It has been ten years since we started Complete Roofing. We stepped into an industry riddled with unprofessionalism and highly underserved customers. These circumstances provided us a massive opportunity for growth and innovation. To capitalize on this opportunity, we would have to find and keep good people. There was one problem; very few aspire to work for a roofing company.
This problem brought several questions to mind. How would we attract good people? How could we get them excited about this industry, especially considering its reputation? More importantly, how would we inspire their growth?
Here is what we discovered:
A purposefully built, High Demand/High Support Culture (HD/HS Culture) will attract the best talent, inspire the best performance, and bring about growth for employees never thought to be possible.
This HD/HS Culture has also provided us with our highest levels of customer satisfaction. It is infectious inside and outside the organization in a very remarkable way.
How is an HD/HS Culture built? First, you have to think of Culture in the correct context. It is a core component of the organization, no different than sales, marketing, or production. The difference is this "department" exists whether you like it or not.
There are five actionable steps to building an HD/HS Culture, as follows:
1.) Define Your organization's "Why."
2.) Build Trust
3.) Codify the "Real" Core Values
4.) Operate with Empathy
5.) Do "People Work"
Here is a look at each of these steps individually:
1. Define Your Organization's "Why"
Simon Sinek stated in his book Start With Why, "people don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.”
If this is the case, then putting to words "why" your organization exists is central to creating your culture. It becomes the higher purpose that everyone rallies around.
As stated previously, we had a problem. Employees were not aspiring to work at a roofing company. However, we did see people get excited about the possibility of changing an industry. Our "why" is "Changing People's Minds About Roofing." This statement is our anchoring point. The one that keeps us all moving in the same direction. It drives purpose daily beyond just selling roofs.
Try this. Take a walk through the hallways of your office and ask this simple question of those you meet along the way: Why do we do what we do? Your employees can quickly tell you what they do and how they do it, but watch what happens when you ask why they do it. "For money" will be a typical response, but that is a given unless you are in the business of providing free labor. You will also get some great answers.
What you will likely find is that while many answers are similar, they are not the same. If your organization's "why" is crystal clear, you will get consistent answers from everyone regarding the "why" without hesitation. It is almost like everyone is headed in the same general direction but on a different set of tracks. Alignment on the "why" puts everyone moving in the same direction on the same tracks and the same train.
- Your "why" should not be an aspirational statement for what you want the organization to be in some future state. Instead, it is why the organization began in the first place. Look in the rearview mirror to the very beginning. Why did you step out on this journey? What was the spark that said, I want to lead/start this organization? The root of that passion is "why" you are here. Codify that into a statement that others can clearly understand.
2. Build Trust
A formula illustrates trust well is as follows:
- Credibility: Is the organization credible?
- Reliability: Is the organization reliable?
- Self Interest: Are the motives pure, or the product of a hidden agenda? *
- Time: Has sufficient time passed for the Credibility, Reliability, and lack of Self-Interest to have an appreciable effect?
As a leader, building a solid foundation of trust and respect in the people you manage will allow the team to achieve success and reach their full potential. You may be thinking to yourself, "oh we have trust." That is what we thought. Then someone showed us that we might have conflict in our message and meta-message. Said differently, our words and actions were not always in alignment.
For example, let us say that your organization proudly professes customer satisfaction as the number one priority. However, you calculate your employee's bonuses on profitability. In this instance, your words mean to say, "Customer satisfaction is the number one priority." Conversely, you put your dollars behind the profit motive, which is what your employees hear as actually being the most critical priority.
In this example, the message and meta-message are not in alignment. Seems innocent enough, but for these two to be genuinely aligned, bonuses should come from customer satisfaction metrics. Otherwise, decisions made may be for profit motives instead of customer satisfaction.
Just like a hammer sees everything as a nail, problem solvers only see problems. This mindset can blind them to the abundance of wins all around. Deliberately dial up the praise with a 2:1 ratio of "Atta' boys" to constructive criticism. Without this consistent recognition, any corrections feel like henpecking. Praising others is especially hard for high achievers, but put it into practice.
Finally yet importantly in the formula is Self-Interest. This concept is a tough one for sure. We are not at our organizations for charity. So how do you eliminate Self-Interest when building trust? Simple, you have to want to see your employees win genuinely. Replace Self-Interest with authentically desiring the success of others. Know that placing them first will always net a guaranteed win for you and the organization in the long run.
- Check your organization's messages and meta-messages. Are they aligned? If you look hard enough, you may be surprised at what you will find.
