By: Josh Wachendorf on January 16th, 2020
It Starts With Culture: Empowering & Aligning Leaders At Your Office Technology Business
We all know workplace culture is important to today’s workforce. As Generation Z enters the workplace it will continue to grow in importance, and dealers within the office imaging space have become more tuned in to this need.
In fact, our dealers consistently express culture as a challenge they face year after year. But, culture means more than having a cool first floor living space outfitted with a putting green and a pool table (though I do enjoy that aspect of our very own culture here at GreatAmerica!). Dealers are realizing that a positive culture doesn’t only make attracting and retaining top talent easier, but it can actually empower and develop leadership in the individuals that work for your organization.
I’m going to tell you a story about how I witnessed the massive impact an intentional culture can have on cultivating and aligning leaders and decision makers within your organization. But first, let’s establish a base-level understanding of what culture is. It can be a little difficult to define, and depending on who you ask, you’ll likely get different answers. Let’s look at a few frequently used definitions.
First, the tried and true from Webster’s Dictionary:
Culture is “a set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization.”
And a more casual description:
“The behaviors required to fit in and thrive around here.”
Finally, my personal favorite and a more holistic description from Jon Gordon’s book, “The Power of Positive Leadership”:
“Your most important job as a leader is to drive the culture and not just any culture. You must create a positive culture that energizes and encourages people, fosters connected relationships and great teamwork, empowers and enables people to learn and grow, and provides an opportunity for people to do their best work. Culture is not just one thing; it’s everything. Culture drives expectation and beliefs. Expectations and beliefs drive behaviors. Behaviors drive habits. And habits create the future. It all starts with the culture you create and drive throughout the organization. That’s where all success and great results begin.”
Each company has their own unique culture – their own fingerprint, if you will. That begs the questions: Is your culture one of default? Or is it one you created by design? Do you champion it every day? If you are intentional about the culture you create, you’ll find it can align and empower leaders and decision makers within your organization.
Cultivating Leaders and Empowering Decision Making
Sally Brause of PathShare HR Services had been facilitating a series of Cultivating Culture workshops with one of my dealers who I’ve worked with for the past 7 years. Over that time, I’ve had the ability to work with all levels of their organization, and from the outside looking in, it seemed this dealership already had a strong positive culture. I was invited to sit in on one of the sessions and it was refreshing to observe their willingness to evolve.
Prior to my participation, the dealer had already held one workshop with Sally, where they worked to identify the ‘Why’ behind what they were doing. They had previously invested a full day of discussions to identify the values and behaviors they wanted driving their culture. During the second session, I observed and even participated in the conversations held between c-level leadership and their employees. The team spent a few hours dissecting their core value statement drafts, and looking to the thesaurus to select the perfect wording. We voted on the meaning of the core value statements and what was interesting to me was how there could be varying opinions initially, but through the resulting discussions around those differing opinions, trust, respect, and alignment would start to occur – until they finally reached a consensus.
After reaching an agreement about what their core values would be, the focus now moved to how they would roll this vision out to the company in a way that would keep their newly defined values top of mind. They spent the afternoon talking about how they would make these values a part of their everyday instead of an afterthought. Sally presented a thorough game plan of how this vision would be communicated out to the company. The plan was extremely detailed – for instance, their core values and mission would be printed on their mousepads, painted onto the walls of their building, and displayed on their digital monitors – all to serve as a constant reminder to everyone within the organization to live out their values out each and every day. They even incorporated plans to include a tie to their core values in every meeting they held. Since they had defined 4 primary core values, each including 3 descriptive behaviors, this meant they could focus on one month to make sure they placed sufficient focus on each value in the year ahead.
The whole process was so interesting to observe, but it wasn’t until a month or so later when I realized the impact these exercises could truly have. I had reached out to check in with them and what they told me solidified in my mind just how deeply a well-defined culture can influence behaviors and decision making within an organization.
They shared with me that the most challenging part of revamping their culture was truly making it a priority, but by being so heavily invested in laying out the groundwork for their core values, it had become critically important to them to keep them top of mind.
They then told me a story of how they had recently uncovered a billing issue for one of their larger customers. It wasn’t an ideal situation by any means – in fact, it was a pretty costly mistake. They had actually been incorrectly billing their customer $12,000 extra over a 12 month period – unbeknownst to the customer. This is a tough spot to be in, and there could have been a lot of debate about how to approach the situation, yet, when the issue was presented to leadership, it was met with a confident and immediate response:
“Cut them a check –we’ll sign it and get it to the customer today.”
The answer was cut and dry because it was written in their core values:
We know that doing the right thing is often harder, more costly, and quite humbling…but we do it anyway.
Because they made a commitment to live out their values through their culture, a decision that could have been more difficult was instead very clear.
I see this as just one testament to how culture can guide and empower your organizations to make these critical, business-defining decisions. There are many levers that drive a positive culture; rewards and recognition, an inviting workplace, etc., but arguably, the single most important lever is leadership. While it’s critical the expectation is set from the top down, an intentional culture can awaken the leader and decision maker at every level of your organization. The benefits of culture run deeper than attracting and retaining top talent. An investment in culture has the power to enable and align everyone so they can take charge and make the right decisions for your organization – even in the most difficult of times.
To learn more about PathShare and the organizational development services they offer, visit their webpage: www.greatamerica.com/pathshare
To learn more about cultivating a positive culutre within your organization, check out these resources:
Moving Culture From Theory to Practical Implementation
7 Signs Your Culture Needs a Little TLC
Josh Wachendorf is a Vendor Relationship Manager with GreatAmerica Financial Services. Josh supports Independent Office Equipment Dealers by offering financing solutions and value-add business services to help dealers differentiate themselves, close more sales and build recurring revenue streams. Josh has been with GreatAmerica since 2008. Josh enjoys spending all of his spare time with his wife and four children.