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Kristen McAlister virtually sits down with Lindon Crow, President of Productive Learning, to discuss four steps to a successful company culture.
Seth Avergon: Hi everybody. I’m Seth Avergon with Cerius Executives and welcome to today’s webinar, which is Four Steps to a Successful Company Culture. Our moderator today is Kristen McAllister. Kristen is the president and co-owner of Cerius Executives.
Cerius is one of the nation’s leading providers of fractional and interim executives. The Cerius team takes business challenges and finds the right executives to own that solution across industries and across roles. We work in just-in-time leadership solutions. So, the right people at the right time for increased profitability and growth.
Our guest today is none other than Lindon Crow.
Lindon is the president of Productive Learning and he has helped over 2,000 clients achieve higher levels of emotional awareness, self-mastery and personal fulfillment.
Lindon has led more than 40 different types of workshops to help organizations create high performance cultures.
And he is known for [00:06:00] his provocative, straightforward and compassionate communication style. Lindon and Kristen, take it away.
Kristen McAlister: I’m excited to be joined today by Lindon Crow. And I’d say I’m probably one of his toughest projects he’s ever had turning a very low EQ business leader into somewhere north on the EQ scale, especially when it comes to company culture.
I’m excited to discuss this topic because it really impacts all of us, both professionally and personally right now, given the current times. This topic came up when I was with a group of 15 CEOs and asked them one of my favorite questions: what’s your number one business challenge right now?
Unanimously, the response was company culture.
Culture is such a big encompassing, very impactful term. And my right-side, very operations-oriented brain wants to be able to sit down and write a standard operating procedure or an SOP for everything. And I cannot do it for culture- you haven’t gotten me that far Lindon!
I’ve asked Lindon to help us better understand the impact of culture, help us provide his version of an SOP for a successful company culture.
So, Lindon, we’ve been discussing company culture a lot. It is obviously the number one topic on most leaders’ minds. Why is that?
Lindon Crow: Company culture [00:08:00] is a big topic and there’s a lot of different ways in which people define culture.
And what I believe is unfortunate is when things are going good, people don’t typically talk about culture. They don’t talk about their values. They don’t talk about how they make decisions, because things are just rolling. The sales are coming in. Clients are coming in, profits are being spent out.
So, people are just running and riding along the wave. And when things turn south, and times get difficult and cash is tight or the economy is dropping or as right now when we’re in the midst of COVID and there’s an unknown future ahead of us, is there a cliff? Is there not a cliff? How steep is that cliff?
That’s when people are looking to understand how to make choices and decisions, and if they don’t have [00:09:00] a stated and aligned culture, then they are going off intuition and gut and spur-of-the-moment-emotions that are guiding them as opposed to some doctrine that everybody is looking at the same direction, rowing in the same direction.
Because COVID is happening right now and people are not understanding how to do their business, some people are skyrocketing you and I know businesses that are skyrocketing and they’re having problems with how much they’re pushing on their growth pedal. And other people are wondering if they can make payroll and if they should be closing business in the next month or quarter or so, either way it goes is because there are big decisions to be made.
If culture is not determined already and bled throughout the organization and everybody understands, then that’s when people say, “I don’t know what my [00:10:00] culture is, and we don’t know what’s going on.” And we have a disparate piece of guidance that’s actually stemming people in all of these different directions because this person feels that they need to run over to the left and this person feels they need to run over to the right and somebody in front and somebody behind, as opposed to organizations that have set cultures, where, when they are pushed up against the edge, they still know what to do. They know how to make the decisions and choices because they have an idea of the values that they adhere by.
An individual has a way in which they view the world and that way in which they view the world is going to determine how they make choices and decisions. All that information and inputs coming into them and they have to somehow process it. This is your standard operating procedure for the individual.
When you put all these different people into a group and [00:11:00] into an organization and be called a team or a business, then we have a collective consciousness, we have a collective mindset and that’s happening no matter what and what I’m hoping for is that people start to see the value in culture is not just when things are tough, but when things are good, because when things can go bad quickly and you don’t have a culture in place to understand the value propositions and what is a priority versus others and how we make decisions, then all of a sudden people are going to start going left and right.
It may be that people are rowing in all kinds of different directions. So right now, people are looking at it because the amount of uncertainty is skyrocketing for all businesses.
Kristen McAlister: You were talking about the values and how they play a role in company culture. Seth, I think you’ve got a question from the audience on that. [00:12:00]
Seth Avergon: I’ve got one from Jeff. Lindon, how do you differentiate between core values and culture?
