Build To Serve
Dan J. Sanders – Reviewed by Ray Silverstein
Leaders have spent far too much time focusing on fiscal resources and not enough time focusing on human resources. Long-term success is a result of putting more effort into building a positive, people-centered culture than poring over profit and loss statements.
The bottom line is not about price and profit; it is about choice and culture.
The author, Dan J. Sanders is president of United Supermarkets. One reason for its success is the United’s team members are genuinely considered family and United’s workforce displays the rhythm and innovation of a seasoned team. The company’s mission is defined by just six words: Ultimate Service, Superior Performance, and Positive Impact. The company is sustained by a culture-driven, people centered approach to business. The team members recognize personal relationships are their business.
The author believes the global culture that prevails today is broken. What is needed is a radical transformation—a monumental paradigm shift that will reshape our present understanding of the true purpose of work. This transformation begins with accepting the idea that an organization’s culture is the wellspring of sustained success. When the culture models this kind of vibrancy, such positive elements as growth, profitability, and good corporate citizenry are natural by-products. People are fulfilled professionally and personally, and organizations find deep meaning, resulting in a positive impact on the communities they serve. This is a business model that places people ahead of profits and service ahead of statistics.
A sustainable culture is built from the inside out. It starts with leadership that places the highest level of importance on human beings and a corresponding premium on recruiting, hiring, and training—both academic and experiential training—to equip and empower. A people-centered culture does not comprise values; rather, it seeks to remain faithful to values—even when remaining faithful means doing things differently from everyone else.
A leader’s actions, not words, form the basis for learning and eventually handing down a culture. People centered cultures are focused on marketing the work, not on advertising work that needs to be done. Example, rocks to be picked up (advertising), making a game of picking up the rocks (marketing). We all know unglamorous jobs exist in any profession, Even so, the successful completion of the work is largely the result of our mental approach to the task.
An organization’s ability to serve will be the last tool that can provide a competitive advantage in a crowded marketplace. Organizations desiring sustained success simply must embrace culture-driven, people-centered philosophy.
Understanding Higher Math:
Higher math requires an emotional alignment of the leader with all levels of the workforce. It is about building trust and having a positive impact on people. Financial statements are only a small part of the story. Spreadsheets fail to convey the emotional status of an organization’s leadership. They are tools and nothing more—fine when it comes to numbers, of limited use when it comes to the human factor. Simply put, engaging people in a manner meant to maximize their contributions makes a difference for both the organization and its people. People-centered organizations speak the language of potential—not so much as it relates to a sales number, but rather as it relates to the workforce itself.
Are people in your organization considered an expense or an asset?
People-centered organizations connect the work they are doing with the mission they are committed accomplishing. A sustainable culture-driven, people centered enterprise exists when team members take ownership of what they are doing and realize it is important and essential to the higher purpose. Cultures focused on people unleash the imagination and lift performance to new heights—to a higher purpose. Example. Medtronic, assembly of heart values… higher purpose, saving lives maybe a co-worker or family member.
The Emerging Career Model:
The people-centered culture relies on leaders who genuinely connect with team members.
Connected team members understand the organization’s vision and mission. Because of that, they recognize the unique importance of their own specific role. Everyone is empowered in a culture-driven, people centered organization.
United Supermarkets calls human resources, talent management. It is customary to base cash compensation on performance, however, consider alternatives where the psychological value is not lost. Trips and special events are a great way to recognize achievement and acknowledge team members throughout an organization.
Making Winners Fail:
As the leader, you can delegate authority, but you can never delegate responsibility. Successful leaders truly belong to their follows. The leader’s ability to understand servanthood and friendship is the difference between a career that flounders and a career that flourishes. Friendship means much more than simply what one person can do for another. It is an emotional investment in each other’s lives, creating a special bond, a common journey. Without investing the time necessary to establish relationships, an organization’s leaders will never realize that difficult-to-reach level of trust and peace..
Fortunately, once the relationships are established, the friendships are formed, and the teaching is under way, a leader learns the important lesson of letting go. Great leaders understand servanthood comes first, before mentoring and friendship. In sustainable organizations, connecting what people do on a daily basis with the higher purpose is paramount. The degree to which that connection resonates with the workforce is directly proportional to the degree to which the workforce feels a part of the community. The word community implies a sense of sharing in common—a sense of family.
