“We have a 48 large.”

“But I said I wear a 38 regular.”

“Try it on, you’ll like it.”

Unfortunately, that’s how many executives rise to greet each day, thinking their organization should suit anyone and everyone: “Try us on, one size fits all, it’s perfect.” And, yeah, a lot of you who wandered to this page have worked for one of those companies.

So, no doubt, you’ve already surmised that organizations looking to become more accepting and cohesive throughout will find corporate culture change their most challenging transformation. Mainly because it really never really works as a mandate from the top, down. Overcoming a “that’s not how things are done around here” mindset mostly comes by demonstrating new values, not with just a pretty new logo, letterhead or a clever mission statement. Creating a movement for culture change means generating emotion for it. That takes time, effort and resolution. And in their minds (and sometimes those of their shareholders), a lot of C-level folks don’t have that to spare.

To make customers happy, we have to make sure our employees are happy first.

Tony HsiehZappos

Got a problem on the outside?
Or maybe it’s on the inside?

A lot of times it’s easy to figure out why a company or customers stop buying from your business. And you learn from those mistakes as quickly as possible, to recover as fast as possible. Some reel customers back through offering “I’m sorry” coupons, or promotions and sales and even, yep, advertising corporate culture changes.

But what if your employees are disinterested in fixing problems, or worse, smell an insincere rat in your message? Unhappiness can destroy companies from within. It leads to customers not served well and continued business erosion. However, like habit, quick external kneejerk reactions are what many companies cram down the pipeline, rather than fix what is potentially internal turmoil.

There’s a case to be made that current and potential employees are more important than your current and potential customer base. Because all leadership should be expected to do is establish your company’s strategy, shape and vision. C-level leaders cannot continually design product improvements, manufacture every invention, ship each box and greet every customer. You need—say it with me—a “team”. A collection that has to care about every step of your mission.

Which means you need to show your workforce why they’re doing what they’re doing. That is the essence of your culture. Shutting out employees means they will shut off their productivity and shut down momentum. Fungus and mushrooms grow in dark cellars. That’s why shining a dazzling light on your team and its achievements is so important to success.

You can build a much more wonderful company on love than you can on fear.

Kip TindellThe Container Store

It’s a fact: Every employee has a potential touchpoint with a few, or all, of your customer relations. One unhappy person in sales or shipping can lead to a single screwup. Worse, it can lead to discontent throughout your entire organization. So whatever emphasis you give to customers and service, consider spending the same amount of effort on your sales and marketing group, product developers, your entire organization. As said above, a poisonous culture can not only leak throughout your business, but out the company doors and into your marketplace.

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This leads to another important corporate cultural touchstone: trust. If you show employees you have faith in their abilities, their critical decision making, you can create powerful synergies from top to bottom. Which means you need to make sure you’re not just writing protracted and painful job descriptions and handing them out in thick binders. Effort like that is where jokes about “HR” are generated. To see true creative collaboration and innovation, trust your instincts to hire people you can trust each day. Then, well, trust them.

Employees are the vital link between a CEO, E-leadership and customers. And another byproduct of a poor connection between management and employees can be much worse than just a frustrated, toxic workplace. It’s a gift to your competition, who will certainly fill the void you’re creating with a culture of distrust.

If you are lucky enough to be someone’s employer, then you have a moral obligation to make sure people look forward to coming to work in the morning.

John MackeyWhole Foods Market

Too often management thinks of customers as the Fabergé egg, while employees are levers to be pulled and buttons to be pushed. So, when you don’t simply line up employees at their stations, but rather get in line with your employees at every level, you’re faster, more responsive, smarter and have a much better chance to be a marketplace frontrunner. Value the personnel you bring together. Treasure the culture you create. Choose trust over bullying and fear.

Remember, the customer is (sometimes, usually) always right.

But only if no employee is left behind.

Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”

Henry FordFord Motor Company
Bruce Wilson

Author Bruce Wilson

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