A Sustainable Workforce Starts With You

Reinforcing and Engraining Culture

The following article originally appeared in the June newsletter to clients of Kiley Advisors, LLC.  Reprinted with permission.

We continue discussing the importance of culture both in creating high-performance teams and in winning the war for talent.  The research seems so compelling that most true leaders believe it is THE fundamental for competitive success.  It even trumps strategy in the hierarchy of critical ingredients.

Culture emanates from the beliefs and values of the founders, owners, and senior leaders and is reflected in the “way we do things here – what you can count on from us.”  It is the basis for policies and practices.  The role of the senior leadership team and all other managers is to define it, align the people to it, and above all demonstrate it.

If leaders walk their talk consistently – writing an occasional check or eliminating a top economic performer who is a major culture killer – specific examples will become part of the “tribal stories” and will be passed along with pride from generation to generation.  I have personally seen this many times.

A Dallas based GC, faced with the hard financial reality in the 1990’s of needing to cut people or everyone’s salaries, chose the latter with full agreement from their employees.  Within a year, they not only restored everyone’s salaries to their former levels, they made everyone whole for the amount they had forgone!  This incident occurred decades ago, and yet three people, independently, told me of it in 2015.

Every year or so, I will hear about a 1980’s example of a Houston GC, who handed an owner a six figure check for things that a rogue employee had charged to the job and stolen, even though the owner did not know anything about it.  These two GC’s were reinforcing their value of “always doing the right thing.”

A prominent San Antonio Highway Heavy Contractor had a cultural component that required the two Hispanic brothers, laborers that started with the founder, to be hired at whichever job they chose.  When a most profitable project manager refused, the brothers called the founder on the private number he had given them.  The founder pleaded with the Project Manager, who responded arrogantly, “My results show, sir that I do things differently.  Which job do you recommend I give them?”  The founder, a quiet, humble man responded simply, “give them yours.”  This story is now into the 3rd generation.

What stories are told about your culture?