The following excerpt was made through The Entrepreneurs’ Organization (a dynamic, global network of more than 7,500 business owners in 38 countries)
Q&A with Ann Rhoades, author of Built on Values: Creating an Enviable Culture that Outperforms the Competition.Based on Ann’s years of experience with JetBlue, Southwest and other companies known for their trailblazing corporate cultures, Built on Values reveals exactly how leaders can create winning environments that allow their employees and their companies to thrive.
Overdrive: How integral is a company’s culture to its overall success and profitability?
AnnR: Every company has a culture, but a negative culture – where employees feel used up and spit out – works against your ability to succeed and make profit. You need a positive culture that empowers people to outperform the competition. High performers like JetBlue, Southwest, GE, Starbucks and Zappos, have a strong, distinct culture that employees are conscious of and use every day. Leaders need to keep in mind that companies like Pan Am, Eastern Airlines and even Enron had strong cultures in the beginning that ultimately became negative and failed their people.
O: What’s the best way to get your employees to buy into your mission and vision?
AnnR: As I outline in Built on Values, your mission and vision – what I call your values – must be built into every aspect of your business. The easiest way to make them concrete for your employees is to build them into a simple set of metrics that employees can have an impact on. These can be both corporate dashboard goals and metrics for each division or department of your company. You can then build games and even your reward systems on achieving these values-based metrics.
O:How can I maintain my company culture in the face of crisis?
AnnR: Realize that a positive corporate culture is your best weapon for responding to a crisis. For example, in February 2007, an ice storm kept a plane full of JetBlue passengers on the runway at JFK for ten hours. Just days after the incident, JetBlue introduced a passenger’s bill of rights, the first in the country, offering customers increasing levels of cash compensation based on the length of any flight delay that is the fault of the airline. When we followed up with the passengers who had sat on the plane for ten hours, we found that 80 percent had a favorable opinion of Jet Blue even after that horrible experience and were still flying the airline. Eighty percent. Most of them said it was because of Jet Blue’s honest and transparent response to the situation, which arose from our culture. You may also use a crisis as the opportunity to revitalize your culture. In the face of plummeting performance, Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz closed all his stores for three hours in 2009 so that his people could recommit to living the company’s values and mission. And look at what his bottom line has done since then.
You can read the rest of this Q&A session on Entrepreneur’s Organization blog.