Who is Chris Edmonds and what have we talked about in this interview?
Chris Edmonds is the founder and CEO of the Purposeful Culture Group. He is the author of the book, The Culture Engine, an accomplished consultant for various companies, and he has also served as a senior consultant with the Ken Blanchard Companies. In plain and simple words, Chris knows what it means to have, and what it takes to build, a thriving company culture.
In this interview you’ll get to know:
- Chris’ inspiration behind his book, The Culture Engine
- The four elements of organizational constitution
- Why it’s important to have clarity in performance standards
- How employees are held accountable for their performance outcomes
- Chris’s thoughts on employee retention and attraction
- And a whole lot more…
[24:50] You talked about the importance of a purpose statement. How is that different from a missions statement?
Answer: Sometimes, it depends. Sometimes it’s a semantic difference and, again, a mission can sometimes be more future-oriented, like a vision statement is. Some mission statements are more present day. And so, I’m really not so concerned about whether you call it a mission statement or you call it a purpose statement.
[31:54] You placed the primary responsibility for culture refinement in the hands of the team leaders, management, department heads, and leadership. We just talked a few minutes ago about the culture we’ve driven here at BE Furniture. Why is it from a leader’s perspective only one-sided?
Answer: It’s a great question. Think about the authority and responsibility that leaders have. If you look at culture refinement and you look at the need for a constitution, you can’t delegate as a leader of your team. You can’t delegate to a great team member once you write our purpose. Once you draft some values and some behaviors, we’ll all sign up for. You know that that’s not going to work. The disconnect is huge because it’s the leader who drives the culture. There’s no ifs, ands or buts around that. Because leaders have the authority and responsibility to change practices, to change expectations, to change incentives, they’re the only ones that are going to be able to modify, refine the existing culture, which by the way, may not be intentional to the desired culture.
[35:37] Chris, I’d like your opinion on something. We talked about retaining employees, attracting new employees, and the other side of that is the environment in which you are trying to have people successfully give an experience or brand, then bring people into the tribe, so to speak, so how does matching the office environment to its culture, in your opinion affect it?
Answer: That’s a great question and it’s interesting because often the environment is what has evolved over time. Its tolerated norms, its tolerated bad behavior. It could be great behavior by benchmark stars and great citizens; the influence that environment has is because it’s almost that the environment actually reinforces the culture, because there was no intentional culture upfront.
Culture According to Chris:
Culture, in the classic definition, is “the way we do things around here.” But culture is really the quality of the work environment and the quality of interactions. The more those are based on trust, dignity, and respect, not surprisingly, the more people are engaged, the better customers are treated and not surprisingly, you make more money.
Go To Quote for Inspiration[Tweet @scedmonds “The way you treat others tells me more about your values than anything you post, anything you write, anything you say. #quote #BECultureRadio”]
- Built to Last by Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras
What Chris Wants His Company to BE:
- BE Honest
- BE Productive
- BE Nice
Links and Resources Mentioned in this Interview:
Where to Find Chris:
Connect with John on
FULL EPISODE TRANSCRIPT
John: Chris, welcome.
Chris: John, thanks very much. I’m very excited to speak to you and your audience today.
John: Well, we’re glad to have you today. Today we’re going to talk about how and why a lot of things happen with culture. But before we do that, I want you to tell us about you and your journey so we can get to know you a little bit.
Chris: Good, exactly. Well, I am currently a speaker. I am a consultant. I am an executive coach. I’m also a writer, which I know we get a chance to talk about today, which is terrific. I have had my own company since 1990 and have been affiliated with the Ken Blanchard company since 1995.
I’ve been doing international work with clients and have been engaged deeply in working with senior leaders to make their work environment a little less stressful, a little more engaging and a little more effective for probably 20 years.
John: Now Chris, today, we’re going to talk about how to create a 12 cylinder culture engine that can power your business. So, your background – you have a pretty cool background when I was looking and doing the research on you – you’re an accomplished musician and performer. I believe you were on the billboard charts, were you not?
