One Company’s Values Journey

VBL-definitionIf you’re a frequent reader of these pages, you know I’m always enthused to discover high performing, values-aligned organizations.

I’m delighted to bring you the Luck Companies story. Over the next several weeks I’ll share my conversation with Mark S. Fernandes, Chief Leadership Officer, the person charged with transforming Luck Companies into a Values Based Leadership organization.

Most companies don’t start by being intentional about the culture they want. They have a desired product or service so they build their business around crafting those desired elements and getting them into customers’ hands, under budget and profitably. Only when company leaders stop to examine the health of their culture do they actively engage in making it better.

Luck Companies is a 92-year-old organization based in Richmond, VA. On first glance, you’d see Luck Companies as a stone company – crushed stone, architectural stone, and even clay courts. A deeper look finds an organization that is intentional, focused, and committed to igniting human potential through Values Based Leadership (VBL).

I asked Mark, “What was the genesis of Luck Companies’ decision to change it’s culture?”

Mark explained, “When Charles Luck IV became the CEO and President in 1995 – our third generation leader from the Luck family – we were a small, tight-knit, family owned and operated organization. We decided to grow the company, and grow we did!

By 2002, we had close to 1,300 associates and sales had quadrupled. Cash flow increased by nine times during that timeframe.”

Along with that growth came organizational stresses and dysfunction. Mark explained, “We no longer looked like the company Charlie’s dad and grandfather had built. We brought in a consultant to work with our leadership team.

That first morning, the consultant introduced himself and asked us to take out a piece of paper and to write down everything we wanted to change about the company. He gave us ten minutes. With all the dysfunction, we each had a lot to say!

The consultant then asked a vital question: ‘How many of you wrote down yourselves?’

That question changed our lives forever. We began our values journey soon after and in 2009, we amped up the expectations and became a Values Based Leadership organization.”

I asked Mark to define VBL. He said, “Values Based Leadership is living, working, and leading in alignment with your core values, principles, beliefs, and purpose to in turn ignite the extraordinary potential in those around you.

Our company values are leadership, integrity, commitment, and creativity. We began our values journey by defining corresponding behaviors for each of our four values. We wanted to innovate for the future while preserving our values core. We felt that commitment and integrity were values that had existed in the organization since its founding. We wanted to preserve those going forward.

Leadership and creativity were two values that would carry us into the future.

We’ve had two phases in our journey. The first was to become a Values Based Organization (2004-2009) and the second as a Values Based Leadership organization. The distinguishing point came from learning that company cultures (defined by values) are shadows of the leaders.

To have the culture we wanted, leaders had to go first, modeling the way as an example for all others to follow.”

My interview with Mark continues next week.

How well are your team or company’s values lived in your organization? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google +.

I’m indebted to Megan Dougherty who willingly and ably facilitated my conversation with Mark – and added to my understanding of values-based leadership at Luck Companies.

How healthy is your team or company’s culture? Don’t guess – get the data with my online Culture Effectiveness Assessment.

Want hands-on guidance for boosting productivity while reducing drama at work? Join me in Denver for my Culture Leadership Roundtable. This series, based on my book, The Culture Engine, meets one-morning-a-month starting in March.

Photo © Luck Companies and Values Based Leader. All rights reserved.

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The music heard on these podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play all instruments on these recordings.


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Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

What I Do and Why

Dollarphotoclub_77730279a-2I’m a rational thinker. There are times it helps me serve others well. And, there are times when it becomes a hurdle to helping others truly understand what I do!

When I’m not able to clearly and simply describe what I do, that’s not a good thing.

For example, when people ask me what I do, I typically outline my culture change process. I describe the logical phases of how I help leaders create and manage to an organizational constitution – and what the benefits are to them as leaders, to their team, to their customers, etc.

When I’m done explaining what I do, I am rather pleased with myself. I’m convinced that I am being clear and concise. The reality is that I’m not being clear, at all.

