Culture & Structure

What’s Your Company’s Trust Rating?

Trust is earned.  When someone says they “trust” you or your company, they’re telling you that they believe in your truth, reliability, ability or strength to deliver on your claim/promise. It’s the conclusion you reach based on your past history and how you presented it. If you’ve earned trust, then you or your company is likely to outperform your “competitors” over the long-term.

Trust Across America found last year that the stocks of companies deemed more trustworthy have greatly outperformed others. After quantifying the value of trust by looking at 10 stocks of the most trustworthy companies 10 years ago, they discovered that 5 were bought by other companies and the other five gained an average of 868% vs. 278% for the SP 500.  Similarly, the 10 most trustworthy companies from five years ago and three years ago also handily topped the S&P 500.

How would you measure trust?  Studying companies like Microsoft, Nike, Nvidia and Starbucks, they focused on seven traits including:

  • Clarity of corporate purpose, values and culture. Employees know how to practice them, bring strategy to life and have systems in place to support what’s important and values
  • Corporate integrity. Leaders act in respectfully authentic ways, consistent with purpose and values
  • Culture of transparency and truth-telling, even when it hurts
  • Communication within the company as a priority before other stakeholders
  • Belonging – which is more than just diversity and inclusion
  • Focus on relationships vs. transactions, internally and externally
  • CEO serves as Chief Communications Officer to meaningfully connect internally and externally.

How do you measure trust? Which traits do you see most important in building trust among employees, customers and shareholders?  Do you use a Net Promoter Score, is it time for a trustworthiness Score?

How Empowering Is Your Culture?

At this stage, we all know the importance of culture. Peter Drucker told us how important it is that your company is founded on the right-set of values and behaviors for superior service to customers and relationships among workers. As he said: “It eats strategy for breakfast”. 

In every presentation opportunity, success isn’t just the message content; the style in which it’s presented is also critical. In the case of culture, is it adoption empowering employees to proactively go beyond expectations.   One story first shared in Practical Wisdom (by Barry Schwartz and Kenneth Sharpe) (and later retold by David Brooks in The Second Mountain) demonstrates this point well. As I read both books prior to a podcast for corporate leaders, I thought I would share it.

Luke, a janitor in a major teaching hospital, is sharing how his job is structured with some social scientists. While doing so, he shares an incident concerning a comatose young patient and his father who had been keeping vigil for months. The custodian cleaned the comatose young patient’s room while the father stepped out for a few minutes. When the father returned, he snapped at Luke for not cleaning the room that day. Luke then chose to clean the room again. Why? 

Luke explains the situation. The son had been in a fight and when brought into the hospital was in a coma. Everyday, Luke would clean the room while the father stayed in the room. Today he was out smoking a cigarette. When he returned they met in the hallways and the father “freaked out” telling him he didn’t clean the room. At that point, he was about to reply defensively – and then stopped himself. “I’m sorry. I’ll go clean the room.” Why did he clean it a second time?

“I cleaned it so that he could see me clean it… I can understand him… It was like six months that his son was here. He’d be a little frustrated and I cleaned it again. But I wasn’t angry with him. I guess I could understand.”

While the job description of the custodian detailed all the things that had to be cleaned in the room and the standard of care, it did not address the cultural elements: who are the “customers” in when the purpose of care involves patients and caretakers.  But the culture of the hospital made it clear that it was not just the patient but also those caring for the patient and empowered the custodian to do the right thing: give the father peace of mind. It may not have been “efficient” to clean a room twice, but it was more “effective” to do so.

As you know, one member of the Presentation Excellence Group is Accountable4Success.com (A4S) that develops job descriptions that address job performance, cultural behaviors and leadership skills. This is especially important in the hybrid working world when people have to manage themselves and members of their teams, rather than the hierarchical staff “below” them. Key to creating an effective culture is empowering people to take on those behaviors which enable them to go “beyond the call of duty” to meet customers’ needs. 

Just as Ritz Carlton empowers employees to spend extra money on guests in order to ensure that they are pleased with their stay if something goes wrong, every service company should empower its workers to invest extra efforts to make sure customers are pleased. And the story shows that if done correctly, it can make a significant difference for companies involved with life-and-death issues.

How are you empowering your employees to fully actualize your company’s values?  Share with us. (To learn more about A4S, contact jcahn@accountable4success.com)

Make the Most of Teamwork and Collaboration Opportunities

As 2022 approaches, many companies are trying to bring people back into their offices at least part-time. The rationale is that it’s easier for us to engage in teamwork and collaborate when we’re together, since that’s how we’ve been doing it all our lives. Digital tools provide some support for these activities, but the thinking is that remote isn’t as effective as face-to face when it comes to teamwork.