Lindon Crow: Your core values are part of your culture. Think about your culture as the collective mindset of an individual; the collective mindset thinks about, “how do we think about problems? How do we think about opportunities and challenges? How do we think about the individuals? How do we think about our clients and our space within the whole market?”
That’s all of the collective culture: how do we deal with everything? The values are one segment of that. We value honesty and openness versus ingenuity versus punctuality. Those values are part of the mindset of the whole. And how you view the mindset of the collective organization would also be determinant of how [00:13:00] you, how you prioritize your different core values.
Kristen McAlister: When you look inside of an organization, can you step into an organization and within an hour or two, just by seeing how people act, what they do and make decisions? How can you tell what their culture is?
What are some of the symptoms that you see in how they’re operating?
Lindon Crow: Let’s step out of business for a moment.
Let’s pretend you walk into a friend’s house and it feels comfortable and nice and homey, [00:14:00] and it’s got good smells. It’s fresh and things are picked up and clean and you walk down the hallway and you look into a kid’s room and yes, there’s stuff, but, essentially, everything is put away. That family unit has a culture of tidiness, of welcomeness, right?
Or you walk into a family’s house and there are dogs and cats everywhere. And there’s fur on the ground. And there’s laundry piles over there. And you can tell that when you go to put some trash under the sink, it’s actually overflowing and nobody’s deciding to pick it up and take it out to the trash cans. That’s that family’s culture.
It’s the same with a business. One real easy demonstration is when you walk into an Apple store, how do you feel? You feel like everything is in its place. Everything [00:15:00] is clean and crisp. Everyone’s wearing the same clothes, but it’s casual, right? It’s semi-casual, but we know what we are talking about.
We’ve got Geniuses. They have a whole feel for how they want to represent and the mindset of those individuals, right? You can go to any kind of restaurant, any kind of business. When you walk in, they’re already demonstrating their culture. If they don’t have the same chairs, if they don’t have an idea of dress code, if somebody were in suits and ties and somebody were in shorts and flip flops, that is the culture.
But what is that culture saying? You can make assessments of what a culture is as you walk in: as people answer the phone, how do they answer the phone? How prompt are they in responses to their emails? Is it an informal type or is it very formal? What’s the kind of field that you want?
All of that is the collective mindset of the culture of an organization. And you [00:16:00] feel that right off the bat, no matter the kinds of interactions that you have with an organization.
Kristen McAlister: In using that example, we’ll get into how you help spread it.
I’m just thinking about the home example. So, you’re telling me that if my husband and I continue to clean the house every single day, my seven-year-old will eventually get that that’s the culture of our home. And he’ll start picking up after himself?
Lindon Crow: Yes. And we’re going to go into how, when we talk about some of the ways to create a successful company culture, the leadership actually creates the foundation and then it’s a constant education.
We can’t assume that people are just aligned when they say, “yes, I would like to take a paycheck from you and work for you.” That’s not necessarily true because they have their own belief systems about how they want to conduct themselves. And the organization has theirs. So, then there’s a [00:17:00] constant education.
I’m jumping ahead. We’ll get into that.
Kristen McAlister: Before I ask my next question Seth, it looks like we have another audience question.
Seth Avergon: We do. This is an interesting one for you, Lindon. As an interim, how does one effectively address the culture issues, given the mindset that the interim leader is there temporarily?
Lindon Crow: I think because the culture is something that is not dependent on any one jewel and any one state or time, the idea that culture right now is maybe at the forefront of executives’ minds is not saying that you should start a culture. The culture should have been established already.
So, if you’re an interim executive, then it’s to understand and to learn what is the culture of the organization. And then that is your battle cry. That’s what you are going in there and marching. Your orders are actually in support of this defined culture. You’re not creating it unless you’re tasked to do that, then maybe that’s what you were tasked to do is to challenge and update the company’s culture and values.
But if you’re not tasked to do that, then you’re simply to look at what is the company’s values and culture, and now march to those. And make sure that those that work for you also march to that.
And that’s how I work. Cause my belief in running an organization and what I work with the clients that I work with is that it’s about aligning [00:19:00] the individuals within the organization.
And what are we aligning to? We’re aligning to this: the defined company culture that- hopefully it’s defined, hopefully it’s was challenged and poked and prodded and created in a bit of the mastermind group. And if that is created and what you are, then that is what your battle cry is.
