Have you ever purchased a product from Apple or Zappos? Have you ever stayed at a Joie de Vivre hotel in California? If so, you are more than likely to do so again. These companies have great cultures, and great cultures build customer loyalty.
Great cultures occur at companies where people like doing what they do and work toward a common purpose. They have fun, feel challenged and have freedom to make decisions that affect customer experiences. They have power to create change and are recognized for doing the right thing.
How do you know if your organization has a great culture? Start by surveying your members—but only if you are ready, willing and able to do something with the information you collect. Surveying members is important because your culture is not what you think it is. It is not what you write down. It is not what you tell others. If you want real insight into your culture, listen to the stories that are widely told about you. Culture is in the stories that employees tell one another and that customers tell their friends and families. Stories are how your culture gets handed from one employee to the next and from one member to the next. Don’t just listen to the stories that you want to hear. You must also listen to and accept those stories you don’t want to hear if you are going to build a great culture.
Your culture is both a cause and effect. It is the cause of happiness and loyalty for both employees and customers. It is the effect of conditions you set. You cannot “go around” your policies, processes, comp plans, or management and leadership style to address culture. You can only go through them. If you want to build a culture for loyalty, you must first address the conditions you set.
To determine if your beliefs will build a great culture, ask yourself if you agree or disagree with the following statements:
- People are generally good and can be trusted.
- People want to do their best and learn to get better.
- People want to be a part of something that is achieving greatness.
- Leadership is to serve others, not to be served by others.
- Bad attitudes and bad behavior are the cancers of great culture.
- Traditional motivators (high incentive pay) are not a sustainable energy source—inspiration is.
- Hands and feet do the work. Hearts and minds create the culture.
- When the day is over, people want to feel they made a positive contribution to the world.
- Authenticity is everything. Culture is not born in the marketing department.
If you agreed with all nine statements, you have what it takes to build incredible culture. Actually, if you agreed with the first five, you still have the beliefs that can create great culture.
Great cultures also have a strong climate of accountability—not the kind of accountability that throws people out if they don’t hit their goals, but the kind of accountability that has everyone looking for ways to achieve goals and make every situation better. In great cultures, leaders hold themselves accountable for what an organization learns and does. Accountable organizations work hard to utilize employees’ strengths, develop their capabilities and provide the tools they need to get the job done. Accountable organizations work hard to create clarity of purpose and to define the main effort of the company and the responsibilities of each position.
To gain a better understanding of how you can create a great culture in your organization, I suggest that you read the following books:
“Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build Thriving Organizations” by Dave Logan, John King, and Halee Fischer-Wright.
“Human Sigma: Managing the Employee- Customer Encounter” by John H. Fleming and Jim Asplund.
“The Art of Action: How Leaders Close the Gaps between Plans, Actions, and Results” by Stephen Bungay.
Take a few ingredients from each of these books, mix them with your beliefs and your idea of a great company, and write your vision of the future. It will be worth your time and effort.
Blair McHaney is CEO of Confluence Fitness Partners Inc., which does business as Gold’s Gym of the Wenatchee Valley in Wenatchee, WA. He also previously served as president of the Gold’s Gym Franchisee Association.