May 20, 2013
Define Your Own Success by Jerry Murray
On the first day of practice, we set the following goals for our little league baseball season:
- Team and parents will work together to encourage one another – in essence to build a healthy community.
- Players will improve incrementally each time we are together.
- No one will get hit by a bat.
The coaches’ belief was that regardless of initial athleticism and skill set, the greatest likelihood of success for our players and team will come from feeling that we are rooting for each other, and from improving our skills bit by bit as the season progresses. All that, plus not getting knocked out by an errant practice swing.
Two thirds of the way through the season, I think it’s fair to say that we’re tracking towards a successful season according to each of our goals. The problem is….you may see where this is going….our record doesn’t yet reflect a successful season.
Love it or hate it, society measures baseball success in terms of wins and losses. By that measure, we have failed more than succeeded. It’s tempting for me to measure success by using someone else’s standards. Whenever I do though, it gets messy in a hurry. I go from coach and encourager to boss and discourager. I lose my patience and I forget my passion. I move from positive and motivated to: When is this season going to end? Thankfully, our coaches are good at reminding one another of our goals.
Last week, I had the pleasure of seeing an inspired player truly turn his season around. The change in his demeanor and on-field results were hard to believe – all as a result of coaches living out our first goal. It was a clear reminder to stay focused on OUR goals. They are OUR goals for a reason. We believe that these goals best define success for OUR team.
So…I have to ask: How have you defined success for your life and the life of your organization? Be honest. What does success look like? What behaviors lead to that “success”? Be clear for your own good and the good of the people who count on you. Work hard not to fall into the temptation to take on someone else’s definition of success as your own. It will get messy for you and for others if you do.
I smile as I consider how our team is improving over the course of the season. As our players and baseball families live up to the goals that we’ve set, we celebrate them. When we do, the team is motivated to work even harder. After losing 4 out of 5 to start the season, we’ve won the last 3 games. I’d like to think that OUR team’s measures of success are starting to impact the scoreboard as well.
December 20, 2012
Alignment by Sheryl Eberly
There’s a thriller movie coming out within days – Zero Dark Thirty. It’s the story of Osama Bin Laden’s capture, and takes the viewer into the culture of the CIA, depicting events in the months and years leading up to the ultimate event. We meet personalities inside that clandestine organization. We get to know a bit about a culture mainly hidden from the eyes of those of us without security clearances.
According to movie reviews, one of the people we’ll meet is a woman credited with pushing the idea that the courier network would lead to the target. She’s a bit of a hero. Well, that’s an understatement, at least in how she appears to view herself.
The Washington Post (12/11/12) talked to her colleagues about her. Here’s what was learned:
The operative, who remains undercover, was passed over for a promotion that many in the CIA thought would be impossible to withhold from someone who played such a key role in one of the most successful operations in agency history.
She has sparred with CIA colleagues over credit for the bin Laden mission. After being given a prestigious award for her work, she sent an e-mail to dozens of other recipients saying they didn’t deserve to share her accolades, current and former officials said. Colleagues said the on-screen depiction captures the woman’s dedication and combative temperament.
“She’s not Miss Congeniality, but that’s not going to find Osama bin Laden,” said a former CIA associate, who added that the attention from filmmakers sent waves of envy through the agency’s ranks.
“The agency is a funny place, very insular,” the former official said. “It’s like middle-schoolers with clearances.”
This spring, she was among a handful of employees given the agency’s Distinguished Intelligence Medal, its highest honor except for those recognizing people who have come under direct fire. But when dozens of others were given lesser awards, the female officer lashed out.
“She hit ‘reply all’ ” to an e-mail announcement of the awards, a second former CIA official said. The thrust of her message, the former official said, was: “You guys tried to obstruct me. You fought me. Only I deserve the award.”
What an organizational culture! Not only do the combative, middle-schoolers succeed (if we are to believe the reports), but there appears to be little compunction against speaking ill against a co-worker to the press.
You may be thinking that’s par for the course in Washington DC. Maybe it is.
But look at this first. It’s the social contract of another beltway organization. Its employees make a commitment to each other that sets expectations for how they behave and treat each other.
- Do the right thing – always.
- Actively listen and communicate with openness, honesty, respect and clarity.
