All In: How the Best Managers Create a Culture of Belief and Drive Big Results

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9781451659825: All In: How the Best Managers Create a Culture of Belief and Drive Big Results

The authors of the bestsellers The Carrot Principle and The Orange Revolution present groundbreaking new findings: In the highest-performing teams and companies, managers create a “culture of belief,” following seven essential steps of leadership.

To have any hope of succeeding as a manager, you need to get your people all in.

Whether you manage the smallest of teams or a multi-continent organization, you are the owner of a work culture—congratulations—and few things will have a bigger impact on your performance than getting your people to buy into your ideas and your cause and to believe what they do matters.

Bestselling authors of The Carrot Principle and The Orange Revolution, Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton return to answer the most overlooked leadership questions of our day: Why are some managers able to get their employees to commit wholeheartedly to their culture and give that extra push that leads to outstanding results? And how can managers at any level build and sustain a profitable, vibrant work-group culture of their own?

These leading workplace experts teamed up with research giant Towers Watson to analyze an unprecedented 300,000-person study, and they made a groundbreaking finding: managers of the highest-performing work groups create a “culture of belief.” In these distinctive workplaces, people believe in their leaders and in the company’s vision, values, and goals. Employees are not only engaged but also enabled and energized (termed the three Es), which leads to astonishing results—average annual revenues three times higher than for organizations lacking such a positive culture. And this was true during a period that included this most recent recession.

Based on their extensive consulting experience and in-depth interviews with leaders and employees at exceptional companies such as American Express, Cigna, Avis Budget, Pepsi Bottling, and Hard Rock, the authors present a simple seven-step road map for creating a culture of belief: define a burning platform; create a customer focus; develop agility; share everything; partner with your talent; root for each other; and establish clear accountability. Delving into specific how-tos for each step, they share eye-opening stories of exceptional leaders in action, vividly depicting just how these powerful methods can be implemented by any manager.

All In draws on cutting-edge psychology and all of the creative genius that have made Gostick and Elton a must-read for leaders worldwide. This vital resource will empower managers everywhere to inspire a new level of commitment and performance.

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About the Author:

Adrian Gostick is the New York Times bestselling coauthor of The Carrot Principle and The Orange Revolution, which are sold in more than fifty countries around the world. He is a founder of the global training and consulting firm The Culture Works, with a focus in Recognition, Teamwork, and Culture. Learn more at TheCultureWorks.com or AdrianGostick.com.
Chester Elton is coauthor of The Carrot Principle and The Orange Revolution, a popular lecturer, and an influential voice in global workplace trends. He is a founder of The Culture Works and advises the leadership teams of numerous Fortune 500 firms on cultural issues. Learn more at TheCultureWorks.com or ChesterElton.com.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

All In
1



Get in the Wheelbarrow

Why Aren’t They Giving Their All?

Some twenty-five thousand onlookers had turned out on June 30, 1859, as a flamboyant, mustached Frenchman known as the Great Blondin stepped out onto a three-inch cord that stretched across roaring Niagara Falls. They were in high spirits, curious to see if the daredevil would become the first person to cross the chasm on a tightrope or if he would plummet to his death. Either way it would be a day to remember.

Blondin had been born as Jean-François Gravelet and had been an acrobat since childhood, raised in the circus tents of Europe. He knew his craft, and the showman had no doubt he would be successful. It was not bravado; it was merely something he took to be a fact—as true as the sky being blue. And, as history shows, he not only crossed the fifteen-hundred-foot-wide falls without a stumble but even paused to perform a back somersault on his return trip. The breathless crowd erupted into wild cheers when he set his feet on firm ground.

The Great Blondin would cross the gorge eight times over the next decade, all with theatrical variations—blindfolded, on stilts, but most often trundling a small wheelbarrow. As you can imagine, crowds flocked to see him and he began to draw loyal devotees. According to accounts, the mob on one summer day was especially boisterous, and they gave him a chorus of hurrahs as he approached pushing his familiar barrow.

“Do you believe I can cross the falls with this wheelbarrow?” he called out.

“Yes!” they yelled as one.

“Wonderful,” he said. “Then who will get in?”

Many in the crowd laughed but then fell silent as they realized he wasn’t joking. Blondin waited as the seconds ticked by; a haze of gray cigar smoke hung just above their heads. They stood awkward and immobile. There were no takers. Blondin had hoped his fans would believe, as he did, in his infallible prowess on the high wire. They said they did, but they really didn’t.

Then someone did. Blondin’s agent, Harry Colcord, took off his silk top hat and waved it high above his head. He was volunteering.

Blondin was greatly moved by the gesture. Despite the drama of the day, he actually hadn’t intended to wheel anyone across the falls, but Colcord’s offer sparked an idea. Instead of pushing his agent then, he returned a few months later and carried Colcord across the falls on his shoulders, an amazing feat considering the man was only a few pounds lighter than the showman.

