Session Preview: Jack Daly: Is Your Culture by Design or Default?

Excellence isn’t a concept, it’s a culture.

CEO, start-up guru, sales and motivation superstar and adventurer Jack Daly will present “Company Culture: Is Yours by Design or Default?” from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m. and again from 3:00 to 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 11.

YOU CAN SMELL a culture. How does your culture smell? Does it smell good, or does it stink? Do you have a culture by design or by default? At times, it can be difficult to identify your culture, since you are part of it. Spend 30 minutes at a company, and you can describe the culture. Every company has a culture, so identify the key factors you seek and manage them accordingly.

When I think of leaders and culture, Herb Kelleher
and Jack Welch come to mind. In Southwest Airlines
and GE, we have two companies where the leaders established a culture and worked to ensure it permeated the enterprise. While both leaders and companies were effective in establishing their respective cultures and
delivering solid bottom-line results, their cultures were different in design. But, designed they were.

Culture headliners at Southwest have been fun, empowerment and teamwork. At GE, we see training and communication as the headliners. Companies that “manage their cultures well” over time consistently outperform companies that don’t. Revenues increased 682 percent vs. 166 percent; stock prices increased 901 percent vs. 74 percent; net income increased 756 percent vs. 1 percent; job growth increased 282 percent vs. 36 percent. I have
identified three ingredients of their business successes: vision, key people in key spots and culture.

Six Design Mandates
Here are five ideas to jump-start your design of a
winning culture — and a bonus checklist:

1. Be who you are
Winning cultures reflect who the leader is and the
company’s core values. A shared mission and values
can be liberating — empowering your associates with confidence and trust to make the right decisions. If people have to refer to a manual to make daily decisions, you hamper service and lengthen the sales cycle.

2. Training should be an integrated process
Training is an inside job — not something to be abdicated to an outside provider. While an outside firm can provide clarity of direction, help to design the training process and provide for interval course correction, the ultimate day-to-day responsibility for training rests inside the company.

3. Recognition systems — don’t leave “thanks” to chance
Put systems in place to ensure regular recognition. Imagine an outsider asking your associates, “By a show of hands, how many of you are ‘overly recognized?’” People are starving for recognition, and the recognition doesn’t need to be heavily weighted financially. In fact, one of the most powerful recognitions is the age-old handwritten note.

4. Communicate
Knowledgeable companies communicate, and they do it proactively and consistently. Howard Schultz, chairman of Starbucks, is constantly reminding the company that even though it is big and successful, that does not mean Starbucks can’t execute each cup of coffee better. Share the news and realize that communication involves both talking and listening.

5. Recruit and hire the best — and start them right
Think “culture first, experience second.” You can train people in the business; however, attempting to retrofit people into a culture is a Herculean challenge. Invest considerable time in the recruiting and screening process, as opposed to just filling an empty seat. Once you find the winning hire, implement an orientation plan so that the new hire isn’t just thrown to the wolves or ignored.

Create a work environment that is challenging, satisfying and fun. Storytelling can be the most effective tool to ensure the culture message resonates. People often forget concepts, but remember stories. So, spend more time sharing stories that underscore your desired culture. Stories are simple, timeless and memorable. What percentage of your time is spent on designing and implementing your culture? Don’t rush to the urgent at the expense of the important.

6. New Hire Check List
Here’s how to ensure your newbies are off to the right start:

  • Celebrate! Give a card and bottle of wine as a welcome aboard gift.
  • Make him/her feel welcome — arrange lunch.
  • Explain goals of company and who the key team players are.
  • Explain work ground rules.
  • Explain employee benefit plans.
  • Explain the position’s mission and current objectives.
  • Define the work assignment.
  • Present education and training opportunities and expectations — negotiate the training contract.
  • Present work standards, responsibilities, reporting systems and productivity expectations.
  • Make asking questions easy — where to go for help.
  • How can we help you be successful on the first day?
  • Debrief at the end of the first day.
  • Organize the balance of the week.
  • Organize the balance of the month.
  • Set quarterly objectives and progress reviews.
  • Hand-deliver business cards.

Why is culture important? Simply put, companies that create and manage winning cultures are the same ones that win in business. These ideas can help get you thinking about your company’s culture and these basic tools can help you begin or continue to build a truly proactive, innovative and winning culture. My STAFDA session on November 11 will contain many more. CS

Veteran sales coach Jack Daly brings STAFDA the benefit of 20-plus years of experience, including stints as CEO of several national companies and six firms he helped launch (two of which he later sold to the Wall Street firms of Solomon Brothers and First Boston). Jack focuses on helping managers recognize the value of proactive company culture and its impact on bottom-line performance. For more information, visit