My response actually inhibits others’ understanding, because my answer assumes they know a LOT about team dynamics, servant leadership, and the powerful impact of team culture. Those are unfair assumptions on my part!

I needed guidance to craft a clear, pure description of what I do and why I do it. That description needs to reflect the beneficial impact I have on clients.

That description needs to stand alone, without the requirement of background knowledge to “interpret” what I’m saying and what I mean.

I’m grateful to David Greer and Mark Deterding for helping me reach this clarity. They are outstanding coaches who didn’t let me off the hook when I kept returning to my comfortable process description.

Here’s my current thinking on my value proposition.

I get people to embrace a better way of living, leading, and serving.

I help people transform from a task-driven, competitive existence to a purpose-driven, values-aligned existence.

I accomplish these beneficial impacts by walking beside each person I counsel, first guiding their understanding of this better way, then guiding their embracing of this better way, in every interaction with family, colleagues, neighbors, and strangers.

When a client internalizes this better way, he or she confidently navigates the challenges, temptations, and opportunities that arise daily at work, at home, and in their community.

My strongest contribution to others is my ability to enable that internalization.

This description of my value proposition feels good and feels right to me. I know I’ll continue to wordsmith it – but the core of it feels right.

How do you describe what you do and why you do it? How clear and concise is your description of your beneficial impact on people every day? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google +.

How healthy is your team or company’s culture? Don’t guess – get the data with my online Culture Effectiveness Assessment.

Want hands-on guidance for boosting productivity while reducing drama at work? Join me in Denver for my Culture Leadership Roundtable. This series, based on my book, The Culture Engine, meets one-morning-a-month starting in March.

Photo © ra2 studio – Dollar Photo Club. All rights reserved.

Subscribe!Podcast – Listen to this post now with the player below. Subscribe via RSS or iTunes.

The music heard on these podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play all instruments on these recordings.


Don’t miss any of Chris’ posts, podcasts, or updates – Subscribe Now!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Don’t settle for less than talented, engaged players

Car keys.Awhile back, Tom was out walking his dog near his home. He bumped into a neighbor who was out walking her dog, so they joined forces for awhile.

The dogs enjoyed each other’s company and the two neighbors made small talk. Until Tom’s neighbor asked about bringing her car in for service at the dealership where Tom worked.

Tom thought, “Boy, I hope she doesn’t get Keith as her service advisor. He’s really not very friendly with customers – even though we’ve coached him about it. Brenda isn’t much better. Maybe I can direct her to Mark so she has a great experience!”

Tom didn’t want his relationship with his neighbor hurt by one of their “prickly” service advisors. He said to his neighbor,”That’s awesome. I’ll hook you up with Mark – he’s a great service advisor.”

The good news is that Tom knew who his dealership’s worst and best service advisors were and he could direct his neighbor to a good advisor. But what about the dozens of customers who came in that week who had to work with their “less than great” advisors? Those lousy customer impressions wouldn’t help their business, at all.

Wouldn’t it be better if Tom didn’t have to think through his company’s good & not-so-good team members? What if all of their team members were talented and engaged – and loved serving customers? How would that impact their business?

My research and experience proves that employees who experience trust and respect from their bosses, colleagues, and company are more productive – 30-40% more productive – than those who do not experience trust and respect from their bosses, colleagues, and company.

Employees that are trusted and respected in their workplace also serve customers better and demonstrate greater commitment to their jobs. They are more likely to apply discretionary energy to solve problems, cooperate with peers, and implement tweaks to boost efficiency and results.

Leaders must be attuned to more than just performance. They must also be attuned to how customers are treated – and to how employees are treated, by leaders and peers.

When effective leaders learn about performance issues, they act. They engage with the player to clarify performance expectations. They learn how the player has been working in the system and redirect efforts to meet performance standards. They observe closely to ensure traction on desired results – and praise when the player exceeds performance standards.