Kristen McAlister: Thanks Lindon. And thank you. Great question. Because certainly, it’s tough when you go into a situation and the company culture is almost antagonistic to what you’re trying to achieve, which I’m sure many employees know it, whether you’re an interim executive or a new employee coming into an organization, they don’t want people who don’t work very hard and they don’t reward people who do this and that’s their takeaway from it. So, as a business leader, before we get into a creating successful company [00:20:00] culture, I want to understand the importance of it because I also talked to many business leaders who say, “why does my culture matter? I just want everyone to do their jobs.”
And you and I have been on opposite sides of the table and discussing a friend’s issues. And I said, “look, they just made some processes and procedures and hold them accountable. Their biggest problem is accountability.” And you countered that and said, “no, the biggest problem is they don’t have a culture of accountability.”
Why is culture so important to us?
Lindon Crow: I love this discussion that we had before. Let’s bring everybody up to speed with what we had really uncovered. The idea of creating policies and procedures I’m all on board with. I think that’s fantastic. That’s a great idea. And to create them and then to execute them would say that that is the company’s culture.
To create them and to not execute them, which some organizations do, that’s [00:21:00] their culture. Should you have policies and procedures? Should you not? Should you just go off the cuff? Should everything be documented even how you do change orders and document that. I don’t have a determination for what you should do.
I have my own personal belief based on the way that I run my organization. And Kristen, I know that you have your own belief about how you run your organization, but I’m not here to determine what company culture you should have. I’m here to determine or help you see that the way in which you want to conduct business is the company’s culture. And so long as you actually execute on what that is, and you bring everybody on board with what that is, then you have a powerhouse of an organization. If your organization does not want to run by policies and procedures, and it more runs by individual geniuses in different areas of your business, and then they get to do what they need to do in order [00:22:00] to make it successful, maybe that’s wonderful. Then give them the cart blank and just let them run. But maybe you have too many people or too many different variables and you need to create policies. Well, does everybody understand and align with those policies?
And if they don’t, then what’s the policy and procedure to make sure that they either get onboard or we get them offboard- all of that is actually the culture. We can’t say that it’s not about policy or procedures or it’s about culture. It’s about the culture that you want. And does your culture say, “we adhere to the policies and procedures because we have gutted through them, we have vetted them, we have challenged them, and we see that this is the best possible method.” That would be a great company culture.
Kristen McAlister: Now that we’re clear on what is the company culture, why it’s important, I’d love for you to discuss with the leaders that we have here, as a leader, how I create a successful [00:23:00] company culture as an executive stepping in as a CEO, I’m changing our activity. I would love to understand how I create that or enhance the successful company culture.
Lindon Crow: Super. I am going to share my screen with everybody and we are going to go through a quick PowerPoint.
We’re going to go through four simple steps of creating a successful company culture. They are simple in their concept. I’m not saying that they are [00:24:00] simple in their execution. And then that is especially dependent on where the status is of the company and what the culture is that you are walking into and that you are working with.
And this is where the work that I do in our organization is to help them work through these points.
First one. What’s the Italian phrase, “the fish rots from the head.”
The idea is you’ve got to start with you. If you are the executive of the organization, people are watching how you conduct yourself. From our beginning, when we come out of the womb into this world, we have what are called mirror neurons.
And when you think about an infant and a mom or a dad smiling at that infant, what does [00:25:00] that infant do? It starts to learn to smile. And then if you get a sour face that infant starts to scrunch their face. We actually have neurons that mirror what we see; it is one of those ways in which we learn how to conduct them.
It is monkey see, monkey do. If we, as the executives of our organization say that we have a company culture of X, Y and Z, and then we conduct ourselves by doing A, B and C, then what is it that we are teaching our people as by way of the example, even though I say this, do this, that is what they are hearing.
And that is therefore the culture that they are inheriting by watching. So now they’re going to walk around and- “I say this, but I’m going to do this.”
So, you have to be the company culture. You have [00:26:00] to understand the values and which one is a priority over which, and how you make decisions.
What information do you bring in? Do you make the decision by yourself? Is it more of a democratic system where everyone gets a vote? Is it only a select few? How does that happen? That’s part of the company culture. Then the next time that it happens, you’ve got to go and do what that is, even if it is against your own gut or your own personal values, because it is not your values that you are running by. It is by the company’s values that this thing is moving.
I have my own personal values and my wife and I have own of our own personal values for how we conduct our personal life. We look at how we want to invest, how we want to spend our money, how we want to spend our time.