People are promoted not for what they have done but for what they can do. When promoting someone to a new position, do so with the confidence that the person has the skills to succeed in that position. It is not enough to say someone was good in the past; the person has to be good in the future.
As leaders, we must resist the temptation to promote winners before they are ready. The success of team members rests on our willingness to take the time to forge relationships by first exhibiting servanthood—a genuine desire to help others make the most of their potential. Therefore, leaders must discern when team members are ready for promotion. And it is the leader’s job to ensure winners on the team win.
Telling Players From Fans:
Organizations are like teams. In fact, teams are composed of players and fans. Players represent the team every day of the week because, whether or not they are playing, they are still a part of the team. Players are apprised of the team’s strategies and tactics, know the “playbook,” and take ownership of their role in the overall success of each play. They rely on one another for support, and they recognize and embrace their teammates’ strengths. They win together and lose together. They exude camaraderie, loyalty and unity.
On the other hand, fans are fickle. If the team is winning, they are happy. If the team is losing, they are unhappy. Fans can actually infiltrate the team, interfering with the players focused on getting the job done.
Far too many organizations subscribe to a “needs-based” approach to hiring. In other words, no serious recruiting, interviewing, or actual hiring of talent takes place until a specific need arises. This is especially popular in numbers-orientated cultures.
Hiring “warm bodies” allows impostors to penetrate organizations. Too often, “warm bodies” fail to appreciate the organization’s vision, much less its values. Culture-driven, people centered organization adopt a healthier approach. They are always looking for players, even if no need exists.
The model begins with a vision of who you are and mission of what you want to achieve. In culture-driven, people centered organizations, values serve as a litmus test for a leader’s vision. Players with a clear vision will make great things happen. Players who have lost the vision creep over to the right side of the life-cycle curve. It begins with nostalgic thinking. Saying, “Let’s just go back to the way it used to be.” The problem with nostalgic thinking is it presents an impossible solution.
Stage two of the journey prompts unproductive questioning, which tears down a healthy organization. Often, these are complaints disguised with questions. Such as, why do have to keep this area so clean? If we are lucky, team members who reach state three will eventually move on to stage four and quit, but remarkably, people in stage three tend to hand on forever.
So how does a leader move people from the right hand side of the curve back to the left hand side? First , in a culture-driven, people-centered organization, it is the leader’s responsibility to remove impostors—to get the fans off the floor. Second, everyone creeps over the right-hand side of the curve from time to time, but most of us choose not to stay there. When we find ourselves distracted, the answer to getting back on the positive side of the graph is to refocus on re-embrace the vision—this is the key, the answer. The vision is everything when it comes to moving team members from ineffectiveness to effectiveness. Culture-driven, people-centered organizations never stop talking about their vision.
Defining The Who: See The Vision:
Vision matters. An organization’s vision represents the purpose of its existence—the heart of what it is an entity. Knowing and understanding the vision creates a level playing field for an organization’s team members and partners. In culture-driven, people-centered organizations, training manuals and checklists may have a role in standardizing policies or programs, thy they do not take the place of the organization’s heart and soul.
A clearly communicated and understood vision statement empowers team members to make decisions that support the organization’s higher purpose. Since leaders cannot delegate responsibility, they must rely on delegating authority ot get much of the work done. It is impossible to equip everyone with a list of action steps that will cover every conceivable scenario. What is compelling about a great vision well communicated is people will do almost anything to keep from compromising it.
In culture-driven, people-centered organization, leaders celebrate actions that support the vision, even if people occasionally bend or break some rules or policies in the process. In culture-driven, people-centered organization, leaders spend more time building relationships and communicating the vision to people and less time devising way to catch people intent on disrupting the process. Communicating the vision effectively allows supervisors to present disciplinary steps in the context of the higher authority.
The psychology of gains and losses and the finding that there is greater fear of loss than desire of gain. This is particularly true in Western culture because ego plays such an important part of self esteem. Business leaders capable of exchanging their ego for humility are more likely to see upside potential and gains than people are imprisoned by fear.