Chris: We were. It’s a very interesting life. I lost a semester in college back in 1973, and that’s going to date me there a little bit, because I was convinced we’re going to get a record deal. I didn’t need a college education and of course, there are many guitarists, musicians and singers; there’s a lot of folks out there trying to break into that business.
I’ve been in a working band here in the Rocky Mountains for nine years now and we got a CD released in ‘09 and it had two of the songs from that album hit the top 50 and the top 100 on the billboard country charts. But along with that, if you’re not on tour to support it, you need a real job. So that’s what I do now.
John: For my listeners, Chris has helped consistently boost customer satisfaction and employee engagement by 40% and profits by 34%. You’re the author or co-author of six books. Most recently, you have just one coming out, right?
Chris: Yeah, it just came out in September, the Culture Engine.
John: So that’s pretty cool.
You’ve delivered over 200 keynote speeches to audiences as large as 5,000 people. I actually had the chance to see one of Chris’ speeches on YouTube, which I found pretty interesting because it’s not for the faint of heart.
Chris: [Laughs] I’m not subtle, no.
John: And if you’re just there to check the box and say you’ve been there and go back to the organization and say, “Okay, I got it,” don’t waste your time. So this is really some interesting stuff Chris, because when we look at what goes on in the world today, culture’s been such a buzz word.
In our opinion, it’s sometimes misused.
Chris: Very much so. There’s something that I realized when working with senior leaders, leaders of teams, leaders of departments, leaders of level companies, and everything in between, and it’s that most leaders haven’t ever experienced a culture change at work, and much less led one.
So there’s really not a comfort, or even an understanding by leaders, that that’s a part of their job. That they actually need to not just focus on productivity, but they need to focus on having a work environment that’s safe, that God forbid is inspiring, etc.
John: Now, wait a minute Chris. They’ve all been involved with cultures that change. Just remember the eight guys sitting around the table who said that whatever they said is true.
Chris: [Laughs] Yeah, it must be managing by announcement approach. Yes, that works so well.
John: You know, I spent a number of years, over 20 years in corporate America, until my partner, and my wife and my best friend finally said, “No. You’re highly successful and you’re miserable.” And I and our three kids are tired of it. You need to find a fulfillment, a passion in what you do.
So then I got her to come in and be my business partner, because she’s my moral compass. [crosstalk] And so, when we built our company, we built it on a linear basis, not on a hierarchical basis. And we said, everybody’s vision matters as much as mine. Everybody has an opinion and if it doesn’t sync with mine, that’s okay.
Chris: Yeah, we can all learn from that.
John: So I don’t care if you were with me when we started the business 12 years ago or you started with us eight months ago: everybody’s opinion is equal. I don’t think we see that in corporate America anymore because, “Don’t tell the emperor he doesn’t have his clothes on or her clothes on, because he got to that position and Elwood thought, and Doug,” as I did, in corporate America, and God forbid somebody challenge me.
Chris: You’re so right and the thing that’s very interesting about it, as you say, is the increasing awareness of corporate culture and the benefits of having a culture that actually lets people thrive and that allows people to have ideas and that allows people to actually act.
It’s very much been in the business press, business literature and business discussion in the last 5-10 years or so. Yet, again, there is not a skill set in most leaders.
Most leaders have had role models that basically told folks what to do and that was certainly the case back in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s.
Certainly, it still exists today and if you want people to actually be present and apply discretionary energy to opportunities that they see in their jobs, moment to moment, you better have a path pretty clear, you better have the goal envisioned pretty clear, the purpose pretty clear. Then you had better let people engage with their skills and with their passions aligned to that vision, that purpose, and those goals, and then amazing things happen. But most leaders, they’ve never seen that, they’ve rarely experienced that and so, as you say, presenting some of my ideas and my challenging some leaders’ assumptions about what they should be doing as leaders is pretty harsh because if all you focus on as a leader is productivity, then people will react in some pretty nasty way sometimes.
If you focus on productivity and being civil, and God forbid, validating people’s ideas on the different ways of skinning the proverbial cat, your production goes up. It’s amazing.
John: You know, the work you do – and let’s talk about the work you do, because it’s got to be like herding cats, because you’re dealing with people that no one ever says no to.