And, because I run my organization, Productive Learning, a lot of those same values are aligned with my company, but not all of them. My [00:27:00] company has its own set of values, and when I’m working within my organization, as the president, I need to be those values and make sure to exhibit what those are.
Kristen McAlister: The question has to be asked here.
That’s great, when you’re in front of that baby, and they’re able to mirror image you are when you’re in front of those employees on a day-to-day basis. And in meetings, we’ve gone from 300 people in one office to 300 offices. How do you from a one-dimensional view or in many different ways, be able to still share that culture and ensure that you don’t end up with 300 cultures.
Lindon Crow: That is a great question. And I’m going to step back and give you some context to how I’m going to answer the question.
In regard to emotional intelligence, meaning the way in which we conduct ourselves mentally and emotionally, all of our system is conducted and all of the choices and decisions we make are based on the way in which we think and the emotions that we have.
When our system, meaning our mind-body system, is challenged and is put through stress, one of those stressors being changed, it will revert back to and make sure that it is okay based on its own beliefs. It becomes very egocentric and self-serving, out of good nature. If we are just out in the savannas of the world and things are changing, we need to make sure to take care of ourselves.
But if you recall what I just said before, I have my own personal values, but the company has their values. And so, amidst all of this change that’s happening because of work from home because of changes in states and [00:29:00] regulations and how we are supposed to, and not supposed to, conduct business, that amount of stress on the system has people revert back to egocentric ways.
All that means is that your battle cry for the company’s value and culture just has to be much more consistent and much louder. It doesn’t change the company’s culture unless you decide to change it. It just says that it needs to be reminded because when you’re stressed, all of a sudden, a lot of our creative abilities get flushed away. Cause we’re much more self-serving. So, what you’ve got, what the executives need to do, and the leaders of our organizations need to do is actually rely more heavily on it. And then bring that to all of the ways in which you communicate.
One of the ways in which to do that, very simple in concept, is when you are making decisions and choices and you are giving direction to people, [00:30:00] give them the background context for why you are doing that.
We are furloughing these people, that’s the end result. But that doesn’t say why and the value that you are using to come up with that decision.
“We see that in order to continue to move forward with the organization, we need to pivot and start to execute more heavily in department X instead of what we were doing in department Y. Because of that, we’re going to have to furlough these people in department Y, in order to make sure that we can maintain the client relationships that we have, the revenues that we need and the profitability that we have, or that we’re looking for.”
All of that context starts to educate the rest of the organization into the value and the culture of the organization as to why we’re doing it.
All you really need to do is say, “Hey, furlough department Y.” But that’s that doesn’t educate, that doesn’t show the value you’ll use and the culture that you are [00:31:00] wanting to demonstrate to the organization. We need to actually give the context for it. So, in your emails, in your Zoom calls, in your phone calls, give the context for why you are moving in the direction that you are.
And that starts to educate people as to how to think about the decisions and choices so that they can start to think that way about the decisions and choices that are on their plate to have to execute.
Kristen McAlister: I actually heard of a CEO who’s sending out a weekly video message and I was thinking, “really, aren’t your employees tired of this? What is the weekly video message?”
And he said, “if they’re not hearing from me, they’re hearing from someone else and they may not be hearing from someone else the right thing.”
Lindon Crow: Beautiful. Exactly. It’s just a constant demonstration. And in good times we do it just a little bit. And I think that’s a fault of myself and others as well, they think, “things are going well because I don’t need to make sure that they understand, they seem to be understanding,” [00:32:00] but it’s a constant education.
And then when times are tough, we need to be more consistent in that education of the values and the culture just gets heightened.
Kristen McAlister: Interesting. Before we move on to the next, I’ve seen a couple of questions as to whether we will be sharing the slide deck and the video and yes, absolutely.
Everyone who has registered, we will be sending a copy of those webinars as well as the slide deck. Just to answer that.
Lindon Crow: Moving on.
Second one: enroll others to be the culture.
The culture is a set of values and a mindset for how to do business. And it does not matter if you are the CEO. It doesn’t matter if you are the department head, if you are a manager, [00:33:00] if you are the front desk person, or if you are the interim person, it does not matter because we are all adhering to this doctrine that we have decided is the way in which we are going to do conduct business.
So in order to have that move through the organization, who are (what we call) cultural champions? The cultural champions hopefully are your executive team and department heads, because they have a lot of natural influence over the organization because of the decisions and responsibility that they have.
