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THE CULTURE SECRETHow to Empower People and Companies No Matter What You Sell
By DAVID VIK
Greenleaf Book Group PressCopyright © 2013 David Vik
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThis Is What We Are Doing—Vision
The act or power of anticipating that which will or may come to be. Once a Vision is clearly articulated, allow the people to create it.
Before writing your Vision, dream big
Vision is the number one step, for it is what you are doing or will be doing. When thinking about creating a new business, one of the first things you do is visualize what you want your business to become. Having a Vision of what you want to create gives you clarity. By asking you to visualize it, I mean imagine two things: how will your business look and feel? What will your business become? Don't be too quick to decide, though. Consider these questions:
Is your Vision big enough?
How wide and how high does your Vision extend?
Does your Vision capture all of the market that is available?
Your Vision has to be bigger than yourself and the company, and it has to be about more than just making money. Employees can get behind a vision of making money for a little while, but if the money isn't spread around, it soon loses its luster.
Creating a Vision for our lives is equally important. Regretfully, some of us have a life Vision that is too shortsighted. having a big personal Vision forces us to look far in the distance and to set our focus on it. Otherwise, all we see are the obstacles in between.
It is exactly the same with the Vision of your company, team, or organization. Dream and think big.
State or declare what you want your company to become.
Match what you want to deliver with what you want to achieve.
This Vision is for you and your team or employees to come up with. Envision the end result and work backward from there. (keep reading; I'll show you how to get there with concrete examples and how-to information.)
Make your Vision a KISS (as in "keep it simple, sweetie")
I always advise clients that the Vision of a company needs to be a short, simple, and repeatable slogan that doesn't put boundaries around the company. I've read a huge number of "mission statements" that were two or three paragraphs long, detailing how the company was going to do, what it was doing or make what it was making. But I never could remember even a bit of it five minutes later. Perhaps the sentences were too long or wordy, but most likely—and more importantly—the mission statements had nothing to do with helping me out, whether I was an employee or a customer.
Two or three paragraphs is much too long. Just state what you are doing (Vision) and why (Purpose). The mission statement (the how) will follow with the creative genius of your employees. My feeling is that you, as the leader, don't have to state the how in a mission statement; let your employees figure out that piece on their own.
KEYS TO CREATING YOUR VISION
When creating your Vision—or updating or transforming the one you have—use the following as a guide:
Make it current, compelling, inspiring, and motivating.
Make it a KISS
Easy to remember
Implement your Vision among your employees, so that everyone knows it and can say it quickly and easily. Over time, try to whittle it down to six words or less. You may not be able to, but the exercise will help your statement be as short, memorable, and repeatable as possible.
You also want to tie a Purpose with it. (We'll discuss that in depth in the next main section.) But make sure your Vision is short enough to allow folks to remember it and the Purpose, too.
As an advisor and coach, I have had many opportunities to talk to company employees about their company's Vision. Most believe that their company has a Vision; generally, however, employees have been unable to share it with me for one of the following reasons:
They don't know what it is.
They don't understand it.
They are familiar with the Vision but cannot repeat it because it is too long or complicated to remember.
The Vision is muddled in a long-winded mission statement that makes little sense to them.
Luckily, these challenges can be remedied.
A Vision needs to be simple, repeatable, and well understood by the employees so they can be in alignment with it.
When employees don't know what the company Vision is and only do what they are told, they become disengaged and disconnected, and their daily work becomes uninspiring and non-empowering. Imagine what that does for the business.
If employees cannot repeat the company's Vision with respect and enthusiasm, they're missing a guiding light to direct their thoughts, actions, and decisions.
For example, in a recruiting company I worked with in San Francisco, as we worked to transform the company's culture, we came up with several versions of a Vision statement. But none of them seemed right, especially when we put them to the test to see if they would attract both employees and customers. We knew we were headed in the right direction, but we were having a hard time coming up with a Vision that would stand out in the industry. It's a common challenge. Many of us create a Vision but soon realize it falls short in some regard. If you find yourself in that dilemma, don't give up. I guarantee you will get it right; you just have to keep trying different things out until you do.
So we noodled some more and came up with other iterations of a Vision statement, but none of those came up to snuff either. Finally we hit on the solution, which was this: Sometimes you have to switch it up and come up with a Vision that is unique in your industry or in what you deliver, especially if you are in the services business or if you sell a commodity. Since a service or a commodity isn't proprietary, you need to be unique/WOW in your delivery. Think about how your product, service, or knowledge can be delivered differently and what you want your customers to experience. That's what we did with our Vision, and it helped us rise above the rest.