I saw one of your YouTube videos and the look on a couple of these peoples faces. I wanted to say, “I’ve worked for people like you and you know what, I did test the ground you walked on.”
Chris: And people are, I’m convinced – this comes from Margie Blanchard, a brilliant thinker in her own right, she’s been Ken Blanchard’s moral compass, I think they serve each other very, very well – but Margie said something about 15 years ago that has really rung true for me and that’s “people are doing the best they can.” They’re doing the best they can.
Most people don’t get up in the morning trying to figure out how to screw up your day. Stuff happens. And so, my job, as I see it, is to really help leaders get away from that exclusive performance focus because all I’ve got to do is wander around and engage people in conversation to see if the workplace is civil, to see if the workplace is fair, to see if the workplace allows them to grow and thrive.
And the reality is, boy, if you as a leader start engaging in some of those conversations, I don’t care if you’re in corporate America or if you’re in some of the wonderful foundations and small businesses that make every country thrive.
If you don’t let people be engaged in their work and engage in the kind of passion for what you’re trying to accomplish in your community beyond making money, then you’re leaving money on the table.
John: It’s incredible that people don’t get that. We got so tied up in the 80’s and 90’s with metrics, metrics, metrics. We forgot that human beings create metrics.
Chris: Yes sir, very much so.
John: I was really blown away with your book that you just came out with, “The Culture Engine”, and I found that what stood out for me was the X-factor of hiring talent. Who will and will not be okay to be a star in the company? Finding and developing a tribe. I laugh, we talk about tribes. Can I have my very own tribe? I’m one of eight.
I have six sisters. I have sisters that were corporate executives before it was even popular for a female to be there. I have over 55 people in my immediate family. I have a niece who is a vice chancellor in the University of Arkansas education system. If I need a network, I reach out to my tribe because they know me for all my faults.
Chris: And you know what’s interesting is that tribe, because it’s shared values and common goals, is amazing, and what I find with many front line employees, team leads, all the way up to senior leaders of global companies is they lead very solitary lives in the workplace. They don’t have someone who they can bounce ideas off.
The workplace is almost always driven by fear dynamics and the “I win, you lose” kind of a scenario. The incentives are designed to have people produce at any cost. And I don’t think leaders have been intentional in building that.
Again, it’s all they know.
John: How much of it do you think, when you look at it, Chris, how much of it is that they’ve lived in an environment where they’ve never performed at different levels? Like for myself, I’ve worked for the Westinghouse Electric Corporation. I’ve worked for British Tire and Rubber, I’ve worked for Kimberly International, I’ve worked for [Nole? 12:14], for all these huge companies, but I started in the business as a receptionist and I worked my way all up to the President of the company until I walked out of the door because of that hatefulness.
Sitting in a room with 15 people, some fellow that’s well past his prime who has never done what these people at the frontline were doing, saying “This is what we’re going to do,” and everybody goes, “Yeah,” and I stood up and I said, “You’re out of your freaking mind.”
Chris: It’s not going to work, it’s going to turn people off.
John: Well, it ended very quick. He said, “You’re not on my side?” And I said, “I’m not ever going to be on your side, then great. I don’t really need this job.” I needed a little pinch when I had to go home to my wife and tell her that I no longer had a job and we had three small kids.
But I felt, the weight of the world was off my shoulders.
Chris: Yeah. And it’s so interesting because when we look at the engagement data, we look at the quality of workplace culture. There’s a company called TinyHR that’s doing some really cool stuff with a software piece called TinyPulse. That’s a weekly online quick engagement tool for companies to use and they’re doing some really cool stuff with that data. Five hundred thousand employees. It’s pretty remarkable that people really do understand the cultures are not fun to live in, that the anxiety that I’m feeling and the work that we’re doing isn’t best for our customers. It’s not best for our communities, but it’s good for our stakeholders.
There’s such a disconnect I speak to leaders all the time about. When we think about our best bosses, our greatest bosses, they actually didn’t just manage our heads and our hands with knowledge and skills, they actually engaged our hearts. They got us passionate because we were doing something that was going to move our communities forward. It was going to help people. And that’s an amazing drive. And again, most leaders don’t do that.