But not necessarily, there are other people that create a lot of influence just by who they are. Who are the people that everyone seems to be moving towards when there are breaks? They seem to be the one saying, “Hey, let’s do happy hour on Friday.” And people say, “yes, I want to go to a hangout with that person.”
Who’s the one that seems to be the one that just knows and touches base with [00:34:00] everybody? They can be cultural champions. Enroll them to be the culture that you are wanting. Why? Because people naturally look to them. Those are your natural leaders. So, have them, along with you being the executive of the organization, be the ones to be disseminating the information about how they’re making the decisions, how they’re prioritizing their choices on XYZ.
What you would be doing is looking for those people in your organization, maybe they’re department heads, maybe they’re your executive team, but maybe they’re one of the low people on the totem pole. It doesn’t matter. So long as people are looking at them, see if you can put extra time into those people and educate them on how you are making decisions and choices so that they then will start to understand when I make my decisions and choices about things, I’m going to educate other people.
[00:35:00] And that creates that ripple effect out. So how to create it is to first start with you. Second part is to go find others to enroll that are cultural champions within your organization.
Kristen McAlister: We’ve got to break it down into some details. Do I give them a button that says culture champion? Do I ask them, “do you want to do this? And here’s what this means,” or is it done in a less obvious way through actions and words? Is this something that’s official or is it blended to natural conversation?
Lindon Crow: I’ve done it both ways within organizations. There have been organizations where, typically when I’m working with the executive team, maybe it’s just the CEO, maybe it’s the top three or four people.
And we are looking for those people who are the people that we believe are just the natural leaders, the influencers, the ones that people gravitate to, and we will find them. And sometimes we just [00:36:00] spend a little bit more time with them. Educating, telling them how we’re making decisions, why we’re doing what we’re doing.
I’m asking them about how they are making decisions and coaching them along the way more than we would some other people, even maybe our direct reports, sometimes it’s just the natural way. Other organizations we’ve actually labeled them cultural champions. And they actually create groups of them within the organization.
Those cultural champions, champions from 5 different departments come together once a week or once a month to talk about how we are going to bring this part of the organization forward so that we can help the rest of the organization, see how we want to adhere to this cultural manifesto that we’re all living by.
And they’re called cultural champions, even though their title is just [00:37:00] line person number 17, it doesn’t matter what their title is in regard to what their role is. They’ve been deemed a cultural champion.
So, I’ve done it both ways, but I would definitely suggest that the executive team start to look through their roster of people and just say, “yeah, John, Sally, Sam, and Sue, those are the people.”
So, what’s the culture that we have? And how would we want to bring them up into and enroll them into the company’s culture and have them start to bring that information out to the rest of them. Is that their own program? Is that just by extra touches and love onto them? How do we want to do that?
And that should be executed based on your company culture.
Kristen McAlister: Floyd Cook and I have worked with some of the same organizations and had the exact same question. I think he says it best. Would you agree that you have to remove cultural blockers quickly? [00:38:00] That’s those people in the organization that are antagonistic with regard to culture. I love that you used the word blocker, perfect word.
Lindon Crow: The short answer is yes, there are toxins within an organization. If you guys and gals read business books and Ted Talks and all those different kinds of things that we can do. There are the easy ones to let go of, which are the cultural people that are not culturally aligned.
And then they’re not actually good at their job or responsibility, really easy to let go. Right? I should say easier to let go for some people. It is very difficult, and it is emotionally challenging. And I totally get that. The difficult ones are the ones that are high producers in some form, but they are not culturally aligned with the organization.
And in some way, they are toxic to that. And it’s difficult because they are pushing the top line forward. They’re executing their [00:39:00] role or responsibility, but the healthy growth of the organization is actually dependent on how many people move and flow in the right direction in regard to the culture and stuff.
Times when you have that one cultural toxin in there – they can push the top line or make something that much faster or whatever it is. But the foundation of the health of the organization doesn’t move along because they gossip or the lack of agreements or whatever it is that that then actually diminishes the value of the rest of the people in the organization.
And that is where I don’t make the decisions and choices when I’m working with an organization, I just make the observations and let the executive team work on that. But that’s where I have to just say, “here’s the examples of when this happens, when you have [00:40:00] a cultural toxin, I get that there’s positives, but the negatives cannot be undone.”
And so, yes, my suggestion is moving them out faster than slower.