Let’s stop there. This book is clearly not about daredevils or tightrope walkers, but about a related drama that is taking place in organizations every day, all around the world. While most managers by now understand that their most reliable competitive advantage comes from their people, few of them actually know how to get people “all in”—convincing employees to truly buy into their ideas and the strategy they’ve put forward, to give that extra push that leads to outstanding results.

It’s not for lack of effort. Most leaders we meet seem to be bending over backward for their people. They walk the floor, listen respectfully to their employees’ ideas, and try to be accommodating. They’ve been taught they need to be people managers, not slaves to process, and as a result they’re focusing more, one-on-one, on the needs of each person in their care.

And yet overall performance isn’t improving, or not nearly enough.

This is backed up by the data we see. Employee engagement scores haven’t improved much at most organizations after many years of effort, and companies aren’t seeing markedly greater amounts of innovation or employee initiative. As hard as managers have been working, something’s missing: It’s culture.

Whether you manage the smallest of teams or a multicontinent organization, you are the proud owner of a culture—congratulations—and it’s important to understand that the effectiveness of that culture will have a big impact on your performance. If your culture is clear, positive, and strong, then your people will buy into your ideas and cause and, most important, will believe what they do matters and that they can make a difference. That pervasive enthusiasm and energy will spread like perfume in the atmosphere. On the other hand, if your culture is dysfunctional—chaotic, combative, or indifferent—employees will most likely spend more time thinking about why the people sitting next to them should be fired than getting fired up themselves.

Now, a reader might ask why the carrot guys are writing a book on culture. The answer is simple: We’ve worked with clients on leadership issues for almost twenty years now, and hardly a week has gone by that we haven’t excitedly called each other to talk about a fascinating corporate culture we’ve just stumbled upon. For a long time we’ve believed that culture is what makes teams and organizations great, and yet no one was talking about it in popular business literature and it seemed that no one really wanted to. Perhaps culture seemed the sole purview of CEOs and human resource departments. Unquestionably the boss of a small IT department or regional call center wouldn’t have the audacity to claim he had a culture, right?

But over the last few years something has changed. As we meet with new clients, expecting them to want us to work with them on the more focused ideas of employee recognition or teamwork, the subjects of our two last books, they keep steering the conversation back to culture. And not just their overall corporate culture; they have awoken to the fact that if the culture in their Cincinnati office isn’t working, then no amount of thank-yous or esprit de corps will help.

They have learned that if a culture works, then everything works better.

Take the case of Andrew Heath, who when we met him was the newly appointed president of the energy business of Rolls-Royce, one of the four sectors of the iconic British firm. Heath’s face lit up as he described a business improvement team of seventy people he had led years before in the company’s aerospace business. With more work than the team could reasonably achieve, he knew he needed to create a “special environment” where people would truly care about the success of the venture. He needed more than discretionary effort; he needed to create a culture “where employees would see the problem before them as a challenge rather than as something to drag them down.”

Heath realized he couldn’t achieve the assigned goals by force of character alone. He needed to change his leadership style and engage the whole team by asking them what they thought would increase their commitment to the job, what help they needed, and what would give them greater satisfaction. They came up with ideas to pair new employees with senior people, identify training needs, present above-and-beyond awards for great work (a favorite became bottles of champagne), hold regular update luncheons, and so on. Unassuming things, really, but the outcome was not only increased employee ownership and dramatic business results but also a level of camaraderie that is rare.

“We achieved more than we thought possible. The team and I had never worked so hard in our lives. It was a tough assignment, but we had such fun in the process,” Heath said. “I knew we had created a special culture together, but it only really struck me how much impact it had on the individual team members when we got together for a reunion a few years later. Everyone spoke of the profound effect it had had on their subsequent leadership styles.”

Savvy leaders like Heath realize it is culture that will differentiate your team or organization and drive real business results.

John F. W. Rogers, distinguished partner of the investment banking firm Goldman Sachs, put his finger on the crucial role of culture when he said, “Our bankers travel on the same planes as our competitors. We stay at the same hotels. In a lot of cases, we have the same clients as our competition. So when it comes down to it, it is a combination of the execution and culture that makes the difference between us and other firms. That’s why our culture is necessary—it’s the glue that binds us together.”

Those words stuck with us and bear repeating: Culture is the difference; it is the glue that binds us together.

Over the years we’ve been asked to work with some pretty impressive organizations all over the globe, including American Express, the National Football League, Cigna, the U.S. Army, Rolls-Royce, and Johnson & Johnson, to drop a few names. It’s probably no surprise we found great cultures in those places. And yet we have found similarly amazing places to work in every industry we’ve studied—even in workplaces where you might not expect culture to thrive or make a difference.

Consider this example. A few years ago we were asked to conduct a workshop at Crothall Healthcare. With thirty thousand employees, this is one of the largest and fastest-growing companies you’ve probably never heard of. They clean hospitals and offices, maintain facilities, transport patients, process linens, and so on. It’s not sexy stuff, but stick with us on this. Every five years Crothall doubles in size. At less than twenty years old, the company has annual revenues in excess of a billion dollars—which is a heck of a lot more than we were making when we were twenty!

