The Latest from the ABM Experts
July 2, 2019
How to Avoid Creating a Corporate Culture by Accident
Written by Sangram Vajre
Corporate culture is one of the hottest topics in business today.
But don’t worry: for those of you who aren’t into buzzwords or generalities, there’s still plenty of meat on the “culture bone.”
Our most recent guest host on the FlipMyFunnel Podcast was Joe Kerner, international speaker and Partner and COO at Prestige Leadership Advisors, once again interviewing Joe Yazbeck. In Joe Kerner’s words: “I believe culture determines the success or failure of any business or any type of organization for that matter.”
There are winning cultures, there are losing cultures and there are mediocre cultures—and how you design your culture from the beginning makes all the difference.
What We’re Covering Here
- The First Step to Creating a Winning Culture
- The 2 Most Important Ingredients of Winning Cultures
- Corporate Spirituality
- Culture Obsession in Some of the Most Successful Companies
- The Balance Between Too Much and Too Little Management
- The Relationship Between Mentorship and Success
The First Step to Creating a Winning Culture
“We’ve learned how to create winning cultures,” Joe Kerner said of himself and Joe Yazbeck. “And I would say the very first step in the process is to simply know that winning cultures have to be created, that there has to be a strong intention and philosophy to create a winning culture.
“It’s leadership that creates a culture, whether that culture is winning or not. In fact, leaders either create the culture they want or, if they fail to do that, they’ll get a culture they don’t want. A culture will be created either way.
“I think many, many business people have this idea that culture just sort of happens. It just sort of evolves. I don’t see it that way at all. I believe in creating a culture, and it starts with the definition in our own minds.”
“All too often, leaders don’t create culture by design. They just bring people in for the sake of filling job positions without any thought as to who they’re bringing in. Or they keep people around who turn out not to be the right people. How often have we seen that? Where somebody will keep the wrong person around for years, and they cause everybody else around them to struggle or have conflict or not do their jobs well.
“Defining a culture is very much like defining a goal. How do you want things to be? How do you want the company to operate? What are your intentions? What do you want this company to stand for?
“Think of the happiness factor. What kind of internal environment working environment do you want to create? How do you want to develop your people? How much do you want to develop your people? How do you want to empower them? Do you even want to empower them? These are all questions that have to be asked.”
Every executive should have a checklist, much like an aircraft pilot has a checklist before they take off.
“Let’s say a pilot has been a captain for 25 years. He or she has flown millions of miles and yet they still take this piece of paper on a clipboard and they literally check off with a pen or pencil each and every item. And why do they do that? Because lives are at stake and they can’t afford to leave to memory or chance that these things won’t get looked at. And yet businesses are very sloppy on this point.”
Checklists are old school. They’re old fashion. They’re not sexy; they’re not high tech. Yet things fall through the cracks if there isn’t a checklist.
Besides, lives are at stake—at least economically.
The 2 Most Important Ingredients of Winning Cultures
Joe also talked about the two greatest components of a great corporate culture.
“Purpose is the number one and first ingredient. But right behind that is people.”
“A company can offer a fantastic product or service, but if they don’t have the right people, they’re going to go bankrupt very quickly. Because sooner or later some other company is going to imitate that great product or service—and they may do a better job if they have better people.”
In the interview, Joe Yazbeck coined a term: “corporate spirituality.” It asks these questions:
- What’s the history of the organization?
- Who founded it?
- What principles was it founded on?
These lead to a corporate nonmaterial part of your philosophy, similar to what the founders of our country put in the constitution. That’s what the founders of the company put together in their policy manuals. They say, “We don’t want our business to turn into this. We want it to remain this for the future.”
“People need a very full description of their job starting, with what’s the purpose of the company?” Joe Kerner said. “What’s the purpose of your job? How does your job relate to the purpose of the company? How are you actually contributing to the success of the company? And what’s the end result you produce that contributes to the end result the company sells to its clients?
“These are all important. This, in my opinion, is what causes people to be engaged, and not having these things is what causes people to be disengaged.”
Culture Obsession in Some of the Most Successful Companies
“Look at the most successful companies,” Joe Kerner said, “like a Berkshire Hathaway or an Apple when Steve Jobs was around. They had a very tightly knit culture. Everything was aligned, people were all on the same page, and they were all working toward common goals and purposes. There wasn’t room for very much dissension.
“That’s not always a popular view. A lot of what goes on today is, “People shouldn’t be entitled to their opinions and it’s diversity and all that. Well, look, Joe and I are big on diversity in terms of ethnicity and religion, race and things like that. However, what cannot be diverse is purpose. Everybody has to have a common purpose. And that’s where we draw the line, where we say, “Look, diversity is great—except when you’re working against us.”
“What cannot be diverse is purpose.” – Joe Kerner
Steve Jobs jumped in on the recruiting line, and he himself personally hired 5,000 people for his company. That’s how important it was for him to have an influx of the right attitude and character and willingness contributing to what he strove for years trying to create. You don’t want to have an influx of people who don’t care about your vision tearing it apart.
The Balance Between Too Much and Too Little Management
“It’s a very fine line between too much management and too little management,” Joe said. “You have to have that exact right balance. You want superstars in your company who are empowered to think, to be creative, to be innovative, to come up with ideas and better ways of doing things. At the same time, they can’t run totally free, because then they’ll collide with one another.
“And there has to be just the right amount of organization and supervision, to act as a referee if for no other reason. Even the greatest group of people are still going to have disagreements occasionally. Somebody has to sort that out.
“What’s the right amount of management without micromanaging or causing people to have chaos in their midst? Finding the answer is the art of management, in my opinion.
The Relationship Between Mentorship and Success
The last thing the Joes touched on was the importance of mentorship.
“The most successful people in any field of life all had close mentors. Even in sports. For example, Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods have had coaches. Michael Jordan employed two coaches to help him. Here’s a guy who many people consider the greatest basketball player of all time, and he employed coaches even at the height of his power. So if Michael Jordan feels that he needed a coach, well, then all of us lesser mortals certainly could use some help once in a while.”