Kristen McAlister: Stuck in the mud and the tires are just spinning and not going anywhere. So before you move on and I promise we’ll get to number three. Seth has another question.
Seth Avergon: I do. Thank you, Lindon. There were several questions on bad culture.
What do you do if you’re in a bad culture? If you are there, how long do you stay? So, I’m kind of rolling up several questions here, but a few of them around this, you’ve got a negative culture with distrust complaints and escalation. And then as an interim or even as a full-time employee, what do you do and how long do you stay?
Lindon Crow: That’s a big question and let’s see [00:41:00] if I can answer that in short. My suggestion (and I’m obviously biased because this is part of what my organization does) when you have a toxic culture, it’s a bad company culture, then, many times it is too difficult for the internal team to be the only ones to make the change.
That’s where I would bring in the outside expert. That is just much more objective saying, “here’s what it is, everybody. And let’s start to educate.” As opposed to, if it’s toxic on the inside and there’s somebody on the inside that says, “Hey, we need to change.” Apparently that toxic culture was not open to the change from the internal.
It many times is less expensive when you first look at it, because it’s an internal person pushing the agenda of making sure that everybody aligns with the culture. But it’s kind of like [00:42:00] a sports team deciding to just run themselves without a coach. I don’t think anybody would look at professional sports and say, “no, there should not be a coach.”
If what you’re looking for is to create an aligned culture, we’ll then go bring in the outside coach to go and help you align that company culture, the team, meaning you, the executive and the rest of you. The organization have to go do the work. They’re the ones dribbling the ball and kicking the ball down the field, throwing the ball down the field.
You’re the ones still doing the legwork, the coaches, the one. Just coordinating, just letting you see what the plays are and how we could also start to look at the, at the entire pitch on the field. That’s what my suggestion is, is you’ve got to go bring in the outside expert to come and help with that.
The other part that you asked is should you stick around? That’s more of a personal value. That’s one that you would have to look within yourself, where are you in your life? And what is it that you are wanting to live by? Is this the battle that you want to [00:43:00] go in and fight? Or is this not the battle?
This is not what you are up against. This is not what you decided to put your life to. And that is a personal question. A reflective time that, I would suggest, needs to be had. And it would vary, obviously, if you have ownership in the organization versus you are the interim versus you are just the dedicated 15-year employee that doesn’t want to leave the organization.
But that is a personal question. That’s less of a business question than a personal question of what is it that you want to spend your life and your time and efforts doing?
Okay, should we jump to number three?
So, start with you, number one.
Enroll others to be in the culture, number two.
Three, you’ve got to believe in their ability to create. This kind of goes to what Seth’s question just was about. If the company’s culture is toxic, if it’s a bad company culture, if you are going to go and [00:44:00] put out the effort to try to make change, but in your heart of hearts, you don’t believe in Sally, John, or Sue, then what?
Then they feel that. The coach on the team that says, “Hey guys, go do your best.” And the athlete is looking up at him and saying, “that’s a bunch of BS.” You don’t even believe it yourself. What kind of information does that then feed that player or that employee is that the person on top that is leading me, that is the one saying, “Hey, go into the battle into the fight,” is actually saying, “I don’t believe that it’s going to happen.”
The amount of discord and dissonance that happens within that employee would just add to the weight of the stress that they’re already feeling amidst all of this. So, you, the executive, have got to do the [00:45:00] work to make sure that you have around you people that you believe in. And if you don’t, you either need to do the work on yourself, start with you and/or you need to go and do some uncomfortable shifting and changing of the team to make sure that you find people that you believe in that will go and push towards whatever this company’s culture and their goals and their values. And so, you’ve got to believe in their ability to create.
Kristen McAlister: We actually have a question here on that. First, I want to say, I recently was talking to a CEO who was quickly able to turn around a culture by taking out a toxic individual and saw his warehouse distribution crew increase productivity by 60% simply by that one person. [00:46:00] He just stepped back and let them create it when they created it and go out quickly.
But, you’ve seen it sometimes take years. So, what are your thoughts, Lindon on how long it takes to really impact or change a culture?
Lindon Crow: It can be very quickly done, especially when you take out what are we calling cultural blockers.
It can definitely have an immediate impact. Just the feel within the department or the office, or now working from home and getting on a Zoom call when you’ve got somebody that’s just the stick in the mud versus you get somebody else that is ready to go and push and charge and they believe in what you guys are trying to execute.