We were halfway through our presentation to the senior leadership team, and just about to reach the crux of our argument, when the chief executive officer, Bobby Kutteh, made a mad dash for the door. It was disappointing but not unexpected; CEOs are, after all, in demand. But less than thirty seconds elapsed before he returned, reached up to the stage, and handed us bottles of water. He’d heard our voices were getting dry after talking for so long in the hot auditorium, so he’d raced to the lobby to find us a drink.

We’ve been doing this for a long time. Let us count for you the number of times this has happened before... zero.

We appreciated the gesture and it made us think well of Kutteh, but we also realized that the moment was bigger than that. He was exemplifying the culture of Crothall. His act reinforced what didn’t need to be spoken: Crothall is a caring place. Indeed, we found the act was utterly symbolic of the kind of overall corporate culture that Kutteh and his leadership team have created. It is a humble, sincere, service-oriented environment. And as you could rightly infer from that simple action of running to get us a drink, Kutteh is a servant to his people. It’s one reason he’s loved. Yes, loved. Just about everyone who was in the audience that day would do just about anything for this guy.

Before we spoke, Kutteh had talked for forty-five minutes. He addressed the audience without notes, with just a lavalier microphone affixed to his button-down shirt, sleeves rolled up. As he paced back and forth he outlined the strategy for the future, cracked jokes, thanked his leaders, and asked everyone to walk a little taller by taking better care of their employees.

“My dad used to say people will always remember how you make them feel,” he said. “A little stroke of kindness to your employees can go a long way.” And when he was done, every one of the two hundred and thirty leaders stood—no, they jumped to their feet and gave him a standing ovation that lasted and lasted. It was a fantastic moment.

You don’t have to look any farther than this very unassuming, very successful hospital-cleaning company to see that culture works.

But the fact is there is still nowhere near enough emphasis on culture. Business schools and leadership books teach us the mechanics of processes—strategy, marketing and product development, supply-chain management, playing to our strengths, even choosing the right employees. All are important, without a doubt. But as counterintuitive as it may sound to some, the thing that sets you apart from your peers is rarely what you sell or how you package or promote it. You all look pretty similar to us consumers. No, unless you’ve just invented the iPod of your industry, it’s likely that your competitors offer, more or less, the same things you do at about the same prices. The secret of moving a business forward is in getting your working population to differentiate you.

As Stephen Sadove, chairman and chief executive officer of department store giant Saks Incorporated, said, “When I talk to Wall Street, people really want to know your results, what are your strategies, what are the issues, and what is it that you’re doing to drive your business. Never do you get people asking about the culture.” But, he concluded, it is culture that drives “whatever you are trying to accomplish within a company—innovation, execution, whatever it’s going to be. And that then drives results.”

Sadove knows that if a culture works, then everything else works better. And we’ve discovered that it works a whole lot better, with the help of some powerful research we’ll unveil in this book.

And yet if you’ve worked in enough jobs, you’ll know that cultures can vary dramatically. There are workplaces of outright dysfunction, of contention, of coasting, and even of backstabbing. There are some cultures that produce impressive financial results but also high employee turnover and burnout. As a professional told us in a consumer products company, “Around here they put a gun in your back on day one. The trigger is pulled, and if you stop running the bullet is going to get you.” We could go on, of course, describing the varieties, but you get the point. What we will show in this book is that the most profitable, productive, enduring cultures are places where people lock into a vision with conviction, where they maintain excitement not out of fear but out of passion. They are cultures where people believe.

A number of compelling studies, going back many years, have shown that such a positive culture is a key driver of results. Exhibit A is a study done in the mid-1990s by Harvard Business School professors John Kotter and James Heskett. They followed two hundred companies to learn if a positive culture—one that facilitated adaptation to a changing world and that highly valued employees—really affected a firm’s long-term economic performance. The results were staggering. They found that those strong cultures “encourage leadership from everyone in the firm. So if customer needs change, a firm’s culture almost forces people to change their practices to meet the new needs. And anyone, not just a few people, is empowered to do just that.”

The financial impact of such a culture? Over the eleven-year period studied by the professors, revenue growth in the companies with “positive” cultures grew an average of 682 percent compared with 166 percent in the firms with “weak” cultures, and the difference between stock appreciation was 901 percent to 74 percent. Astounding.

But, you might ask, can a strong culture make a measurable difference in a team or division? Enter Exhibit B, a field study conducted in 2001 by the University of California at Los Angeles’s Eric Flamholtz. The UCLA professor studied a midsize industrial firm with twenty divisions all doing fairly similar work. He found the departments that behaved in ways most consistent with the company’s desired culture had markedly better financial performance—whereas the lower-performing divisions did not have cultural buy-in. The findings for this $800 million firm were so striking that “effective culture management” was immediately added ...

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