The tough part about consulting, is that at its core, to consult is to give someone an opinion of what is best. Now, this advice is based on compiled data, statics of success, experience, expertise and the most valuable tool, intuition. If the leadership team you’re consulting doesn’t want to make the changes you recommend for them to succeed, there really isn’t anything you can do. Unfortunately, this happens, and when it does, this is a hard reality.
We are faced with this truth in life all the time; whether we are giving advice to a colleague, a friend, a spouse or our children. Often, we are giving advice based on our perspective of what their situation is to bring solutions. I am sure you have found yourself on the other side of this intellectual transaction. How many times have you thought back to advice given to you and thought, “I really wish I would have listened.”
This week, I thought I was walking into this type of scenario. My client is in a major metro are in Texas, and this store is a big player in their respective car brand. Five times already I have visited this store and each time something different: new employees, new manager, new processes, there was always a new reason why they couldn’t succeed. They were doing good, but they have the potential to be great. This visit, I was surprised with a new element, and in my opinion, the most important for any company to succeed.
When I arrived on site, I instantly knew something was different. For one, there was an employee cleaning out his desk, he was just let go. I was shocked, this employee was a high producer with good customer scores. Looking over to the managers office I saw a new face, a smiling face beaming with energy. Making my way in and greeting all the advisors, there was an overall sense of disengagement. I could tell shit had hit the fan. I was not informed of the reason he was let go, and I didn’t ask.
While a big part of my job is to instill and build new processes, there is one aspect of business that can’t be taught. The element of culture. Every business, church, classroom, or government office, has a culture. Some are proactive, some are reactive, some don’t care, while some care an extraordinary amount. Businesses like Disney, Apple, and Starbucks are always used as examples as they all have a winning culture backing everything they do. This type of culture starts at the top and trickles down to the very bottom.
Looking over again, I saw the familiar face of the department director, we locked eyes and he waved me into his office. We caught up for a minute and then I addressed the elephant in the room. “So, I see you let one of your guys go, and who’s this guy in the office over there?” I asked pointing across the hall to the new manager.
“Oh, you will love this guy, follow me.” He seemed overly excited being that his top producer was just shown the door.
Standing up from his desk, the new manager thrust his hand out and vigorously shook mine. He was full of energy, was engaging, and well put together. In a word, he was professional. It is always hard to tell if these types of guys are the real deal or the next in the long line of flashes in the pan.
“We’re going to change the culture here, we’re starting fresh today! I am having a meeting at 6:30 tomorrow morning to go over it, can you make it?”
“I’ll be there!” I answered with enthusiasm, “Too many times we find success by accident, you need to create a culture of purpose.” He thought about that, and nodded in agreement.
The rest of the day we talked with the staff about how we are going to increase revenue for everyone involved by focusing on the customer experience. “We, (I loved how he included me in his process) are going to focus on the customer number one, and everything else will fall into place.” That was his blueprint.
Six thirty the next morning came fast. This was the first time this staff had ever been asked to come in for a meeting. This is a commonly used practice, it is important to get everyone on the same page about the stores direction and how each member is used to drive the vision. I arrived promptly at 6:30 and the staff was already there, huddled up in the lobby. He stood proudly up front and told the team of his vision of a winning culture. This was probably the first time this staff had witnessed leadership.
Not only did he use specifics of how he wanted to start this change of environment, he used examples of how they could improve. All the advisors seemed to understand and were excited for the changes. This was a drastic one eighty from the day prior. The department went from somber to excited in twenty-four short hours. It is amazing what a focus on culture will do. Changing culture however, does not happen overnight. It takes time, focus and purpose.
Traveling across the country, I see the same thing; it could be at the airport, in a coffee shop, or in a retail store, businesses are making money on accident. I need something, and that business just happens to be there, so I go. That’s the extent of my purpose. Stores like Starbucks? I search for them.
How are you running your business, your life? Are people searching for you? Are you succeeding on accident? Imagine what you could do with purpose. Maybe you are an employee in a business on autopilot, there is no reason you can’t start the change for a better culture. It is so difficult for people to find their way towards a direction of change, I encourage you to be thier compass. Go lead the way.