So, there can definitely be an immediate shift, but many times that is a quick burst of adrenaline. That’s the [00:47:00] quick wind in the sprint, but you’re in the long sprint. You’re in a long run. And so, what changing a company’s culture is, is changing habits, not just with the way in which we act, the behaviors that we do, but also the way in which we think, and we emote, and that is a long process.
And yes, that can be a multiyear process. There are organizations that we’ve worked with for 5, 8 and 10 years, and we continue to work with them year over year because their company grows, which means that there are more people that are brought on, which means that we have to make sure that all of those people are aligned with the company’s culture.
And then we find a new revenue, they find a new revenue stream. And so, we have to make sure that that department and that whole revenue stream and all the people that are supporting that are aligned with this bigger company culture. And once they hit the next plateau in business, they meet from 10 to 25 million or [00:48:00] 25 to 50 million. And now they’re multi-office to across the nation, that crew that may shift some kind of company culture. So, there’s always things to work on within the company culture. It doesn’t just go in.
It’s just like getting fit and trying to get a six pack. You can go crush it for six months and just have chiseled abs, and then if you stop working out altogether, you’ll go back to whatever the form you were before. And if you had a semi-healthy form, flat stomach, then maybe that’s what you fell back to. If you were the couch potato and didn’t have anything. Well, that’s what you would fall back to unless you keep in place the exercises, which is part of the company culture and the policies and procedures, Kristen, of how do you grow the company’s culture with the growth of the organization?
So, it is an ongoing practice. It is not a “we hit the mark and [00:49:00] now we’re all good.” No, it is an ongoing exercise of developing and adapting and moving the company’s culture forward.
Kristen McAlister: Thank you.
My operations brain is starting to see a feedback loop here. We’re talking about leadership and now we just went back to number one, see I’m getting this.
Lindon Crow: You got it. Look at you, Kristen. See, you don’t think you’ve got high EQ. Get outta here. You’re just one humble, humble person.
Kristen McAlister: I think we’ve got about 10 minutes left to make sure we can handle a few more questions as well. Let’s do number four.
Lindon Crow: So, we’ve got start with you. You’ve got to be the company culture, go enroll others to go and find those cultural champions. Remember who are the ones that have high influence naturally as leaders three, you’ve got to believe in them. If you don’t believe in them, you don’t have the right team.
And at first, you’ve got to work with you on you because there’s something within you that doesn’t believe in that. And if that is [00:50:00] the case, you will then do the work on you. And then you may start to find out what that means about them. So those are the first three.
Last one, number four: recognize and reward often. This is a practice just as I was saying before, when you start to shift and adapt to new cultures, it is strange.
It is change. It is different. And our mind and emotions do not like change. That is actually a threat to our system, change. And so when we are trying to create cultural change, what we have to do is we have to also kick in some good feeling emotions like serotonin for when we do that positive thing, and I don’t mean to downplay this, but this is not unlike training a dog.
If we want to train the dog, when they finally sit, if we just turn [00:51:00] our head and walk away, well, then they’re not going to understand that they did something good, that they should do it again because it felt good to them. So, when we’ve trained that dog, we train them to sit and then we give them a reward. And we go to them and say, good boy, good girl, way to go, way to go. And then we go and do whatever it is that we need to go do.
It’s similar to humans. We need that feedback to know that we are on the right track. When you’re starting to make your decisions and choices and giving off the context as to why, and that it’s hopefully educating, these cultural champions go in and make decisions and choices and give their context for all of their direct reports.
You spot that, you go step in and make sure to not ignore it, acknowledge that person on what they did and why that was valuable, again, giving them context based on the company’s culture. It’s not just sending a nice email and walking away.
[00:52:00] That email was: here’s why you understood the context of what needed to get done, and you decided to prioritize this over that, and when you did that, you demonstrated this value, and that is incredible, and I want to acknowledge you for that.
So, the acknowledgement is big. It also has to be, like I said, rewarded often, but also timely.
Similar to trying to train a dog. If they sit and then three minutes later, you give them the treat. They have no idea what it is they’re getting rewarded for. They’re just thinking, “Hey treats come out of nowhere,” similar to humans. We want to be rewarded for when we push, and we get something good when we do it.
If we get recognition a month or a quarter later on the review for, “Hey, here’s what you did way back then. Great job,” that means that they may have [00:53:00] gone two or three weeks or months without understanding that what they did, or at least the acknowledgement of what they did, was good and was in alignment with the culture and the values or that it was not, so maybe they should learn and try something different.
