Culture and Teamwork 1st – Then Everything Else Follows

A company can be good…but it wont’ be GREAT until people matter, teamwork, and culture mean as much as the product, the service, the innovation, or the EBITDA.  Phil LaBoon’s interview with Deidre Paknad hits every single point that I attempted to achieve while the general manager of a company. Read the full interview here (8-minute read). 
These were some of the core ingredients to our success:

1. Creating and communicating “why we exist” and how we matter throughout the entire company. Bill Gates’ mission statement was “a computer on every desk and every home.”  Fred Smith who founded FedEx created the mission statement “to deliver the package the very next day…regardless.”  No matter your level in the company–these mission statements are easy to grasp and tell the story of “who your company is” and “what it’s committed to doing.”

While a bit less “world changing, our vision statement was “To enhance the lives of others by improving the quality of their homes.” And our mission was “Home installation and service for windows and doors in every major metro market in the West,” which at the time for a two-step wholesale building materials distributor was quite a departure from the stereotypical role of companies like mine back then (and unfortunately today distributors haven’t evolved much…but you can read more of my posts on that topic elsewhere on this site).

2. Working with senior and middle management to develop a set of objectives that bring the vision to life. The plan needs to be created “by the team” and individual stakeholders with the leader.  These have to be inspiring and exciting and tie to the objectives of the business with clarity and simplicity.

In my team, each functional manager created their own set of objectives that supported the overall company objectives.  And these drove their work within their departments to achieve overall alignment.  

3. Tying in individual roles and objectives to the mission that led toward our vision. At FedEx, the forklift driver who came across a forgotten package knew exactly what to do based on the mission “to deliver the package the very next day…regardless.”  When everyone in senior and middle management, the managers, the customer service, operations, and finance employees are all clear on why your company exists and how they each fit into the picture–only then will your greatest work be realized.

At my company, these individual objectives didn’t only drive company success, but each manager’s compensation was tied to attainment of these objectives as well.

4. Maintaining a visual workplace so employees “know the score” and how their contributions are making a difference.  What’s the first thing you do when you walk into a football stadium or basketball arena during a game?  You look at the scoreboard.

In my situation, we created a symbolic racetrack broken up into fourths and placed our targets of gross margin, safety, and customer satisfaction scores along the racetrack by quarter and distributed it widely.

I’m a firm believe that we can’t just focus on “what” work needs to be done….but even more importantly “how” we work on it.  If we trust each other, compliment each other’s strengths and weaknesses, challenge each other in healthy ways, embrace conflict to drive better outcomes, and hold ourselves and each other accountable for results–we exponentially improve the satisfaction of our careers and the results of our company.