It’s not something one action reveals or one proclamation can create (though as we have seen and will see again, it is something one bad action can undo -- at least temporarily). You can’t just say one day, “Hey, we’re going to be a 'Hero' organization,” implement a variation on the same way you’ve been conducting business, and then sit back and wait for improvement. That’s lipstick on a pig. That’s selling a story and hoping everyone doesn’t notice when you don’t actually adapt or evolve. That’s not a hero culture in the way you see or feel the values of the company being lived.
Culture is the cumulative effect of all the people in the business working together, based on your and their values, operating with one another over time to deliver results. This can be hard to measure. After all, how do you measure a feeling? Feelings are entirely subjective, and their expression varies from person to person. Just because I’m yelling doesn’t mean I’m angry. Just because you don’t laugh doesn’t mean you don’t find my jokes funny. Which they are.
Which is also my point. Culture isn’t right or wrong: It’s heroic or not. It may feel right to you, but that doesn’t necessarily make you a hero to anyone but yourself and your bottom line.
Culture is also about growth. But growth in which direction: toward the bottom line side of things or the "Hero" side? It’s your choice: Pick a side! Start by answering these questions:
- Does your organization value people and profit in balance?
- Do you want this part of your "Hero Intensity" -- how you value others -- to matter as much as making the sale?
- Do your leaders live that value?
- Does your company stand up for others even in hard times?
- Do you value and include ALL people when living your values?
- Are you giving back to your people, community and beyond in a way that matters to them, rather than pats you on the back for your generosity?
Answer any of these questions with anything less than a “mostly yes,” and your culture is definitely lacking in "Hero Intensity." That requires creating and sustaining a culture driven by decisive, confident-yet-vulnerable, inclusive leaders who value everyone who shares the goals of the company and delivers results -- even those whom they personally disagree with or who look, speak, believe, or work differently than they do or the way things “have always been done.” Fail to do that, and your people, partners and customers will fast lose trust in you, and you will become irrelevant to all but those who value exactly what you value. Then you will retain only the people and customers who see your benefit as purely transactional -- or in other words, good for their bottom line.
The effect of this "Hero Intensity" is measurable; its absence is just felt long before it shows up operationally, as your people do just enough to collect their paychecks -- or get bullied by those who thrive in your toxic culture. They silo, protect their turf and refuse to do more than what is asked of them. Eventually opportunities and possibilities don’t just get ignored -- no one looks for them in the first place. Innovation dries up. No one smiles on their way to work. No one cares about anything but themselves because the culture doesn’t value that.
Be a Hero: Have an Exit Interview
Have your employees ever answered the question “What’s the best part of this company?” with the answer “the people” in their exit interview? That’s a sure sign they’re valuing each other, but the culture isn’t valuing them. Take a step back and try to understand how what you’re doing affects the people around you. In other words, have the “exit interview” now.
- Make an appointment with the people who answer to you and ask them modified versions of the exit interview questions with the intent of getting them to stay!
- When you ask about the best and worst parts of the company, ask how the company culture supports or doesn’t support that aspect, and how it could change for the better.