Here we are coming up on the end of 2021. The Automotive industry is changing dramatically, and so are many business these day. As we continue to get caught up in the fallout of COVID, inventory shortages and whatnot, I thought it would be fitting to offer my thoughts on how businesses can avoid setbacks as they pivot, twist, turn and rethink the way they’ve been doing business.
Business transitional phases can be quite tumultuous to say the least. New objectives, job losses, new policies and procedures, rumors, fear, anger, frustration and resistance to change become the new normal for a period of time. With all the negative emotion in the air, keeping things flowing in the desired direction can be quite challenging.
I once heard it said that discipline is essential to moving your plan forward. I certainly agree with this. Developing a plan is relatively easy. Implementing requires the discipline to remain organized and committed to achieving the end result every step of the way.
Transitioning your business often requires making a shift in the values that shape the culture of your organization. As someone who has spent considerable time studying and teaching others about employee engagement, this is especially interesting to me. I once read that creating a culture of urgency, meritocracy, curiosity and respect is an important element of successful business transition. I couldn’t agree more, but sometimes that’s much easier said than done.
I’ve been thinking about this subject a lot lately and decided to use my expertise to provide interested business owners with a little insight into ways to instill those values in their employees and keep the process of business transition moving forward.
A higher rate of urgency does not imply ever-present panic, anxiety, or fear. It means a state in which complacency is virtually absent. - John P. Kotter
Urgency: Nothing gets done in an organization until people are first and foremost able to understand the importance of an initiative. In order to create a sense of urgency and move the business forward, make sure employees know how these initiatives will positively affect both the individual employees and the business as a whole. Once you’ve done that, then you can begin to build accountability through the use of project planning spreadsheets and regular 1:1 meetings.
In your communications you should always speak to the company’s goals and the values of timeliness and task completion. In other words, make the most of every opportunity to communicate the importance of getting things done quickly and efficiently.
When it comes to work, there is a fear factor around meritocracy. People are afraid of being openly judged. However, when you know what you are being measured against, it's empowering. - Maynard Webb
Meritocracy: One major pitfall of having a corporate culture based purely on meritocracy is that having to “measure up” all the time can create a culture of competitiveness and backstabbing. That is nothing new in most corporate environments, however. The key is to be careful which behaviors you are rewarding. Managers who fudge numbers to make themselves look good often get bonus payouts based on their “merit”. That’s not exactly a behavior that will move your business in the right direction.
So how can you reward without compromising the value of integrity and spoiling your corporate culture? The trick lies first in creating fool proof systems that make cheating difficult. Secondly, consider providing incentives and rewards for employee initiative, co-operative behaviors, suggestions for process improvement, and other behaviors that will keep your business moving forward.
Performance reviews are important in business, so don’t abandon them. If you use them as a tool for providing useful feedback and encouraging excellence, rather than a tool for undermining your staff, you will alleviate the troubles caused by an overly competitive culture.
“Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers.” – Stephen R. Covey
Respect: I once had a friend whose daughter had fallen quite ill with e-coli poisoning. Her kidneys shut down and she was near death. Because he had to go to the hospital and miss some time from work, his boss asked him, “How long is this e-coli thing going to last?” His insensitivity was irksome. The boss didn’t care that his direct report’s child was dying in the hospital. Work had to be done and deadlines needed to be met.
Here’s a news flash. Having no respect or value for your people will never help you get things done faster. All good relationships are built on a platform of mutual respect. Good things happen when people show appreciation for the efforts and opinions of others.
Reinforce the value of mutual respect by living it at work and in your personal life. Hold town hall meetings to gather feedback from employees and take every opportunity to recognize extraordinary efforts.
Show that you value your employees’ free time, family commitments, opposing opinions, lifestyle choices, etc. When you foster a culture of mutual respect, employees will want to do more for you. That is where employee engagement begins.
Pay attention to those employees who respectfully ask why. They are demonstrating an interest in their jobs and exhibiting a curiosity that could eventually translate into leadership ability. - Harvey Mackay
Curiosity: It is arrogance that causes leaders to discourage questions. Ego dominated leadership is not real leadership. Creating a culture where curiosity can flourish means allowing your employees to freely give opinions and question processes for the sake of continuous improvement. Employees should feel emotionally safe in their work environment and be encouraged to maximize their own expertise rather than stifle it to make the boss happy.
Encourage your employees to seek learning opportunities that bring value to the company, its employees and customers. If you provide incentives to employees for seeking cross functional learning, post-secondary education, etc., and you allow curiosity to flourish in your organization, you will enrich your corporate culture and have access to more brain power than your competitors ever will. Employees who are interested in their work and the company as a whole will happily follow through to see that your new initiatives are carried out with excellence.
"The price of doing the same old thing is far higher than the price of change." - Bill Clinton
Acceptance: Part of creating a culture of acceptance to change involves defining the "new" values and living them in your day-to-day operations. When the mind of an organization shifts to a more positive focus, so will the behaviors and results that follow.
The concept of carrying out a smooth business transition may seem a bit contradictory, but it really is a process whereby one must first, quite deliberately create a culture of acceptance to change.