Several years ago I worked for a company that had an incredible work culture. Everyone enjoyed working together and every time a sale came in we rang a bell that hung proudly near our vice president’s office. Now that was fun! Imagine coming to work every day looking forward to the opportunities that might come your way or to your colleagues.
A couple years later I was working for a company that had the opposite culture. Everyone was protective of the opportunities they had; in fact, the company was actually looking for ways to reject potential business that came in the door. Crazy, you may say! So, guess which company survived! The second company was bought out. No surprise there.
In his book “Results That Last” Quint Studer talks about two types of cultures in the business world today. Those that are built on:
1. Teamwork and shared responsibility
2. Blame and finger pointing
My earlier example clearly had the culture he calls teamwork and shared responsibility. The latter company had the culture of blame and finger pointing. Which culture does your company have, or do you even know? Having the right kind of culture is vitally important to your success.
Quint writes about 4 key points needed to build a culture of excellence as exemplified by Southwest Airlines.
- Accept criticism graciously. Communication has to be open and honest. There are no hidden agendas and everyone has the right to say what’s on their mind. Companies that can communicate this way will take their teams to a higher level of performance. How does your sales team take and give criticism?
- If employees can accept criticism graciously, it will lead to Quint’s 2nd point – have the ability to challenge leaders. In the past this was unheard of in many companies. Yet today most successful organizations realize that they must hear from the front line employees what is working and what is not working. And the new millennial generation, which is steadily growing in the workplace, rarely hesitates to embrace this point. Those that are born after 1977 have no problem communicating to management what they think. Companies need to embrace this characteristic if they are to survive in an environment where change is faster than it’s ever been. How do you allow your sales professionals to challenge their leaders?
- Issue public challenges. Twenty years ago Sam Walton issued a challenge to all 65,000 Walmart employees. He committed to do a hula dance on Wall Street if they showed an 8% pre-tax net profit for the year. The industry average was 3%, yet for that year Walmart came in at 8.04% and Sam did the hula as promised. Is Walmart still around today? Yes. In fact, as of today they are the 3rd largest company in the world behind Shell and Exxon. Public challenges make things happen. How can you challenge your sales team publicly?
- Never punish an honest mistake. This sounds like craziness in a culture of blame and finger pointing. Yet, companies that take risk and grow to the next level always make mistakes. What you want to look at is how people respond to those mistakes – what do you learn from them? My second company example did not tolerate mistakes. Instead of taking risks to win, everyone was frozen and spent valuable energy trying to cover them up. My guess is that this is one big reason why they no longer exist.
Before I close, let me offer a few more insights from Studer on building a culture of excellence. He says that:
- What a company permits is what they promote – so ask yourself, what am I promoting?
- Push for results not excuses
- Poor results lead to micro-managing while great results lead to autonomy
In “Results that Last”, we learned that when you set the expectations of your sales team to:
1. Accept criticism graciously
2. Challenge leaders
3. Issue public challenges
4. Never punish an honest mistake
Success will follow.