Prior to the pandemic, Fierce Inc., surveyed more than 1400 executives and employees and reported that 86% said workplace failures were caused by a lack of collaboration or ineffective communication (See “3 important skills for teamwork and collaboration in the new normal”.)  The study identified 3 main skills and 4 supportive skills for teamwork and collaboration:

  • Trust – “the degree to which each party feels that they can depend on the other part to do what they say they will do” (APA definition). To develop it, people need to engage in team building activities and engage in spontaneous bonding activities. Obviously when physically together, it’s easier to do so. They also hold each other accountable – which creates trust-within-teams
  • Tolerance –“level of acceptance and appreciation for the unique styles, values and rules of each person including your own”.  To develop it, people need exposure to a diverse team for exposure to different ideas, values and perspectives. They also need to learn how to be tolerant, including the practices and skills, and how to be empathetic, taking other people’s perspectives and viewpoints.
  • Self-Awareness – “knowing your emotions, motivations and blind-spots and how they affect others on your team”.  This critical component of Emotional Intelligence affects who we communicate with others, since it requires that we recognize our own feelings as we discuss our feelings toward others.  How do we develop greater self-awareness?  Since we’re often poor judges of ourselves, we can ask for feedback from others, as well as use objective assessments. Also, we need to monitor own emotional reactions to actions by others and yourself.
  • Empathy – both the emotional component (who you feel) and the cognitive (taking someone else’s perspective)
  • Transparency – more than honesty, it’s telling the truth even when non-one asks for it with the goal of avoiding problems that might occur later.
  • Active Listening – Rather than listening to respond, this is listening to understand. By clearly paying attention to others, you enable them to express themselves to you and know they are being heard.
  • Handling Conflict Resolution. When conflicts appear, people need to know how to de-escalate and resolve them. This way they can work together to create a happy, healthy and productive team.

So, as you go back to work on a hybrid status or full-time, keep in mind the importance of working together to promote teamwork and collaboration by mastering these skills. Some of us may be rusty having been remote for a year. So be patient and tolerant, and as a team promote collaboration!

What’s the goal: Peak Performing Individuals or Teams

In the opening 2021 Olympics game of Basketball, there was a major “upset”. The US team, which won 25 consecutive games, and which had been referred to as “the dream team” because it included many of the best US players, lost to the unheralded French team.  However, one of the French team managers questioned whether it really was an “upset”, noting teams that forge strong bonds, as their team had over 10 years, generally outperform individual superstars who come together as a team.

In the second half of 2021, one of the biggest news items is the difficulty of companies to find qualified workers. Several reasons are given for this. Some people have decided to change jobs or leave the workforce post-pandemic, because they are more interested in following their passions and purposes; they’re not interested in returning to a pre-pandemic workplace, and/or they want substantial changes in compensation, working conditions, etc.  Thus, hiring managers are challenged to find qualified people among this new workforce.

Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, is famous for recommending we get the right people on the bus”, i.e., hire the right people for each job. The challenge is to identify the right characteristics for each person – are well looking for individual superstars or team players?

Similarly, Sutton and Rao, in Scaling Up Excellence note that people have unconscious biases and they may play a role. For instance, people tend to prefer to be around others who are similar to them; yet diversity matters. Linda Abraham, a co-founder of comScore, notes that hiring people like you can be “the worst thing for building out a team.”   “New mindsets, skills, and practices, travel faster and farther when team members have varied backgrounds, skills and viewpoints”.  If the goal is a team adept at solving problems and creativity, then you need a team of individuals with mutual respect – where they can “fight as if you are right and listen as if you are wrong.” That means standing up for what you believe until the evidence clearly shows you are wrong, and then admit that the other person is right.

In sum, before hiring for teams, identify the key attributes each member should have to both individually do his/her job and to help the team do its job. Be aware that that may mean tradeoffs are necessary for ultimate success.

Align Your Executive Team for Peak Performance

One of the most important elements of a successful company is a strong Executive Team.  Whether you’re forging ahead with a new business strategy or considering selling your company, it’s the power of the team to coordinate their efforts to create individual and collective peak performances that really counts. As John Warrillow, author of Built to Sell, and other experts in helping owners develop lucrative business exits note, it’s their ability to carry on the business as well – and often better – without  you that significantly affects the final price.

Especially during times of great change – whether it’s the switch to post-lockdown hybrid workforces, new product lines with new suppliers and distribution channels, or workforce utilization due to automation and AI – it’s important that the Executive Team stays on the same wavelength to collaborate effectively and efficiently, and not end up unaligned and in silos.

It’s for this reason that I stress with the CEOs with whom I work the importance of coaching direct reports and opening stronger lines of communication. Indeed, Marshall Goldsmith, a leading executive coach, recently shared 6 questions that would be appropriate for these coaching sessions. They are:

·   Where are we going?  Are we in sync with the current vision, goals and priorities? Are we aligned?!

·   Where are you going? Is your part really aligned with the company and other divisions?

·   What is going well?

·   What can be improved?

·   How can I help?

After asking these questions, switch the focus with:  “What suggestions do you have for me?” This opens the door to a two way dialogue.

With such coaching, you can identify cracks in the company’s strategy and be able to repair them.

Also be sure that you and your team have full “conversational capacity”. He created a “conversational martial art of business communication” that allows teams to perform well and remain open, balanced, and non-defensive as they tackle their most troublesome issues.  For more information, see Craig Weber’s Conversation Capacity  and https://weberconsultinggroup.net).

Final note: Recently, Vistage introduced a set of new leadership programs for managers that they supervise.  For details on the Executive Leadership Programs, contact me at jerry.cahn@vistage.com)

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