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2 Key Drivers to Enable Growth in a Zombie Culture

by Kevin D. Crone

November 6, 2017
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Every company wants and plans for growth, but when their offering borders on the ho-hum or borderline irrelevant, they usually need a group behind them whose culture and structure is capable of creating something new and better for their customers and marketplace …now! In today’s fast-paced business environment just about every mature business needs to be refreshed and refitted to enable growth. The two key drivers today are:

  1. Value
  2. Relevance

This morning, I’ll highlight two examples of companies who continually do that. I just drove by a Mattamy Homes sign on Dundas Street in North Oakville. I swear, a whole community of Mattamy Homes were not there the last time I was in that area. How does this large corporation keep growing and succeeding? I saw Peter Gilgan, its founder and CEO, interviewed on a Canadian Bloomberg TV show. Here are some highlights.

It’s the culture. We don’t get lost on the bottom line. We make value the most important element especially what the customer values. In order to be about value, we ask a ton of questions such as:

  • What do our customers respect and need to help them with their family?
  • What do our employees value?
  • What shows them respect?
  • What are they passionate about?
  • What do the young ones want?

We then get aligned with what our customer’s family and our family wants. We make sure, as best we can, that our priorities match up to this core foundation philosophy.

I was somewhat shocked to hear this sophisticated, well spoken business man say things on a show that is loaded with the latest stats and hard, tangible trends.

It occurred to me the zombie culture of staggering along in a ‘disinterested in anything but themselves’ environment with no chance of change isn’t cool. Culture really matters. The big question is – does a culture of asking others, empathy, listening, alignment and respect, work everywhere in producing growth and business results?

I studied another leader, Satya Nadella, who is the new CEO of Microsoft, whose company was deemed to be getting irrelevant and left behind in 2014 to leading it to a 250 billion dollar increase in market value in just two years. Wow! Yes $250 billion! What a turnaround. What did he focus on —— the culture. He realized he had to refit the culture to allow and cause the growth required. Satya knew that to refit a business it would be tough to do without refreshing the people.

Satya got his team talking about the new culture that was required. He lived by it, got his team to read about the behaviours needed, listened and addressed everyone’s concerns in living the behaviours, conducted different kinds of meetings and taught the distinctions so everyone would get the difference from what the old culture was and what it is now. For example, he said they had to go from:

  • “know it all” scientists to a “learn it all organization”
  • the cutthroat world of corporate politics to the soft skills of empathy, concern and respect
  • testing people and insulting them one-on-one or in groups, to inspiring employees at company meetings, asking their input, giving positive feedback and allowing people to fail
  • showing off how smart you are to collaborating by drawing everyone into relaxed dialogues.

Nadella and his team are now asking others, including past competitors:

  • What is going on?
  • What are you struggling with?
  • What would change your business?

He especially focused on his customers. They went from a smothering, slow moving bureaucracy to moving quickly based on the new data.

In those zombie cultures, he says what’s missing in most businesspeople is empathy and it can be developed as a behaviour. He refitted the mission from a pc on every desk to empowering every person and organization on the planet to achieve more . He made tough decisions such as writing off out-of-date Nokia. And through listening to and empowering innovative teams, he created new services and products and alliances that expanded their sales. He attracted, hired, and built leaders who inspire and empower versus the command and control types they used to hire. He developed leaders who are open, generous and build spirit, versus the aggressiveness and subterfuge used by the past builders and founders of the company.

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In conclusion, a business strategy based on real market needs and trends and a culture that supports and moves on innovative ideas is a great and modern way to achieve accelerated growth.

Culture is the difference to whether strategy works or not. Culture is how people think. It gets rooted in old conversations and rituals and is backed up by the old guard. It is invisible to those who are in it. That is why the conversations and behaviours must change if you want a changed culture and movement growth. Successful execution of a new culture, a new refit happens when it is led by an inspirational leader. The kind of leader who engages, not just tells, and demonstrates empathy, empowers, and builds human experiences as well as technical ones.

Tools and people behaviours can be learned. To that point, from my over 50 years in helping people and organizations grow, my coaching today is:

  • If you want a 30% increase in productivity in your team, try being 15% more interested in them.
  • Try on 15% more empathy.
  • Stop talking. Find out what they are interested in, what they are struggling with.
  • What are they passionate about?

Now help them succeed.

If you want to be 30% more relevant in the marketplace do the same with your customers.
I don’t know, but being a zombie must be pitiful!

What is important to you from this Monday Morning Mentor? What are you going to do?

Kevin D. Crone
Dale Carnegie Business Group
(905) 826-7300

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