John: I want to talk about your book for a few minutes if we could, the “Culture Engine.” Why, Chris? I always like to say, people always want to ask what happened. I’m a big fan of “why.” Why did Chris write this book?
Tell me a little bit about it, the framework for driving results, inspiring employees, transforming your workplace. Let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about the “why” side of it.
Well, it’s really interesting. Having been around Ken Blanchard for 20 years, you really see how publishing can get ideas out and can actually begin to change leaders’ hearts, which can change team dynamics, which can increase people’s discretionary energy. This is pretty cool stuff but you’ve got to get your ideas heard. You have to get your ideas in the public domain so that people can start to consider ways of behaving differently.
I had a chance to do a chapter for Ken’s book and it’s a best seller. It’s leading on a higher level and the chapter was on culture, on the work that I and some colleagues have been doing to help align organizations, not only to performance but to values as well.
I realized that I had a tiger by the tail. It was such a wonderful consultative process and the most gratifying work I’ve done to help leaders get these ideas and beginning to manage their companies and their teams differently. And it had such a grand success. You’re talking about 40% gains and engagement, 40% in customer service, 30-35% gains in results and profits. Those are pretty powerful outputs and the clients are telling me that that’s what they gained so I realized that these processes and this framework really deserve to see the light of day beyond me just preaching it from my pulpit.
I put together a proposal, and John Wiley and Sons out of New York loved it. Basically, I had the month of April last year to put all these ideas into 60,000 words and it got published in September. It’s been a wonderful ride, but my intent is with the book – it’s not a classic business book per se. It is a workbook. Every one of the ten chapters has five questions built into a culture effectiveness assessment. So there are some best practices that readers can assess themselves on. It’s got worksheets to actually allow a leader of a business, a leader of a team, a leader of a department to begin to actually use this framework and to craft their organizational constitution which is basically the foundation framework.
John: I don’t know if you know Anne Nimke; I had the extreme pleasure of interviewing her. She has a website called goodjobs.com and as a leader you can go in and gain an understanding of where you’re at. It’ll blow you away. It’s just really interesting.
Let me ask you something. Central to your book, you have called for organizational constitution. Can we talk about that?
Chris: Absolutely. It’s the central framework and basically what our approach has been founded upon. Yes, performance is important, results are important, and you got to have clear expectations on performance and have people be accountable for that. But the second aspect which is vital is that you need to also define what a good citizen looks like, what a good citizen smells like [laughs], and how they act.
And so, the organizational constitution has four elements and it includes a present day reason for being for an organization, the team’s purpose. And what’s interesting for most organizations is that if you as a leader went out and engaged 10 people on what’s our reason for being today, you would be shocked by the answers you get because the stronger answers are going to be: “To make money,” and the likely second place most frequent response is going to be, “We deal cars, we print catalogues, we sell coffee,” or whatever it is. And it’s not anything beyond. What are you actually doing to benefit your community?
To what end are you making money? To what end are you selling widgets or making widgets. So, purpose is the first piece.
The second piece, which is typically where organizations have the most work to do, the most opportunity to do, is to find what values you want people to live in every interaction. And it’s values defined in behavioral terms.
So they’re measurable, they’re tangible, they’re observable. You don’t want to focus on attitudes because attitude is pretty tough to measure, but behaviors are easy to measure.
The other two pieces of an organizational constitution or pieces that most organizations have in play, and they’re around performance so it’s clear strategies and then goals that are aligned to those strategies. With those four elements of an organizational constitution, if leaders embrace this framework and formalize some of these expectations beyond just performance, then the next step comes into play which is good. Now you’ve made this statement. You have announced this constitution. Language is very intentional. With the constitution, it means you have to embed it. You actually have to live it every day. And so, the four pieces really require leaders to be as intentional about values and intentional about how people are treated as they are about the results that clearly are important for any organization’s success.
John: You know I find it really interesting and entertaining when we talk about these things and I reflect back to corporations that I worked for. They put this nice little edict on the wall, “We are this, we are that. You are a member.” “I don’t want to be a member, I didn’t ask you to be a member. I asked you to look out for me and I look out for you” Or “We are family friendly, by the way, so Sunday morning you can get on the plane.” [crosstalk]
You could have been there Monday, but we save $25. So your family is worth only about $25. Your family engagement time is worth only about $25 to us.