- No matter how small the win, celebrate them. The more you do it, the more comfortable and more enjoyable it becomes.
- Maintain consistency with the items mentioned above over time.
3. Codify the "Real" Core Values
Do a quick Google search for "Core Values," and you will find an abundance of websites that say something along the lines of, "3 Powerful Examples of Core Values," or "Top Ten Core Values." The problem is those Core Values are not your Core Values and will most likely not fit your unique organization. They should be the pillars that support your organization's "why." These are the things we MUST do to fulfill our "why."
Gut check: Are your Core Values mandates? Are they regularly celebrated up and down the entire organization? If the answer is "no," then they are not "core" values. They are words used on marketing pieces and wall art.
Like it or not, but when conflict arises, it is many times due to an employee's actions running contrary to the leader's core beliefs. As such, Core Values should reflect the "Real" core of the leader's heart and communicate to the organization.
For example, we never get upset at losing a job if we know we gave it our all. Conversely, it very much upsets us when we learn that an employee did not return a phone call as promised. That kind of action is counter to our value system. Putting emotion into words is hard work, but your employees know authenticity and passion when they encounter it.
- Inspect your heart for what makes you tick. What situations make you happy, angry, or sad?
- Identify specific cases that drive the emotions described above. Then ask yourself, what values could be established to encourage or prevent these from occurring?
- Once identified, craft your Core Values in the form of action words. For example, do not use a term such as "Responsibility." Instead, use an action phrase such as, "Own Your Stuff."
- Put the Core Values to work and use them every chance you get. Celebrate the wins when adhered to, use them as guides when constructive criticisms are necessary, shape awards around them, and above all else keep them out front.
4. Use Empathy
Many leaders scoff at Empathy as a business practice. Few if any aspire to put Empathy to practice. We believe this is due to the fundamental misunderstanding of the terms true meaning.
Merriam-Webster's Dictionary defines Empathy as: "the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts and fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner."
That is the academic definition of Empathy, but what we have learned is that it looks a bit different when put into practice. For example, let's say after recent updates to the company's CRM you have members of your sales team complaining about the changes. Someone not in touch with using Empathy might look at the situation and say, "what's the big deal?" They might even reflect back to being a sales rep and how they used to write everything down by hand.
When a situation arises, take a look at it while considering how they would view it. Let's say someone on your team is a visual learner whereas you are a conceptual one. They might require a chart or a graph to understand a concept best.
Absent from the perspective of the other person, you are blind to any possible unseen pitfalls. Could the changes in the CRM be just enough extra admin work to kill the sales rep's motivation? It indeed could be, but you would not know unless you could place yourself as them, in that situation, and in their context. Empathy is hard to put into practice, but a powerful tool when deployed.
- Practice putting Empathy to work. Look for someone in your organization that has strengths that are not your own and try to understand them better.
- Put yourself in their current state and imagine for a moment that you cannot picture an idea in your mind without the visual aid. How much more difficult would that be? What can you do differently when preparing the next meeting's notes to apply Empathy and consider others?
5. Do "People Work"
The "People Work" is by far the most fun of the five steps to building an HD/HS Culture and in many ways the most difficult to explain. The reason why is because it is so very counter-intuitive. It looks almost nothing like work, yet holds the glue to create real stickiness to the organization and team.
"People Work" is the practice of setting aside time to get to know your people better and investing your time with them apart from work. Instead, learn about their family, their dreams, and their aspirations. When they offer new information directly follow-up that statement with, "what else," then listen carefully. It is amazing what you can learn about your people when they feel free to share without fear of reprise. Of course, you will always want to keep these interactions professional, but the choice is not binary. Professionalism and candor can co-exist.
Take away items:
- Set a one-on-one lunch meeting or create a small group corporate outing where the "People Work" can occur. So long as the environment is such that the employee(s) understand this time spent is about them, not rewards dependent, and not about you or the business. No agendas, no self-interest, just good time spent as people getting to know people.
- For example, every once and a while we will head out to the water, and a few hours later we are taking pictures of with fish we have caught. Again, this does not look anything like work but ask our people what they are willing to do to see the company succeed. I think you might be surprised at what you would hear.
We firmly believe that you cannot manage people. You can only grow them.
Chad firmly believes that one of the biggest misconceptions in business is that you can "manage" people. The "manage" people notion is false. You cannot manage or control anyone, but you can grow them. With this in mind, Chad maintains a high demand and high support culture where the focus is on people and customers over profit.