Archive for February, 2020

Seven Indispensable Insights on Culture

Monday, February 24th, 2020

In several of my books and seminars I stress the importance of building and protecting a high performing culture. “Culture” is often an overused word that many managers have trouble defining in precise terms. Following are seven rules and insights into the importance of culture, building a high performing culture, and protecting it from cultural infections.

1. Culture influences behaviors, and behaviors determine results. This one sentence conveys a key principle to improving performance in your dealership. It’s easy to overlook this tenet and try to change or improve employee behaviors without changing or improving the culture in which those behaviors are found; to hack at the leaves rather than strike at the root. Culture is defined as a collection of beliefs, values, traditions and practices shared by a group of people. Naturally the strength of those beliefs, values, traditions, and practices – as reflected in performance expectations, accountability, teamwork, and quality leadership – go a long way in determining how people behave and perform within that culture day-in and day-out.

2. The leader is the chief architect and primary influencer of culture. While everyone contributes to shaping the culture, as well as to strengthening or weakening it, no one has the level of influence in this regard as the leader(s). In fact, the culture a leader builds, and the quality of people he or she is able to attract and develop make up a significant portion of that leader’s report card. And the culture he or she creates goes a long way in determining the quality of people one is able to attract, develop, and retain within the organization.

3. Culture is the foundation of your organization. Just as in erecting a building, without the right foundation supporting the structure you’ll be limited as to how high you can go. Thus, whenever one wants to go higher results-wise, he or she must first go back to the foundation and strengthen each of culture’s five primary pillars.

4. The five key pillars of culture are: core values, mission, performance expectations, core competencies, and people. Think of these five pillars as supporting the foundation mentioned in the prior point. Core values relate to your non-negotiable behavioral standards – regardless what type of numbers someone produces they must do it the right away, according to your values. Mission is the shared purpose uniting your entire team from all departments. A team becomes unstoppable when they passionately believe in and pursue the same purpose. Performance expectations relate to the “numbers:” how many calls per day, sales per month, getting receivables to a specific level monthly, producing the monthly statement by “x” date of the month, “x” hours per RO, and the like. Please note that the first three pillars of culture all relate to clarity. Without clarity you have chaos in the cubicles and there can be no accountability because the question becomes, “Accountable for what?” Thus, if you have core values or a mission statement that are never discussed or that no one knows, or cloudy performance expectations that are too vague, too low, or for which there is no accompanying accountability, your culture is weakened dramatically.

The core competency pillar of culture pertains to the corporate strengths that make your culture unique, different, and better than the competition. Too often, leaders ignore their strengths precisely because they are strong, and never fully edify their culture by putting more talent, dollars, and resources into the areas where they already excel, which could pull them further away from the competition. The people pillar of culture is the key. Nothing makes a culture stronger, weaker, or more memorable to a customer—for better or for worse—than the people that comprise that culture. The people must share your core values, believe in your mission, have the skills to reach your performance expectations and the talents to align with and leverage your core competencies.

5. Culture is never “finished.” In fact, it’s not an exaggeration to say that the day you think culture is done, YOU are done, and it’ll eventually catch up with you. Think of culture as you would a garden that requires constant attention and can’t be left to fend for itself, lest it be devoured by the weeds, bugs, disease and elements. This is why isolated leaders who spend more time polishing their office chair with their rear end than out in the trenches helping to shape culture, eventually plateau or fail outright as they leave their culture up for grabs to be shaped, rather than actively shape it in the right image.

6. Culture must align with your vision. It does little good to have lofty goals or forecasts if you don’t have the core values, purpose, standards, strengths, and people to make it a reality. Again, if you’re missing the numbers you’ve got to stop engaging in quick-fixes or silver bullets and return to your cultural foundation and address the aspects of your five pillars that are making your vision turn into a frustrating nightmare.

7. Multiple cultures hurt an organization. Culture is palpable. You can feel the energy and positivity when it’s present, as well as the indifference and lethargy when it prevails. In most dealerships there are multiple cultures: one department where people are engaged, helping one another, growing, and setting records; and forty feet away you walk into a different department and feel like the kid in the movie The Sixth Sense who uttered the classic line, “I see dead people.” You’d like to think that the stronger departmental cultures would lift up the weaker cultures, but normally the opposite happens: the weaker culture within the same rooftop distracts, depletes, slows down, frustrates and drains the more robust unit. That’s why it’s essential that all departmental leaders are on the same page in matters like hiring practices, living the core values, demonstrating high standards, and continuing to grow and prove themselves daily.

