Give your people the keys to your culture
“They have a common goal and they have to get there together.”
The other day, I remembered a recent comment made by the coach of a USA Football Team, Chip Kelly of the Philadelphia Eagles. His comment that “culture beats scheme” was made about trading one of his star players, who from all indications, was known as a prima donna, and high maintenance.
“When he talks about culture, he’s talking about a 360-degree approach,” says David Carter, executive director of the University of Southern California Sports Business Institute.
He added, “A scheme might be limited to perfection on the field. Look at him as a CEO. Take that perspective. He’s not a team president in a player-personnel sense, but he’s president of the team itself. He has to understand every facet of the business. He has to communicate what his goals are to every player all the time like a businessperson has to with every employee.”
I love the 360-degree approach to culture. Are you buying into all facets of the organization's existence or only your favorite parts?
Message sent and delivered
We all, at some times, worked with difficult people. You know the kind of people that were brilliant in various phases of their professional lives, but overall, were a handful to deal with. In lots of organizations, we looked the other way while under our breath, we whispered about what we would like to do.
However, this NFL coach sent a strong message — either you buy into the 360-degree culture he is trying to create, or, you can pull out the suitcase.
For any leader trying to craft a message and build the culture of a winner, you sometimes have to make drastic decisions, because in the end, “no decision IS a decision.”
At one time, I worked in an organization where we had one of the “big shots” who went through administrative assistants like Kleenex. There was always the flare-up, and her poor administrative person would bear the brunt of it. We had one situation where this young person went out to lunch and never returned. That was a first for me, but I was incredulous when hearing the response from the leader to this situation.
The talk from her was all laughter about how this person, fresh out of college, had just up and quit. There was never an ounce of conversation about how this woman had caused this unfortunate set of circumstances. In her mind, the onus was on the person that had just walked out.
Organizations Making excuses
“You know how she is, she just gets upset sometimes, but deep down she is a good person.”
“She is our top business development person; she generates a lot of business.”
“She would have arrived at the office the next day and bought that young lady flowers; she always buys flowers after those blow-ups.”
As I heard all those excuses being made about this supervisor, I knew that I would not be a long-termer in that organization.
However, all this calamity came to an end when a new CEO arrived. The bully, finally, had met her match.
Strike while the iron is hot
The CEO had been briefed about her star pupil, however, she did not deal with it on her arrival. She bided her time until another blow-up happened. The fact is that people like this supervisor cannot help themselves unless they seek professional help. Self-therapy will not create a better person, so it was only a matter of time before there would be another flare-up.
When it happened, the CEO pounced. She immediately called her in and discussed the situation, letting her know that she would not tolerate this type of behavior from ANYONE. That should have settled, but for most chronic bullies, they can’t help themselves.
A few weeks later, another screaming match ensued. Within an hour, the prima donna supervisor was escorted out of the building. There was a “wave” of emotion from the workforce spread over the various floors. Yes, the bully had finally met her match, and now she was history.
It spreads like wildfire
That sent a resounding message that reverberated throughout, and it was simply this: Behavior like this will not be tolerated.
That message jolted a lot of mini-bullies that had begun emulating that supervisor’s horrible behavior. When this type of outlandish behavior manifests itself, people notice, and they feel that they too can get away with it. That is why it is so important to stamp it out immediately.
We have to take these situations head-on. If your organization is crafting or tweaking your culture, you have to push it in a high frenzy to make sure that not 90 or 180, but 360 degrees of effort are pumping at all times. If you want to get it right, no stone should go unturned in trying to create that atmosphere.
So whatever your “scheme” is, let your culture be in the driver’s seat. That is the navigator, or your North Star for your destination. It is paramount that each of us holds each other accountable because, in the end, it will take all of our efforts, working as seamless as a crew team, to make it happen.
So, give your people the keys to your culture, then sit back and marvel at the results.
Ron Thomas is Managing Director, StrategyFocused Group DWC-LLC, based in Dubai.
He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf countries, also based in Dubai. A former CHRO who was based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Ron is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute [hci.org ] covering the MENA region. He...