Monthly Archives: July 2010

Building culture – more than a poster on the wall

I truly believe a strong focus on building a positive culture will drive your business forward.  I’ve seen some great ways of building culture and some not-so-great ways… so I thought it was worth sharing a few things I’ve learned about how culture works.

1.  Culture happens whether you define it or not.  As you go about day to day work, how things are done will build a certain culture.  Take a look at the language people use with colleagues and clients.  What is accepted or corrected?  How about decisions – how are they made, and by whom?  What stories are shared by team members, about history or situations in the past?  What kinds of behaviour are recognized or rewarded in your organization?  A simple thank you goes a long way towards encouraging certain behaviours and building them into the culture.  What types of people get promoted?  This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but it provides a basis for consideration.

2.  A bad manager can kill  great culture.  Conversely, a great leader builds fantastic culture.  Culture is especially influenced by the leaders in an organization.  The way they interact with each other and the entire workforce speaks volumes.  If you say your culture if one of fun and openness, but the executives interact only with each other, and are seen as extremely serious, the fun and openness will not exist.

3.  It’s not about a poster on the wall.  Many companies go through exhaustive exercises to determine what their organizational values and principles should be, then create eye-catching posters with these culture statements on them in order to communicate them clearly.  If the day to day behaviours of the leaders in the organization do not reflect these statements, these posters can create far more harm than good.  It’s the unspoken behaviours that create culture, not the poster on the wall.

The key to building strong culture is in being consistent both in the definitions that you communicate and the behaviours you model and recognize.  Great organizations do both of these consistently.

What companies do you know that have great cultures?


Tags: , , ,

Hire for fit

Last week, I was sitting in a meeting with a Manager who was griping about how difficult it was to find good people to work in his restaurant.  Most of the people he hired didn’t work out, and he usually knew it within the first few weeks or months. This was certainly not the first such conversation I’ve had over the years – in fact, it tends to be a recurring one.  Consistently, though, as I coach these Managers on their hiring practices, I always find the same thing.

They’re hiring for experience.  Wrong.

I know, sounds crazy, but this is where they’re going wrong.  Each time I hear about this issue, I ask the Manager what is it that they find doesn’t work out with these new hires.  Time after time, I hear things like, “He’s not a team player”, “She just didn’t have a good attitude”, “She was rude to the customers”, and even “He had bad habits that we couldn’t correct”.  When I ask if they had any issues with what they knew, the answer is a resounding “No”.  These people have passed through their training with flying colours.  So it seems logical that these Managers would figure out very quickly that it’s not what they know or their experience that is the key factor in whether these new hires work out.  It’s actually but their fit with the culture, team and organizational values that make a difference.  Usually, as logical as it may sound, Managers need some help in figuring this out.

So how do you find out whether the person will “fit” in your business?

First, figure out what separates your top performers from your average or low performers.  In the hospitality business, it often has something to do with a natural interest in serving others and making them happy.  In a team-oriented environment, these people enjoy working with the team rather than alone.  In an analytical role like finance, perhaps an orientation to detail is important.  In sales jobs, an ability to build relationships with a variety of people may be important.

These are the qualities Managers should hire for.  You can teach them about the job duties and your product, but it is much more difficult to teach them to care about customers, enjoy being part of a team, be interested in details, or to build relationships.

Oncde you’ve out what these qualities are, there are many ways to evaluate them during the selection process.  One of the key ways is to ask behavioural interview questions.   There is a ton of literature on this – just google it and you’ll see.  But the key principle is that past  behaviour predicts future behaviour.  So it’s all about asking them to tell you what they have done in the past in situations, to predict how they would act in the future, in your organization.

Needless to say, by the end of my conversation with this Manager, he understood where he was going wrong, and he was prepared with great behavioural questions about hospitality and teamwork so that he could find the right people in future.

What are your favourite selection techniques?   How do you find people who truly fit your organization?


Tags: , , ,