So, I sit in there and go, “Really?”
They write these things. So, how do you hold them accountable? How do you get to the people in the C-Suite and say, “Ladies and gentlemen, what you’re saying, what comes of your mouth, is not what you’re doing.”
Chris: Yeah, and it’s so interesting because I think, again, people are doing the best they can, and they may not see the dichotomy between what is posted and what is on the website, what they claim to be their foundation, and the way they actually act.
What is interesting is that as we begin in my conversations with senior leaders, we started interviews. I do interviews with key leaders throughout the organization and I even do interviews sometimes with customers. So I give these leaders an undeniable truth about, “here’s what really happens day to day”. Here’s how your organization is actually operating.
To be perfectly honest, it’s kind of shocking. There’s no reason for me to hold back. Here are the gaps, here’s what high performance and values-aligned organizations do, and here’s where you’re hitting the bar or exceeding the bar and here’s where you’re messing it.
So part of the education is to kind of say, “Here are the standards, here’s where you’re at.”
Basically, it gets to, “The emperor has no clothes.” With that as a starting point, then we can start to talk about the extent to which our performance expectations are clear. And you know that there’s a wide range of clarity in a lot of organizations. Some things are clear, some things are not. Sometimes the clarity is more around the activities but not outcomes.
And then we talk about, “Well, if you’ve got these standards around performance, how well are people held accountable?” Is there a positive benefit if you deliver and is there negative consequence/redirection if you don’t deliver?
There’s a great deal of conversation around performance clarity and performance accountability, then we get into, “tell me about what values exist here.” Many times, organizations haven’t been formal. That doesn’t mean there are not values. It means the values have been tolerated, maybe, and bad behavior is the norm. And so, again, I’m turning on the lights.
We want to make sure that we understand how the organization operates and whether or not that’s the way you’d like it to operate. Is it okay to send someone off around the countries/globe on a Sunday, when they’d rather be at church? Could they go Sunday night, yada, yada, yada…
There’s all kinds of interesting norms that emerge over time that may not be things you;’d love to be promoted in the local paper the next morning. So tell them that you have to be very intentional about values you want lived and then you ask leaders how to live them, model them, coach them.
I tell leaders all the time, you’ll never be able to run a yellow light in this town again because your demonstration of these desired values is going to set the credibility for employees. They’re going to either see this as, “All talk, no do.” Or they’re actually going to see you align to these value standards, values expectations and go, “Boy, that’s different, and I can do that. I’m happy to do that.” So the accountability comes into play when you have clear expectations and it’s leaders who have to be the models to start to build some credibility for this values alignment effort.
John: Chris, you talked about the importance of a purpose statement, how is that different from a mission statement?
Chris: It’s interesting. Sometimes it depends. Sometimes it’s a semantic difference and, again, a mission can sometimes be more future-oriented, like a vision statement is. Some mission statements are more present day. And so, I’m really not as concerned about whether you call it a mission statement or you call it a purpose statement.
I like you to include, “Here’s what we’re doing today and five years from now.” It’s interesting and that can be beneficial, but what’s your reason for being today and the key element that many purpose statements and mission statements miss is: to what end?
Are you simply trying to make money? Not a bad thing. It’s just not inspiring for anybody unless you’re a stakeholder. So it’s about how you are going to serve others and that’s the piece that’s so critical. And if it’s a purpose statement, it’s a mission statement, that’s great.
John: Now you talked about – which I find really interesting – are you going to make money if you’re a stakeholder? I believe that in building a correct culture everybody has to have skin in the game. And to that end, for us, in our firm, it’s very simple. If you are a commissioned person, you have an open ended ability to make money. But the other 50-60% of the organization does not.
However, we look at it very differently because we say, “If we as a group make money, before we pay taxes we take 20% of what we make and it is given to all those non-commission people,” because they drove and they are the backbone that created the ability for the person who’s on the front end of the business to preach their model.
And so, it’s amazing, that being said, that we don’t have any rules here. We only have one rule, “Treat people the way you’d like to be treated.”