Many business leaders will not seek opportunities that require risk because they do not want to fail and suffer a hit to their egos. Failure to keep people informed leads to fear, the second-biggest obstacle to successful vision attainment. The first is pride.
Leaders must never grow tired of talking or modeling their vision. They may change it from time to time, but they must constantly remind their followers of the vision.
To develop the vision:
1. Think big. Ask stakeholders to share ideas regarding the need for the organization’s existence. Ensure the emphasis is on culture and people.
2. Identify what sustainable difference the organization will make for humankind that will transcend time.
3. Focus on the vitals—those deep seated values the team is unwilling to comprise.
Keep it short, less is more when it comes to articulating who you are. An effective vision statement has more to do with significance than with success.
When Things Go Bad (And They Will:
At no time is an organization’s sustainability more important than when bad things happen. Sometimes the pain is self-inflicted, and other time external forces deliver the blow a culture-driven, people-centered organization allows it persevere and rebuild.
Leaders must radiate positive energy throughout the organization when things are going well, and especially when they are not. Leaders should never deplete their team members’ energy; they should create it.
“Be Here Now.” The importance of living in the present moment.
- Have you ever been with someone who was not there?
- Have you ever been with someone and they were not there?
- Have you ever been at a meeting and no one was there?
- Have you ever gone home and left your brain at work?
When things go bad, leaders need a place where they can talk, listen, and remove themselves from the day-to-day chatter work. In culture-driven, people-centered organizations, human beings communicate with human beings. Progress is cultivated through a common understanding that solutions are ongoing dialogues for transforming relationships. Even when problems exist the best course of action is to communicate those issues openly and honestly.
Albert Einstein once wrote, “In the middle of every difficulty lies an opportunity.” Opportunities abound because we have choices to make. Healing starts where pride stops.
The 4P Management System:
The 4P’s of Management system required manager to address issues related to people, process, partners and performance with equal interest. Understanding the 4P’s starts with the observation that management begins and ends with human beings—people and partners. In misaligned cultures, organization prefer the opposite, beginning with performance and ending with human beings.
The 4P’s begins with the people inside the organization—the team members responsible for carrying out the day-to-day tasks necessary to operate the business. The next element of the model is process. Everything that happens inside an organization is a process. The key to improving performance is the elimination of as many obstructions in the process as possible. The further removed leaders are from the actual process, the harder it is for them to determine what is causing the obstruction. The sources of that information are the teams that use the process every day. They know precisely where the obstructions are located because they must work around those obstructions to carry out their duties.
Great ideas can spring from anyone in an organization. The culture of the organization dictates whether they surface. The third element in the 4P’s is partners, a term used to identify the importance of suppliers and buyers—customers, and users of the products and services sold by an organization.
During the past 50 years, customers have become a necessary inconvenience for many organization. Rather than embracing and celebrating the people who purchase their products and services, such organization merely tolerate them. When this happens, few, if any, organizations realize sustained success. Treating customers like partners is often overlooked, but it is important to culture-driven, people-centered organizations.
Culture-driven, people-centered organizations recognize poor performance is symptomatic of deeper problems—problems that require engaging people and changing processes. In this view, performance measurements are mere indicators—tools that prompt additional investigation and productive questioning. Performance measurements alone prompt more questions than they answer.
Humility Trumps Pride:
The biggest threat to an organization’s success is pride. In a culture-driven, people-centered organization, honest feedback is a must.
Pride is an interesting word. It has multiple meanings, some of them in direct conflict with one another. For example, one definition of pride involves a feeling of elation or satisfaction over one’s achievements, while another suggests a high or overbearing opinion of one’s own importance. Culture-driven, people-centered organizations seek to maximize the feeling of elation and satisfaction, derived from achievement and minimize any high or overbearing opinion of one’s worth or importance.
To accomplish this, first, organizations must keep people focused on the future, not the past. The destructive nature of pride is reinforced by what people have done, not what they have yet to do. Culture-driven, people-centered organizations are always moving toward what they want to become, as opposed to basking in their accomplishments.
Second, organizations must keep people focus on the pursuit of excellence, not the path to mediocrity. The pursuit of excellence forces people to confront their weaknesses, adapt their thinking, and keep their egos in check. Organizations must also keep people focused on the right kind of role models.
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