We knew that the recruiting industry was considered somewhat antiquated, with not a lot of regard for service or the customers' experience. Of course, that industry is not alone. Just take a good look at any service business you know of, you'll see that the service part has all but evaporated. So we homed in on this Vision: "To Deliver the Best Service and Experience." That Vision would color every aspect of our business in the future. We started by revamping our training to be top-notch and to deliver the best service and experience; we adhered to best practices in everything we did. Every piece of text our customers saw or read became a visual work of art. After all, if the customer-facing part of our business was not the best experience, it wouldn't be in alignment with our new Vision.
It didn't happen overnight. We were figuring this out as we went along. Throughout the industry, recruiting methods were basically archaic. The tools everyone used to provide the service to clients and customers were sticks and rocks, so to speak. We decided to develop lasers and rocket launchers, in the form of innovative data, algorithms, and procedures to measure and predict success.
We engaged the entire company in naming our new internal, proprietary technology system, which is revolutionizing the way we do things and is poised to soon revolutionize the industry. We also incubated a startup—Whitetruffle—outside of the company that helps match candidates and clients and creates an inbound model (as opposed to our going out to find people). After all, how could we deliver the best service and experience if we couldn't expedite our offerings to our clients?
Listen, we all know that in a service company and a service industry you need to deliver service, but that concept has been all but lost. So our particular Vision was to reestablish what we are all about and what we should be all about—service and experience—and let that Vision become an overall guide when it comes to specific thoughts, decisions, and actions. With a great Vision, we didn't have to tell our employees what to do, because they knew what needed to be done (and delivered) with the Vision. And that meshes with the three things employees want most: Purpose, Autonomy, and Compensation. The first one, Purpose, you will read about in greater detail later in this book. The third, Compensation, is obvious. But when it comes to the second want, Autonomy, a great Vision ensures that employees are free to do their creative part. They don't need to be told what to do because they know what needs to be done.
When your Vision is "delivering the best service and experience," that's what the employees create and deliver. If it's not the best service and experience, they don't create or deliver it. The Vision helps guide your creativity and delivery and becomes self-managing over time, once it's in your DNA.
It's the Vision; so it's what everyone does.
It didn't take long before the recruiting company's Vision attracted employees who didn't want to work at other firms because we were doing it differently, and better. They wanted to join a winner. And our customers and clients? They realized that they had better service and a better experience with us, so they kept coming back. Our repeat business started to climb. We grew 300 percent the first year alone, and we haven't stopped since. We made Inc.'s list of America's fastest-growing companies two years in a row and climbing, and the firm's two owners made the roster of the Silicon Valley 100.
So is the recruiting company there yet? has it arrived? No way! The business is just at the beginning of the journey and still has a long way to go. But you know what? The company is definitely going somewhere. And the cool thing is that everyone is on board. Not bad at all for a nine-yearold company whose growth was flat and whose employee turnover was 100 percent. How did the company do it? It transformed and created its unique Culture by implementing the strategies that you are reading about now, in this book, beginning with a foundational Vision statement.
As I said, the company isn't done or even close to reaching its peak. Its new empowering culture is driving its success. Oh, and by the way, the new internal motto is to keep taking it to the Next Level, and that's exactly what they company does, because it is constantly enlarging the biggest room in the house—"The room for Improvement."
So hang in there as you create your Vision. You may not get it on the first attempt. But the reason for doing it will be as clear as glass when you look at some of the great examples later on in this section.
Let your North Star lead you to greatness
A company Vision, like the North Star, can be a guiding light for employees. It should keep them inspired, motivated, loyal, and pointed in the right direction. A company Vision doesn't need to be about its current products or offerings; it should focus on the opportunities that it can offer or deliver in the future, while keeping customers in mind.
Here's little tale that I hope will paint a picture for you. The company in this story isn't real, but its problem is very real for many organizations I've seen.
Once there was a company that was stuck. It was called the McPherson Aerosol Can Company. It wanted to grow, but since it made only aerosol cans, the firm's leaders knew they could only do so much with their product—change the nozzle, tweak the can shape, or put different liquids inside. McPherson had a hard time differentiating itself from any other company making aerosol cans, and employees couldn't advance because there was virtually no growth. Morale was poor.