John: Be the change you wish to see. It’s on Kyra’s license plate. It’s her mantra. And that’s the rule. Now, because everybody has a stake in it, I don’t have to manage the supply because there’s one of us who manages it. She has her own budget. She runs it because she says, “Wow, 25 cents of every dollar is mine”.
And so, people hold each other accountable for behavior that’s consistent and congruent to what we’re doing as a collective group.
Chris: And what’s fabulous, John, is what you’ve been able to do is to bring people in, and they may have come in with the idea that they can really be successful in the organization and be an “owner” in the organization, which is what this really feels like to me. But a lot of folks come in with work environment experiences meaning that they have no idea how to behave as the owner.
So, it goes to that chapter that you spoke about in the Culture Engine about hiring. You’ve got to be as intentional about hiring someone who can model your values as about their “having skills that will help you move tasks and goals forward.”
It’s a very interesting balance.
John: It’s very powerful because I have to tell you, over the years, I’ve made some bad hires. And the core group of people walk into my office and go, “Nice move.”
John: And I’m like – because it’s an open environment, it’s linear. And what happens, I find, is the people who don’t get it, and we’ve had a small amount of turnover because we’re very careful, but we still make our mistakes. Well, I’d say, I’ve made my mistakes. Let me own them. And what happens is that the organization basically closes ranks. That person feels they don’t belong and they leave.
Chris: Yeah, it’s the tribe’s reaction, isn’t it? There’s the expectations of “Here’s our community of employees, here’s how we react. And if you don’t act with us, if you can’t play with us, then we’ll give you a chance, but if you just unable to make that shift, there’s not going to be any air for you to breathe here.”
John: It’s frightening. It’s like being with my six sisters.
Chris: [Laughs] It’s very, very powerful. One of the gentleman I got a chance to interview for the Culture Engine is Gary Ridge, president and CEO of WD40 Companies and he was very intentional in the late 90’s when he was invited in as this Aussie coming in from well outside the US-owned and the family and organization at WD40 which kind of say, “We need to thrive, we need to have common goals, we need to have shared values,” and it’s amazing how the closing of ranks really is a very beneficial output of that very clear values expectation along with very clear performance expectations.
John: Well, I have to tell our listeners and the entrepreneurs as the leader, when you’re not in step, there isn’t any air for you either.
Chris: No. The disconnects may be slower, may be more subtle but you lose traction with the service, you lose traction with employee engagement and you are losing money every hour.
John: Hey Chris, how do you define company culture?
Chris: I see it as the way people feel about their work environment, about their boss, their colleagues, even their customers. Culture is, in the classic definition, the “way we do things around here.” But culture is really that quality of the work environment and the quality of interactions. The more those are based on trust, dignity, and respect, not surprisingly, the more people are engaged, the better customers are treated and not surprisingly, you make more money.
John: Now, in the first line of the book, you asked the question, “Is your workplace frustrating and lifeless or is it engaging and inspiring?” However, many people see their organization somewhere in between. So, where do we go from here?
Chris: It’s interesting because I’ve gotten pushed back on that. They say you only give me two choices and they’re binary choices. And I said, “Uh huh, and if it were a 10-point scale and 10 is the engaging and inspiring, is a nine okay? It might be. But is a two okay?” The truth is, you have to engage and to examine the way your organization operates and not just how it performs. If you’re anything less than consistently engaging and inspiring, there are costs.
John: Now, you placed the primary responsibility for culture refinement in the hands of the team leaders, management, department heads, and leadership. We just talked a few minutes ago about a culture we’ve driven here at Be Furniture. Why is it from a leader’s perspective only one-sided?
Chris: It’s a great question. Think about the authority and responsibility that leaders have. If you look at culture refinement and you look at the need for a constitution, you can’t delegate as a leader of your team. You can’t delegate to a great team member once you write our purpose. Once you draft some values and some behaviors, we’ll all sign up for. You know that that’s not going to work. The disconnect is huge because it’s the leader who drives the culture. There’s no ifs, ands or buts around that. Because leaders have the authority and responsibility to change practices, to change expectations, to change incentives, they’re the only ones that are going to be able to modify, refine the existing culture, which by the way, may not be intentional to the desired culture.