When effective leaders learn about interaction issues – when they hear about rude, abrupt, or dismissive treatment of customers or employees by anyone – they act. They engage with the player to clarify values standards and interaction expectations. They learn how the player has been operating with customers and peers and redirect efforts to meet values standards. They observe closely to ensure traction on desired values in every interaction – and praise when the player exceeds values standards.

What do effective leaders do when coaching doesn’t solve performance problems? They find a place in the business where the player can genuinely contribute or they help that player find another job elsewhere.

What do effective leaders do when coaching doesn’t solve values issues? They don’t waste any time. They help that player find another job elsewhere.

How clear are values expectations in your team or company? What happens when your company tolerates poor treatment of employees or customers? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google +.

How healthy is your team or company’s culture? Don’t guess – get the data with my online Culture Effectiveness Assessment.

Want hands-on guidance for boosting productivity while reducing drama at work? Join me in Denver for my Culture Leadership Roundtable. This series, based on my book, The Culture Engine, meets one-morning-a-month starting in March.

Photo © Kurhan – Dollar Photo Club. All rights reserved.

Subscribe!Podcast – Listen to this post now with the player below. Subscribe via RSS or iTunes.

The music heard on these podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play all instruments on these recordings.


Don’t miss any of Chris’ posts, podcasts, or updates – Subscribe Now!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Are you one of the top 1% of leaders?

Silhouette of a man on a mountain top on fiery orange backgroundThe top 1% of anything is pretty impressive. To be ranked in that rarefied air means one has invested and IS investing time, energy, and passion into that avenue.

If you were ill, wouldn’t you want to be treated by the best of the best doctors? If you were putting together a professional sports team, wouldn’t you want as many of the best of the best players on your roster, with the skills needed and with impeccable character?

Let’s take a look at a real, live example. Tamara McCleary is ranked in the top 1% of social media influencers by multiple sources. Tamara is a speaker, author, and business expert.

It’s not her expertise as a thought leader, speaker, or author that makes her such an effective social media player. It is her dedication to creating and maintaining relationships, online and in real life, every day, that boosts her influence.

Her recent post on social currency outlines her life philosophy. Tamara believes that “engagement is key.” She builds real relationships with her followers and who she follows. She monitors reliable data to track how well she is engaging every day with her online community.

She invests the time, energy, and passion because she legitimately cares about others. Members of her online and offline communities matter to her, deeply. She’s constantly checking to see whether her plans, decisions, and actions build relationships effectively NOW – and she refines those actions if they don’t.

Let’s apply Tamara’s practices – and positive results – to influencing others in the workplace.

I post the proven practices of #GreatBosses daily on my social media platforms. These quotes generate frequent shares as well as frequent comments. And, a number of those comments are not complimentary of respondent’s current bosses!

People boldly state “My boss doesn’t do this – I wish he did!” and “I’ve never had a boss that did this! I don’t believe #GreatBosses actually exist!”

Leaders can increase their positive influence, improve relationships, and boost employee engagement, service, and results if they embrace some of Tamara’s practices.

First, invest the time. Pay attention to more than just results. Connect with people at all levels in your organization every day. Learn their names and their passions. Learn what gets in their way of cooperative teamwork and top performance. Act to reduce those frustrations.

Second, get the data. Don’t just monitor performance metrics – monitor data that indicates how happy employees are working in your organization. You have some reliable data, like turnover, exit interviews, service levels, and more. You may need to measure other satisfaction metrics, like the degree of trust, frequency of proactive problem solving, etc.

Third, evaluate progress of employee engagement, service, and results. As you embrace proactive relationship management, pay close attention to the “big three” – engagement, service, and results. If you’re not seeing upticks in these after four weeks, do what Tamara does. Refine your practices, then monitor the positive impact. Keep those practices that help.

How great are your bosses today? Which of these practices will you embrace to increase the quality of relationships and employee engagement? Share your comments and insights on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google +.