What made things worse is that material costs kept going up, and when overseas suppliers came to the market with less expensive aerosol cans, that squeezed profit margins even more. As for employees, not only did no one get a raise, everyone also had to do more work during regular shifts to make up the difference of the company's cost-cutting methods. The future of the company and its employees was looking bleak.
Then something happened. Management was desperate to grow the business, and employees also knew that growth would help them elevate their work lives. So a young employee went to his boss and suggested that the company change its name from McPherson Aerosol Can Company to McPherson Container Corporation. The young man thought that altering the name would open up all sorts of markets. After all, if they could contain things in a highly pressurized aerosol can, they could contain just about anything.
So the name was changed and the new name—McPherson Container Corporation—prompted the company's new Vision: "We Contain All Liquids, Solids, and Gases."
What happened? With its new name and Vision, the company found that it had opened up virtually every market that had to do with a container and was no longer restricted to aerosol cans. From milk cartons, paint cans, and cardboard boxes to plastic bags and shipping containers, there was virtually no end to the products that needed to be contained. The real kicker was that the container industry was stuck in the past, without much reinvention going on. With new designs and enhanced capabilities, the McPherson Container Corporation opened up a bright new future. It could take advantage of all kinds of innovation and improvements.
With changes like these, the company entered a golden field of opportunities. And it began with a change of name and a Vision that became a North Star for all thoughts, decisions, and actions.
What do you think your company can do?
Having your Vision clear not only in your head but also clear in the minds of your team and all your employees will create energy, excitement, and a positive force that will generate amazing results, both in profits and in creating a winning culture.
Here's another simple example: Suppose you owned a limousine company whose Vision was "Taking People from here to There." What if you switched your Vision to: "Making Every Occasion Special." I bet that Vision would change the way you did things, by aligning your thoughts, decisions, and actions with "Making Every Occasion Special." Just by embracing that new Vision, you would have a different and far more popular and successful business.
How important is it to have a compelling Vision around which your employees focus all their efforts? It's crucial, as you can see in the following fable.
The story of the three masons
In early Babylonia, the king had a Vision: to commission the world's finest and largest stone temple. This was to be his and his people's legacy to the world.
To ensure that the temple was in alignment with the Vision of the king, his highest aide interviewed masons from the three different contractors who were responsible for the project's construction. He asked each one what he did.
The first mason's response was, "I am just stacking brick after brick. I don't know why we are doing this project or what it will become. My boss just told me to stack bricks. It will probably never get done, and I think it is a waste of time." The king's assistant was dumbfounded to hear the first mason's opinion. Didn't everyone know about the king's Vision of the temple?
Talking to mason number two produced a similar result. His response was, "My job is to lay bricks in a straight row. I am not sure what the final project will look like, and I don't know when it is supposed to be completed. I really don't care. My workers and I just do what we are told. The project means nothing to us; it's just a job that puts a roof over our heads and feeds us." Again, the king's assistant was surprised to hear the second mason's comments. Couldn't the mason and his workers see what was being created? It was a temple on the grandest scale. The best marble was ready to be laid on the floors; fine sculptures, carpets, and murals were on hand to decorate this magnificent building. There were clues everywhere about what was going on. The king's assistant was astounded by this mason's inability to understand the Vision of the project and see what the temple would look like.
Asked about his responsibilities, mason number three told the king's assistant, "I am doing my part in creating a masterpiece. I am carefully laying one brick at a time, paying attention to every detail because I am excited to be involved in this project. My efforts will be a part of the greatest stone temple ever built, which will help serve the world and the world's people for many generations to come."
Finally! Someone got it! The third mason understood the king's Vision and was not only inspired to work on the temple but was also honored to be a part of the project. He was doing his finest work. The king's assistant knew that mason number three and his team would do an outstanding job on their part of the project. If only the other masons had the same Vision as the third, this would truly be the grandest temple in the world.
If a company has a Vision to "create the world's finest and largest stone temple," then using inferior products, shoddy workmanship, or uninspired masons will not work.
Think about your own company, your Vision, and your employees. Which of the three masons would you want working in your company? It's obvious you would select mason number three for your team, since that person would share your Vision and enthusiasm.
Excerpted from THE CULTURE SECRET by DAVID VIK Copyright © 2013 by David Vik. Excerpted by permission of Greenleaf Book Group Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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