When the president delivers his State of the Union address, he doesn’t wear a tank top, sandals and swig Jaeger from a bottle. Nor would you expect to see congregants shooting craps during church. And while spectators at a playoff game aren’t expected to communicate in soft whispers, visitors at a library are.
The point is this: A culture—environment—dictates behaviors. Your workplace culture is no different. In fact, whatever behaviors you see on an average day within your dealership result from the culture you’ve created. If you’d like to change or improve those behaviors, you’ll need to change or improve the culture first. And if you are the leader, this is your responsibility. In fact, your culture is in your image. Whether it’s sleepy, corrupt, indifferent, energized or high performing; little says more about you as a leader than the people you’ve attracted and the culture you’ve created.
What raises the stakes further is the fact that while your culture dictates behaviors the behaviors, in turn, determine results. Thus, if you want better numbers changing the cultural foundation is where you’d start. Even if your culture is strong now, you should never consider that it’s as good as it gets, because a culture is a lot like a garden: if you don’t give it constant attention through sowing, spraying, seeding, watering and weeding, then the weeds and bugs will take your garden. The weeds and bugs to which I refer are outside influences; primarily society’s trends, values and mindsets.
In fact, if you have failed to proactively shape your culture from the inside with great people and by establishing the right values, mission and performance standards then by default you’ve abdicated this essential responsibility to society’s weeds and bugs. This fact is so important to your success I reiterate: When you fail to mold your culture to your liking you invite society to do it for you. If society were buttressed with a merit-based, earn and deserve value system, this might not be so bad. But since society’s values are as antithetical to success as many can remember, leaders who fail in their cultural responsibilities risk losing it all.
To encourage you to become more aggressive and diligent in building a strong culture, I’m offering a glimpse of the alternative: five societal trends—cultural weeds and bugs—intent on destroying high performance workplaces and converting them into corporate welfare states.
Five Cultural “Weeds and Bugs”
1. The decline of civility. The way “civilized” people treat others gets nastier each year. From increasingly partisan politicians and media, to the average Joe who walks by a dying man rather than stoop to help him; a meaner, angrier, bitterer spirit pervades our world.
As a decline in civility spreads, so does its cousin: the “disease of me”. From corporate looters who pillage company assets for personal enrichment, to 9-figure contracts for athletes who care less about winning than their personal stats. When this current begins to influence your culture unity, teamwork and mutual respect disappear.
*Do you have clear values like respect and teamwork within your dealership that promote civility and care for one another?
*Are perpetrators of incivility weeded out of your culture even if they perform well otherwise?
2. An increasing sense of entitlement. People feel they’re owed more today, and they aren’t shy about protesting for it. From student groups who petition congress to forgive their trillion dollars in student loans, to welfare and tuition payments for illegal aliens, to mismanaged corporations who expect bailouts when their incompetence catches up with them. An increased sense of entitlements has been infecting business cultures for decades through unions, rewards for tenure over performance, and seven-figure golden parachutes for worthless CEOs whose companies floundered on their watch. There is little that drains morale, performance and resources from a company like a sense of entitlement from throughout the ranks.
Cultural questions: Have you built an “earn and deserve” culture where people must qualify for perks based on past performance? Here are examples:
*Promotions based on results not seniority.
*Raises based on merit not calendars.
*House deals going to the deserving, not to strugglers.
*Saturday lunches are qualified for based on last week’s performance, rather than handed out like weekly welfare checks.
*The participation in spiffs and contests is a privilege not a right, and is reserved for those who have maintained at least “X” as their past 90-day average.
3. Envy and the scapegoating of successful people. I don’t know about you, but where I live there haven’t been rallies to thank successful people for providing jobs or paying a disproportionate amount of income taxes. Instead, there have been protests and hate-fests to blame, vilify and chew them out. Sadly, this sentiment starts at the top of our government with leaders who continue to insist that successful people be penalized for their prosperity by paying even more in taxes, even though the top 1% of earners pay 37% of all income taxes and 47% of Americans pay no income taxes at all. All of this is done under the auspices of having everyone “pay their fair share.”
Speaking of fairness, it would seem that paying a “fair share” would start with those who pay no share stepping up and contributing at least a few bucks each month into the kitty to pay our troops, public servants and for services they benefit from. The notion that lower income people can’t pay at least something into the national treasury is ludicrous. We could start with the many who find money each month for liquor, lottery tickets, porn, pizza, pastries, crack, cable, cigarettes and casinos. If each of the 44 million Americans receiving food stamps contributed just $10 monthly to Uncle Sam we’d reduce our deficit by billions each year.
*Do you spend so much time with bottom performers—people who shouldn’t even be employed by you in the first place—that you have no time to encourage, mentor and support your best people?
*Are rewards and opportunities for your top guns impressive enough to attract top producers from other businesses into your culture?
*If you’re abusing or ignoring the top people already with you, why would you expect star performers from outside your company to enlist for the same abuse?
4. Sanitized sinful behavior. There are behaviors on television, in movies and on the Internet today that our parents would have bet their pensions they’d never see. Worse, behaviors that seemed unthinkable only a few years ago are increasingly legitimized and legalized today by courts and legislatures. The world at large has embraced a hyper-tolerant resignation where anything goes except absolutes, and those who speak up for morality are demonized and labeled as bigots, relics, and purveyors of hate speech. But what would happen if everyone in your dealership simply did what was right in their own eyes, or if leaders were afraid to confront deviant behaviors because it made them appear judgmental or antiquated? When you don’t define precisely what you stand for in terms of values and performance, you choose to stand for nothing by default.
*If ten people in your company where chosen at random and asked to write down your corporate values, would their answers be identical? Would they even have answers at all?
*Do you tolerate shoddy character from team members simply because they make the numbers?
*Do you care enough to quickly confront those abusing your standards, starting with off-track leaders?
5. The assault of today’s ashamed generation. I’ve written a past article here solely devoted to this participation-trophy-worshiping, work ethic-challenged, people-skills deficient, “I’m not prepared for life so I’m being shamed by life” gaggle of goofballs. You can find it in the archives.
*Are your hiring processes deep, thorough, and tough enough to fire these entitled, narcissistic numbskulls before you hire them?
Considering these five threatening influences to your business culture, determine how many of these weeds and bugs are taking your garden at this moment. And allow me to remind you of something important: it’s your culture, your name, your reputation, your livelihood and your future that is at stake. Don’t allow a corrupt, whiney, entitled, selfish, sluggardly society hijack what you’ve built. Get the upper hand on your culture and shape it to reflect your expectations, values and standards. The alternative to this duty is disaster.