When teaching on the subject of building a high performance culture, I begin my class by sharing with the attendees these six facts concerning business cultures:
- You can’t change behaviors or results in an organization by changing its vision. Rather, you change behaviors and results in an organization by changing its culture.
- Culture has five primary components: core values, core competencies, mission, performance standards and people. Since environment (culture) dictates behaviors, and behaviors determine results, then each of these five components must be strongly established and built upon in order to maximize profitability.
- The leader is ultimately responsible for the health of his or her culture. A mediocre leader eventually presides over a stagnant culture. If the average leader is allowed to remain in place, the culture degrades from stagnant to toxic.
- A culture is unlikely to change unless one of two things occurs: the leader changes or the leader is changed.
- The wider the gap between top and bottom performer under the same rooftop, the weaker the culture.
- Just as a surgeon cannot perform an operation while an infection exists in your body, you cannot effectively build, rebuild, or repair your culture if corporate cancers exist within your organization. Corporate cancers are comprised of three primary culprits: the wrong people, cumbersome or ineffective policies and flawed business philosophies or strategies.
Of these three corporate contagions, many leaders squander the most time working around, rather than dealing with, the wrong people. Many of these cultural cancers aren’t even close to hitting prescribed standards, yet the powers to be seem to believe that it is acceptable to contemplate, rather than cure, these cultural cancers.
There are two ways to cure the “wrong people” version of corporate cancer: turn the person around, or remove them from your organization. Tolerating, defending, rationalizing, making excuses for, studying, contemplating or otherwise procrastinating doing what is right puts the health of your entire culture at risk.
As you prepare your dealership for a strong second half finish, pause for a moment and honestly evaluate your roster for existing cultural cancers. I’m including a partial list to help you narrow your search and classify the offenders. As you face realities concerning them, either turn them around or set them free to discover their potential elsewhere. If you’re not sure which course to take, or how to deal effectively with cultural cancers, I’ll expect to see you in my next class.
- The incompetent. This category of employee lacks enough skills, knowledge or talent to get the job done. While training can help develop skills and knowledge and draw out talent, some team members may be falling so short of meeting your standard, that they have too far to go to become an acceptably productive team member. Try as you may, applying a stronger training whip to these dead horses will not move them.
- The morally corrupt. There is little you can do with this group, because you do not have the power to change someone else’s character. These cancers will lie, cheat, steal, and are predisposed to sexual immorality. Sadly, some of these employees may have incredible talent and drive, but eventually make poor decisions that cause them to self-destruct. Their downfall is normally precipitated by impulsiveness, the need for instant gratification, or the arrogance to believe they are too smart to be caught, or above the rules that others must follow.
- The weak in personal character. Unlike the moral corruption, personal character, weaknesses cover shortfalls like being unteachable, undisciplined, demonstrating a careless disregard for keeping commitments, failing to persist in the face of difficulties, the insufferably proud or arrogant, the insecure, selfish, entitled, slothful and the list could go on. Oftentimes, unchecked personal character weaknesses devolve into moral corruption. And while one might rightfully argue that some of the personal character weakness traits listed should qualify for the “morally corrupt” category, most would agree that it is wiser to invest time developing and turning around those with personal character weaknesses, than indulging in like efforts for the plainly morally corrupt. For the sake of distinction, I classify the offenses perpetrated by the morally corrupt as those you are less likely to give someone a second chance to commit.
Naturally, I’m not suggesting that you settle for nothing less than the impossible to find the “perfect” person. However, the inability or unwillingness of an employee to steadily and measurably improve these weaknesses in any of these areas is what renders one a cancer. While some offenses deserve no second chance at all, for other flaws and shortfalls you must establish clear performance expectations, and demand measurable progress in reasonable time. The alternative to a management intervention of this nature is to permit your culture to suffer steady reversals as you, along with the cancerous employees you enable, unwittingly join forces to compromise your cultural integrity.
Here are three steps for dealing with corporate cancers. Knowing these things will not help you. Doing them is what matters.
- Commit to cancer prevention. Hire slowly and strategically. The people you bring on board must share your values, live your mission, be able to hit your performance standards, and have core competencies that align with your corporate strengths. If you don’t know how to hire according to these standards, you shouldn’t interview another soul until you learn. Your culture is too important for you to play amateur hour, “go with your gut,” and hire the wrong people simply because they look the part or you like them.
- Address shortfalls in competence and character strength. With the employee, put together a plan to elevate their effectiveness in the unsatisfactory areas. The plan should include specific steps to take, a deadline for improvement and consequences for failing to progress. Your bottom line strategy is to either get people better or to get better people.
- Fire the morally corrupt. This should be a no-brainer, but in this age that virtually deifies tolerance it’s not a given. Frankly, tolerating, defending, rationalizing or working around the morally corrupt is evidence that you are unfit for leadership. If you haven’t the competence or courage to fire the morally corrupt I respectfully recommend that you apologize to your team, resign in shame, and go find something that you’re good at.