John: Chris, you’ve seen a lot of companies. You’ve been able to write a book about it. Can you share with our listeners a story when you’ve walked in to a company and you’ve said, “Hmm… Uh uh, they’ve called me too late. I can’t help.” Or vice versa, “Wow, this place is running on all cylinders, I don’t know if I have anything to add.”
Chris: You know, it’s interesting the ones that call me, the ones that invite me in, they realize this is a longer term process. It’s not going to be a two day training and “Ta-dah! You’re done!”
John: It’s a marathon, it’s not a sprint.
Chris: It truly is and it’s the education and it’s the interviews. There’s a lot that I might have, as an assumption of other company, before I start the interviews, but I really get to know the company with those interviews because I learn about the day to day.
I’ve seen organizations where I was convinced that there was no way that that leadership team was going to be able to shift from the entitlement position, “I’ve waited 10 years for this leadership position and I’m going to do exactly what the lousy boss had done before me,” because it’s all they know.
If it’s that corporate ladder, and a corporate ladder exists in a small business too, if that’s their reason for being then there’s little I can do about it. I’ve seen some leaders with the education, with me [34:44 inaudible] a quarter, with that undeniable truth of the interviews and the summary from those, to have those leaders go, wow, this organization sucks. And it’s like, “Uh huh and you’re still making money. Just imagine what you could do if you actually have an envirnment that treated others with trust, dignity, and respect.”
Have I had some leaders basically choose not to move forward? Absolutely so. It’s a very small percentage, but those that chose – there are two in 20 years. Those that chose no were absolutely right. They were not ready. The demands on leaders in being consistent for years to come with proactive culture management; they were absolutely not ready.
And so, it would have been just a disaster anyway.
John: Chris, I’d like your opinion on something. We talked about retaining employees, attracting new employees, and the other side of that is the environment in which you are trying to have people successfully give an experience or brand, then bring people into the tribe – so to speak, so how does matching the office environment to its culture, in your opinion affect it?
Chris: That’s a great question and it’s interesting because, often the environment is what has evolved over time. Its tolerated norms, its tolerated bad behavior. It could be great behavior by benchmark stars and great citizens that influence that environment because it’s almost that the environment actually reinforces the culture because there was no intentional culture upfront.
We got together, we had this business. People loved our product, so all of a sudden, we needed to build a [36:50 inaudible], we needed to distribute them. Businesses don’t often get crafted from the beginning with the culture that they have in mind.
One of the cool, cool companies that I got to study long ago, 20 years ago, was WLGoran Company and that was a very intentional culture, crafted to basically have very little hierarchy in their kind of environment. It was team members who are elders and they’ve been doing pretty well over the past 40 years.
Most companies are not intentional about culture so I think what I’m able to do is to help leaders stop and get a true snapshot of the way their culture operates today. And then, to start to look at what about the office environment, what about the structure, what about the floor plan might in fact inhibit the culture you want or the values you want or the talent that you want to retain, or the talent that you want to attract. That’s a very interesting and almost sophisticated idea because I got to get them tied into, “What do you want? What kind of experience do you want employees to have from day to day? What kind of experience do you want customers to have every day?” And if you’re not intentional about that, then you’re going to get exactly what you’ve observed.
John: It’s amazing being in the interiors business for over 30 years. I see start-ups or emerging companies, or even bigger companies that turn around and say, “Listen, we’re going to buy chairs for the employees.” And I give them a $150 chair because “The stakeholders wouldn’t appreciate me spending a lot of money on a…”
“Can we hold up just a minute? You’re going to buy that $150 chair five times over the next five years or you could have bought one chair for $350 and a lifetime warranty.”
“So if I’m a stakeholder, why would I give you another dime for investment? And if I own a bigger company, it’s not a money issue, but rather, what message in God’s name are you sending to somebody? Will you give them a piece of crap that they have to sit in every day?”
Do you not see the disconnect?
Chris: And it’s so interesting because there’s not an awareness about ergonomics. There’s not an awareness about the way people are forced to interact if the physical environment doesn’t support the culture you want.