- Collaborate with each other as business partners.
- Treat one another with respect and fairness.
- Recognize contributions of others.
And that’s just the beginning. The actual contract includes much more.
Now here’s the point of all this:
We’re looking at two very different beltway cultures. Employees who are successful in one, are not likely to be successful in the other. Each culture reflects what leadership promotes and allows. And for employees to be successful and integrated, they must align with the culture.
As a leader, when you look at your organization’s culture, what kind of people will align with it? Are you creating a culture in which success will go to middle-schoolers or mature human beings?
May 4, 2012
Yes You Can by Gina Breslin
“Yes you can!” These were favorite words of my father throughout his life. More often than not, these words were followed by an incredulous, “Why couldn’t you?”
Dad exemplified this can-do attitude continually, not only as an entrepreneur and a small business leader, but also in his personal life – in day-to-day relationships as well. He always encouraged others with his unwavering belief in them, and pushed them out of their comfort zone to do the things he knew they could do, but for which they lacked confidence. Dad didn’t ask you to do what you knew you could; he pushed you to do what he knew you could do.
Recently, I was approached by one of Dad’s close friends, a small business owner in Lancaster County. He asked me to take a moment so he could share with me his gratitude for how my father’s “Yes you can” attitude and encouragement changed his life.
This man had a business that was doing well and meeting his needs for 25 years. However, as is common in small family businesses, he endured hardships that at times seemed insurmountable, and even at times threatened the viability of the business.
In spite of the hard times and on more than one occasion, Dad encouraged him: “You’ve got to expand your business. I know it’s risky, but you can do it. The potential rewards outweigh the possible risks. Sure, expanding means buying more property, hiring more employees, taking on inventory, and of course all the insurance expenses that go along with these things; but you can do it. I’ve seen what you’ve done with your current business, and well, why wouldn’t you succeed in expanding as well?”
The man deliberated for a long time, wrestled with my dad’s suggestions and encouragement, and finally, a few years after my father passed away in 2004, took a leap with a major business expansion. To this day, he continues to run a successful business.
As John C. Maxwell, in his book Developing the Leader within You, states:
The disposition of a leader is important because it will influence the way the followers think and feel. Great leaders understand that the right attitude will set the right atmosphere, which enables the right responses from others.
Maxwell reminds us how important it is for leaders to possess a great attitude, not only for our own success, but also for the benefit of others.
Who have you encouraged in the last day or week? Have you said “yes, you can” for yourself and others?
March 20, 2012
Vision & Accountability by Joanne Ladley
We all know about the power of a vision. If you don’t know where you’re going, how are you going to get there? Articulating your direction, knowing who you are – it’s all fundamental to sustaining a successful business.
Let me add one more piece to the formula. Accountability to that vision.
Some of you know my son worked at Pike Place Fish Market for four years. On the surface and based on the video “FISH!” that made Pike Place world famous, one might think those fishmongers are all about having fun at work, throwing fish and creating a show for market visitors to enjoy. Those are by-products of the fishmongers’ real goal. What really drives Pike Place Fish is their vision – “World Peace, One Person at a Time.” The way that vision shows up is by making a difference for people, by being present in the moment and by being there for the people they meet at the market.
At Pike Place, they’re very clear about their direction – world peace. They’re very clear about who they are – peacemakers. And they’re very clear about how to fulfill that vision – make a difference for people, be present with them and make it your commitment that he or she leaves Pike Place Fish with a smile on her face.
Maybe most importantly, each fishmonger also asks a fellow fishmonger when he slips up on those fundamentals – “Hey, did you make a difference for that person right there?” Even better, when a customer walks away obviously thrilled with the tip she got on how to cook a King salmon, what to do with smoked cod, or completely relieved that his fish will be delivered to his hotel room door tonight so he doesn't have to lug it around all day, the monger gets a pat on the back and a “Now, that’s how you make a difference!” or “Way to go!” or just a wink of acknowledgement that he followed through on their purpose for being. And then at their mandatory bi-weekly dinner meetings, they review and renew those coachings and acknowledgements.