So, recognizing and rewarding often and doing it timely is huge. That is the kind of feedback loop that’s needed.
Kristen McAlister: Thank you, Lindon. There are a number of questions here that are coming up. So, I’m going to kind of take them in order. When you look at reward and recognition, Johnny Brown says, would you consider morale and culture the same thing? Can morale be impacted by outside factors, but still have a good healthy company culture, or are they not mutually exclusive?
Lindon Crow: Depending on how you’re defining them, they’re very, very closely related.
The company culture [00:54:00] is an ideal or doctrine that we’re all trying to adhere to and push towards. The company morale is much more temporary, meaning it’s of this day, of this week, of this month.
“How’s that company morale today?”
“Oh, we’re feeling really good.”
“Because we did some sales, or we cut expenses. We finally got the profit this year that we didn’t think that we were going to get.”
The company morale is more of an immediate emotional feeling for how is the company? What’s the emotional state, what are the feelings that are going on?
The company culture is just saying, “Hey, here’s the values. Here’s how we believe. Here’s what we believe. And here’s how we think about things.”
So, they’re related. There’s our Venn diagram, if you will, but one is much more timeless and one is much more set on a time for a meeting today or this week, or this month.
Kristen McAlister: It’s interesting because [00:55:00] motivating people- you just mentioned- a month ago or two months ago, makes changes today.
Mark has an interesting kind of question point. He says it’s his understanding that choosing the right reward matters and it’s different for each group or individual. And he’s seen where the reward ended up eliciting a negative response.
And they really didn’t feel that it was consistent.
Lindon Crow: Yes. Well, that’s also depends on the company’s culture. My organization does workshops and seminars on emotional intelligence and we do that for individuals. And we also do that for organizations. We help them develop their company’s culture.
So, we’re talking about mindfulness and consciousness. Do you think it would be in alignment with our company culture? If we all went and got sloshed on Friday night at the local bar? That doesn’t make sense, right? That’s not in alignment with bringing consciousness and awareness. Now it’s not that we don’t go out and have drinks and celebrate, but there’s a difference, friends, with how we decide to do it because that’s our company [00:56:00] culture, right?
So, what’s the company culture around celebration? How do we do that to align the way in which everything aligns with the company culture? The way in which you discipline the way in which you would reward and acknowledge the way in which we make decisions, the way in which we prioritize, all of those are in the mindset of the organization and that mindset and the value proposition is the company’s culture.
Those actually need to be challenged to make sure that the way in which we reward and what we reward and acknowledge with are in alignment 100%. Great observation.
Kristen McAlister: Thank you. There’s another comment here that I think goes to your point when you mentioned at the beginning where it doesn’t really happen overnight, but Michael Little had made a point as to, well, that also depends on the size of an organization.
[00:57:00] A five-person organization is certainly going to be able to adjust and react a lot quicker than a 500-person organization. But it all starts at the top with, as you mentioned, a leader. And there was another comment here from Jordan Smith, which is: what do you do in a situation where the culture blocker is a high-level boss, as we’ve found in many situations with our clients.
Seth Avergon: Very interesting. Wow. It looks like we ran out of time. Sorry everybody for that, to be leaving you on that last one. You’ll have to come back next week for Kristen and Lindon’s second webinar.
Lindon Crow: I’ll give a quick comment because this is where I want to go back to the statement that I made before: if you’re going to try to change a toxic culture from the inside without [00:58:00] site expertise and professionals, but boy, you’re trying to climb Mount Everest and I wish you the best I want for you.
Depending on the organization, I’m not sure that I place a bet on that. I would bring in the outside consultant that can challenge and poke and prod and coddle when they need to, and coach, when they need to, all of the different people, regardless of who they are, because sometimes those tough conversations need to start with somebody that is just an outside objective observer of what is going on instead of the internal, where there is the potential where people will feel that there is an agenda to be had. “I’m going to make the statement because I don’t think you can. And I think you can. And if I do, then I get this and you get this,” is what you’ll get from bringing the outside consultant to help.
Kristen McAlister: We’ll wrap it up.
There we’ve got our four takeaways and those are just the beginning. It doesn’t happen overnight, but this is a [00:59:00] great four to start with. Thank you, Lindon for sharing and thank you so much to our audience and everyone who participated. And with that have a fantastic day and we will be sharing the slides and the recording.
Thank you everyone.
Slide Deck – Four Steps to a Successful Company Culture