John: But there is certainly an awareness because look at the people who sit in them.
Chris: Yeah. And again, for me, it goes back to the fact that you have got to pay attention. You have got to pay attention.
John: It’s interesting, you know. Let me ask you Chris, there’s a lot of younger companies taking advantage of the culture. You probably see it in the ones who are doing well. Then there are the common mistakes that they all make time and time again, and you kind of, slap yourself and go, “Wow, I’ve already seen this a hundred times.”
What is it you’d like to tell them?
Chris: The biggest mistakes that I see leaders make in organizations is to focus exclusively upon production. That profit is above all. There may be dashboards, metrics that are easy to measure, and they give you production per hour or they give you market share or they give you profits per hour, per week, etc., but the fact that they’re easy to measure doesn’t mean that they’re the right things to measure.
And for me, the most common mistake is made in particular with small business owners and entrepreneurs. That’s survival and the reality is that you’re going to make more money, and you’re going to have way more fun and that “fun” is the better F-word for the workplace than the often-used other F-words that [crosstalk]. But you’re going to be able to move your organization faster and you’re going to be able to have an enjoyable 80 hours a week because you’re building a tribe that actually cares for each other. And that doesn’t come with an exclusive focus on performance.
John: As we get to the end here, we’re about to go into lightning round. But before I do that, Chris, is there anything that you would like to shamelessly plug?
Chris: I’m very excited about next month. I’m going to be offering my first Culture Leadership Round Table. It’s going to be held in Denver. So those outside the Colorado borders might have a tougher time coming, but it’s one morning a month for seven months.
It uses the Culture Engine as our Bible and workbook. I’m very excited about getting 20 business owners, team leaders and entrepreneurs into a room for one morning a month, starting on March 19th and people can learn more it at CultureLeadershipRoundtable.com.
John: I would tell my listeners that if you’re in the area, please take advantage of it, because it sounds like a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Chris: It’s going to be fun.
John: All right, here we go with the lightning round. What is your go-to quote for inspiration?
Chris: I kind of settle on “Values matter”. It’s so consistent with what we’ve been talking about, but it goes back to one of my best bosses ever that said “The way you treat others tells me more about your values than anything you post, anything you write, anything you say.” So values matter.
John: What book changed your life?
Chris: Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras, Built to Last.
John: Nice, I like that book. Other than your own company, what company do you admire the most as it relates to culture and why?
Chris: I think one of the most aggressive, if I can say that, and intentional organizations, built around culture, is Zappos. And even through their acquisition by Amazon, Amazon was smart enough not to screw with the wonderful success of Tony Hsieh and the leadership team there. Zappos is one of the most values aligned organizations that I’ve seen.
They do some very cool stuff and they’re remarkably profitable.
John: Now, Chris, if you have to describe your culture for the ideal company in three words, what would it be?
Chris: First, I’d say, BE honest. Second, BE productive; you got to to deliver the promises you make to the customers to the stakeholders. And lastly, BE nice.
John: I like that. Chris, I can’t thank you enough, for spending the time with us. How can our listeners reach out to you? How do they write to you? Can you share that with us?
Chris: Absolutely, you can find me on the web at Driving Results through Culture.com You can find me on Twitter and I’m very active there: @scedmonds all one word. That’s my Twitter handle. I would love to engage folks with their ideas on how to improve their culture.
John: Chris, again, your book?
Chris: It’s “The Culture Engine” and it’s available at your favorite online bookstore and more information and a sample chapter can be found at thecultureengine.com.
John: Take the time to get out there and get this book. I enjoyed it. Chris, I always like to share with our guests my favorite quote. It is by Maya Angelou. “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I hope that we made you feel welcome and I hope that we made you feel valued in your approach to the culture that you bring to the world.
I certainly appreciate your time. Our listeners do, and we hope to have you back. Will you come back and see us again and talk to us?
Chris: I’d love to do that, John. There’s so much more to talk about here. I just appreciate your interest in helping leaders get some ideas about changing their cultures.
John: Thank you so much and I hope the very best for you. Be well my friend!
Chris: Thank you, sir, the same to you.