Vision is a powerful tool. It is a responsibility of the leadership team, Board or owners to create a compelling vision that will inspire everyone in the company to behave in a particular way. When the front line is holding each other accountable to behaving in that way, either by coaching when it doesn’t happen or recognizing people when it does, now that’s a successful, sustainable business.
February 20, 2012
Culture Eats Strategy by Roger North
Did you ever shop at Genuardi’s? A wonderful family owned supermarket chain, Genuardi’s was Wegmans before Wegmans. It was Whole Foods before Whole Foods. Whatever happened to Genuardi’s anyway?
Founded in 1920 by Italian immigrants, Genuardi’s was in family hands for five decades. By 2000, this one time corner grocer had grown to 39 stores with a brand known for two things: upscale foods that competitors didn’t carry and hyper attentive customer service.
Genuardi’s had created something great, and it was noticed. Safeway, a west of the Mississippi grocery chain, purchased Genuardi’s from the founding family at the end of 2000 for $530 million. Then in a more recent transaction, Safeway sold 16 of the remaining 27 Genuardi’s stores to Giant Food Stores for $106 million.
What do we see in those numbers? In about 11 years of ownership, Safeway took a “best in class supermarket” and turned it into a “good in class supermarket” according to food marketing professor John Stanton of St. Joseph’s University.
Now, I have no particular bone to pick with Safeway. In fact, I know little about them. But as I read about these transactions, I can’t help but see evidence of one of my colleague’s favorite sayings: Culture eats strategy for lunch.
Genuardi’s was led by the same family for five decades. I think it’s safe to assume that the family had particular beliefs and practices that profoundly affected how they and their employees did business. Surely providing unique, fresh, attractively displayed foods chartered their culture. Even more surely, hyper attentive customer service did.
When Safeway took over they emphasized efficient, tight management of inventory and stores. And why wouldn’t they? That’s Safeway culture. But it wasn’t Genuardi’s. While the name remained on the stores, the brand commitment was gutted. The two companies’ cultures were just too different.
So what does all this public company stuff mean for you and me? I think it tells us (again) that culture matters. In fact, it matters in a big way: your company culture is quite likely the only competitive advantage your competition can’t duplicate.
By the way, did you notice how culture matters when it comes to money? Well, Safeway paid Genuardi’s $13.6 million per store. Price in the recent sale of stores to Giant? Only $6.6 million per store.
Culture eats strategy for lunch!
This article recently appeared as a guest post for the Lacher & Associates blog.
January 22, 2012
What's the Big Deal about Culture? by Dennis Clemmer
At times you undoubtedly get tired of hearing us pound away at this organizational culture stuff. There are times when I, too, think maybe we overdo it. About the time I begin to think that, a story or two emerges that makes me realize just how important the culture of an organization is.
I, along with my wife, Fern, are part of a couples group that we affectionately call The Big Chill. (Many of us met at college, like the couples in the movie, “The Big Chill.”) The group has been together for over 35 years, and at the beginning of each year we go on a weekend retreat. It’s a time marked by fun, reflection, stimulating conversation and great food. During the course of the weekend we give each member of the group air time to talk about things that are important to them.
One of the members of our group, while visiting two different organizations, described overhearing employees at both places grumbling and complaining about issues they experienced in their workplace. (The employees were particularly free to discuss these issues because no one from the leadership group was around due to being off for the holidays.)
Another member of our group, engaged in important and meaningful work, shared that the toxicity within the organization where he works contributes to his frequently feeling drained and discouraged.
This got me thinking about the leadership in these organizations. Are the leaders unaware that people in their organizations experience their work life so negatively? Are they aware but don’t know what to do about it? Are they too busy working on their own agenda that they don’t take time to connect with their people and ask about how their work is going? Or do they just not care? The not caring I find hard to believe.
Susan Scott in her book, Fierce Conversations, uses a phrase she learned while working with a commercial fishing company, “The fish rots from the head.” How employees experience their workplace is the direct result of those providing primary leadership.
The creation of a vibrant culture does not occur accidently. It happens through intentionality—living out the organization’s core values, engaging employees in meaningful ways, consistently sharing important company information, providing resources for people to do good work, and affirming work well done. Rocket science it ain’t. Disciplined behavior it is.
So, what do you want your employees to say about their work experience when you aren’t around?
We welcome your comments at email@example.com.