There’s a ton more we could discuss concerning culture, but this piece should give you plenty to look at, evaluate, and work on for now. As a parting thought, at the end of the day there are really only two ways to change a struggling or underperforming culture: the leader either changes what he or she does daily, or the leader must be changed. You simply can’t work around a leader who won’t consistently do what’s right or productive and expect anything to change within a culture measurably or sustainably.

Three Tips to Tackle Turnover

Monday, February 24th, 2020

Dave Anderson

In over 20 years of speaking with organizations worldwide, one of the most common concerns I see among leaders wishing to measurably grow their organization is employee turnover. Without question, people are the most important component of an organization’s culture, and while some turnover is good (for example, the removal of cultural misfits like non-performers and toxic achievers), the costs incurred when your top talent voluntarily walks out the door are staggering. Many leaders are quick to look out the window and blame the competition’s better benefits, increased pay, and more. The hard truth is, you can’t control the competition or afford to get involved in wage wars with them – frankly I’ve never known a person that became more loyal through an increase in pay. When looking at the countless business studies and reports on retention, it’s clear that the place we should really be looking as leaders when it comes to retaining our human capital is within the mirror and on the things we can control. Let’s address three of the most cited causes of employee turnover, in no particular order.

1. No advancement opportunities or room to grow. Let’s face it, high performers want to grow, to be empowered, and to gain new responsibilities. In some organizations this becomes a challenge because there are limited slots to advance into. Let me stop you before you even start using this as an excuse. If this describes your organization, you can still show an employee how to grow in their current position and make an outstanding income by doing the following:

Setting stretch goals. If they don’t make the individual do something other than “business as usual” it won’t stretch or inspire them. This is all about helping them discover their potential, and they’ll never find out how far they can go when you enable them to play it safe.

Forming special rewards for top performers. Great rewards should be reserved for those that bring immense value to the team. Give your best to the best, and less to the rest. That being said, what rewards are you currently giving away that you need to tie performance and achievement into? Cultures of merit attract and retain A-players; cultures of entitlement attract moochers.

Training continually to show there is still room to grow. The best organizational cultures understand that talent doesn’t arrive fully developed, and that it must be resourced through continual coaching, mentoring, and training. If you have great people and you don’t consistently commit to growing them to their full potential, you don’t deserve them.

2. Hiring the wrong person. The sooner you stop winging it and get a real hiring process, the sooner you’ll stop onboarding people that leave (whether voluntarily or not) because you’ll do a better job of weeding out people that never belonged in the first place. One mis-hire alone is enough to damage your brand image, organizational culture, team member experience, momentum, and more – and that doesn’t even begin to include the financial costs that accompanies. Evaluate your process for the following:

Be proactive. The worst time to hire is out of desperation. Just as in sales we build a pipeline of prospects, the same applies in recruiting. Build your recruiting database of top talent before you need to rely on it.

Have a rigorous hiring process. The easier you make it for someone to get a job on your team, the less they’ll appreciate it. Top performers are looking for a challenge, not just a paycheck.

Build an environment that attracts candidates from competitors. Similar to the principles in the first point of this article, you’ll need to identify what specifically differentiates you: unmatched opportunities to grow, exciting or challenging work, special rewards for top performers, etc.

Use predictive testing to make certain you are hiring people wired for the work you need them to do. Some things like attitude, character, drive, etc. you simply cannot teach to someone. You need to determine whether that candidate has what it takes internally, and is bringing these “unteachables” to the table before you begin investing your limited time, energies, and resources.

3. Disengagement or lack of meaningful work. There’s no question about it, without meaningful work, life stinks. Do the following to lend meaning to your workplace:

Create a vision as outlined in the first point and show people where they fit into the big picture. Good people look for the opportunity to make a difference and be a part of something larger than themselves, and want more than just a job.

Motivate people as unique individuals and not like another head in a herd of cattle. If you don’t know your people on an individual level, and what makes them tick, you can’t move them or your team to greatness.

Give plenty of positive reinforcement when people hit it to let them know they are valued and not taken for granted. People like to know when they’re doing well, and where they need to improve. When you’re inconsistent, slow, or absent in feedback, it’s hard for your people to know where they stand.

There are many more things that can drive employee turnover, but this sampling alone demonstrates that one of the first places a leader should turn to when people leave his or her team, is within. Fortunately, all of this is in your power to fix and control, but knowing is only the first step in the journey – doing comes next. Close the gap between knowing and doing, and resolve to minimize your turnover today.