How healthy is your team or company’s culture? Don’t guess – get the data with my online Culture Effectiveness Assessment.

Want hands-on guidance for building an engaging, inspiring workplace? Join me in Denver for my Culture Leadership Roundtable. This series, based on my book, The Culture Engine, meets one-morning-a-month starting in March.

Photo © es0lex – Dollar Photo Club. All rights reserved.

Subscribe!Podcast – Listen to this post now with the player below. Subscribe via RSS or iTunes.

The music heard on these podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play all instruments on these recordings.


Don’t miss any of Chris’ posts, podcasts, or updates – Subscribe Now!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Do Happy Employees Matter?

Happy African-American BusinessmanHow happy are team members in your organization today? Are they enthused, optimistic, engaged, cooperative, and creative – or not so much?

This week I learned of a colleague’s recent conversation with a CEO of a global firm. The discussion revolved around increased turnover in their company – and not “beneficial” turnover. They were losing talented leaders and team members. That’s a problem.

Exit interviews revealed that these players didn’t feel valued. They saw the company as exclusively focused on results, not on the organization’s original “serve others” purpose.

Their Chief Talent Officer suggested doing an engagement survey to learn what the rest of their global workforce thought about these issues. The CEO boldly replied, “I don’t care about happy employees! I just want these people to produce!”

[stunned silence]

I believe that this CEO isn’t alone in his belief about happy employees. It’s an assumption that many senior leaders hold. These leaders grew up among bosses that held and acted from that same belief.

It’s all they know.

How might one seek to influence a senior leader with this belief? How might one inspire that leader to not only understand the benefits of employee engagement and happiness but to actively encourage it?

I’ve found success with a combination of these elements:

  • Show them the data. This particular CEO wasn’t influenced by the exit interview data from his own departing talent. So, you’ve got to gather reliable, undeniable data that leaves the leader with no choice but to try more employee-friendly practices and policies. Internal data – like this organization’s exit interviews – will have the most impact. A regular, organization-wide engagement survey is a needed foundational piece of internal data. Look at simple, fast feedback solutions for internal data like TinyPulse. Present them with key insights from current engagement research from organizations like Gallup, Kenexa, and others.
  • Show them the money. Happy, engaged employees produce better results and profits than disengaged employees. Research by Dale Carnegie found that companies with engaged employees outperform companies without engaged employees by up to 202%. Research from Towers Watson found engaged companies have 6% higher profits than disengaged companies.
  • Show them it works. Do your own employee engagement research, “under the radar.” Find a willing leader of a distinct, intact business unit who will let you “experiment” for a year. Start with an engagement survey to get a “happiness” benchmark. Note performance of individuals and teams to get performance benchmarks. Identify policies and practices that pit people against each other and refine them so they encourage cooperative interaction. Set clear values standards for treating everyone with trust, respect, and dignity. Create open communications across teams and across levels so everyone feels fully informed. Stick with it. Within six months you’ll see upticks in engagement, service, and results. Compare this “skunk works” unit’s performance with other units performance, and you’ll find impressive gains. Share these results with your senior leaders, over and over again.

Will these approaches help every senior leader to “get” and support employee engagement? No, but you’ll have living proof that happy employees are worth their weight in gold.

How important is employee engagement, happiness, and well-being in your organization? Share your comments and insights on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google +.

How healthy is your team or company’s culture? Don’t guess – get the data with my online Culture Effectiveness Assessment.

Want hands-on guidance for building a safe, inspiring workplace? Join me in Denver for my Culture Leadership Roundtable. This one-morning-a-month series, based on my book, The Culture Engine, starts in March 2015 and ends in September.

Photo © Kurhan – Dollar Photo Club. All rights reserved.

Subscribe!Podcast – Listen to this post now with the player below. Subscribe via RSS or iTunes.

The music heard on these podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play all instruments on these recordings.


Don’t miss any of Chris’ posts, podcasts, or updates – Subscribe Now!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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