I’ve had the opportunity to work with many amazing clients over my decades of coaching businesses and their executives, and I’ve been able to learn and confirm many eye-opening things about what made them great. One thing that proves true time and time again is this: The organizations that exemplify sustained superior performance all have a remarkable culture—without fail! While it is true that you need products or services to make money, the prevailing attitudes and behaviors that characterize your people are what fuel success. In other words, the core values practiced daily have helped top companies be more successful than their competition.
A Case in Point – “XYZ Company”
The best way to get your attention is through the eyes of a real company. This company, which for our purposes shall simply be referred to as XYZ Company, significantly underperformed against its competition. Its curse was that its performance level provided an adequate income for its main shareholder and leaders. What it did not want to address was what everyone who visited the company could see.
XYZ Company had approximately $1 Billion in sales. I met with the senior management team to understand the circumstances faced by the company. They were looking for someone to conduct training with their sales force. While it would be nice for me to have an engagement to develop 150 salespeople, I always first assess the company’s real need. What this company needed was more sales, not training and development.
The facts were alarming. I found that the company did not have clear goals, did not fire non-performers, did not have good hiring policies, did not tie compensation to performance, etc. In the end, I asked the magic question, “What are your company’s core values?”
The silence that followed was a bit deafening. The leadership had never defined or implemented core values to make this company great. What resulted were unwritten core values that were unflattering:
Mediocrity – Salespeople were not working hard or trying to be the best. When selling to customers, they would give in on price because they believed they were second-rate compared to their competition. Very few salespeople would proactively go to training, and when the company offered it, they would not show up.
No Accountability – If people did not hit their sales targets, it did not matter, particularly if they had been with the company for several years. They were just “forgiven” and still paid handsomely.
Mistrust – The organization would not follow-through on initiatives. They would talk big and act small. Consequently, when they said they wanted to create change, nobody took them seriously. Additionally, while the leadership indicated they had a “consumer-oriented” strategy, 80% of its products were “commodity-based.” The company generally operated as if their strategy was “low cost.”
Disrespect – Senior Management would begin initiatives only to have the CEO come and usurp them.
XYZ Company was growing slower and had lower margins than their competition even though their product was just as good, and in some cases, better. Many of their employees, including senior management and salespeople, came from the competition. While they thought sales training would solve their problem, they were not facing the core issue, which was values. My recommendation was to address the real issue first so they could get a real return on their training investment.
Find Your Core Values
As you can see with XYZ Company, if you do not plan your core values, they will happen anyway, and the results can be devastating. When it comes to a company’s culture, the longer you wait to define and instill the right core values in your organization, the harder it will be to achieve your ideal culture and maximize performance.
This does not need to be a prolonged exercise, and I do not recommend copying someone else’s values. I have worked with many companies. Typically, we bring together the senior management team and identify and define core values within 1 to 4 hours, depending on how large the group is. It can be fun and is critical to understanding what is important to driving your company’s vision.
Here is an example of one of my small-company clients’ core values, whose growth is more than 20% per year:
Trust is Everything – Decide, speak, and act to enhance our reputation.
Speak Up – Challenge the status quo.
Have Grit – Give 100%! Be process-focused, driving consistently high outcomes, and no excuses.
Make It Happen – Ask “How can I”…inspire action and results.
Be Humble – Be curious and inquisitive, and never stop learning.
So, if you want to reach a place of sustained superior performance, take a look at your company culture and the core values established by the leadership. If your core values aren’t clear, lock your senior managers in a room and have them clearly identify and define what those values are. That’s where it starts.
Once you have defined your core values, the real work begins. While it is essential to know what those values are, it is equally vital to institutionalize them. I’ll share more on this in my next blog. Be sure to join me then.
In the meantime, let us know how we can help launch your business to the next level, even in a pandemic. Receive a free 30-minute consultation from one of Activate Group’s expert coaches. No strings attached. We just want to help you during the COVID crisis.