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Why All Leaders Must Invest In Company Culture
Sean: First is culture, and we have tackled culture numerous times in the podcast, but that is really because it is so elusive on how people can grasp and concretize culture. It’s not something that you’re going to have a formula with. It’s not something that I could just give you a blueprint of, what is so important about it that is one of the four pillars of your book?
Tom: Well look, every organization is going to have a culture. It may be a culture that you haven’t designed. Maybe it’s a culture that you didn’t want, but it’s like an organism is going to happen. So I always tell people, look, you might as well take the time and the effort to try to design a culture that you want breeding in your living organization. Because if you don’t spend that investment in time, it will be there, but it may be a toxic culture.
It may be a culture that you don’t want in your organization, but because you didn’t pay attention to it, it kind of just took a life of its own. And it happened. The second thing I’ll talk about is that culture is never negotiable. So if you’re an organization and you can have, let’s say it’s a young organization and you don’t know what your culture is going to be.
You can have all the discussion upfront to say what our culture should be, but once you decide what the culture should be, you can have dissension. It’s going to be that culture and if people don’t buy into that culture, then they don’t belong in your organization. In fact, I tell young executives all the time and because I guess in the old days, you know, when I was a younger executive, three career moves in the span of about 25 or 30 years was yeah, that that was acceptable.
You know, and now you have, you know, people changing jobs, you know, three jobs in five years, right? So there’s this constant, that’s when you know its constant turnover. But I tell folks, look, it’s very easy in today’s world to look up a company and look at their website, look at some articles. And, as soon as you look at their website, their culture and their vision should be apparent. If you don’t see it, or if you don’t understand it, that’s a yellow flag.
And then also do yourself a favor and say, could I live in that culture? Could I, you know, be really good at it and achieve stuff in that culture? You know, how will I function in that? And, if it’s not clear to you, don’t even take the interview because I guarantee you within six months or a year, you will leave because you will hate it. Or they will ask you to leave. Right?
So that’s why culture is so important in an organization. And then it’s also equally important because the culture of an organization is the equivalent to a person’s character. When you have your character. I mean, I see people, and I even heard this in one of the teachings or one of the podcasts that, you know – “you should have a different character where you at work and it’s okay to have a different character at work or at school or at home or whatever.”
And I say that’s the furthest thing from the truth. I have the same character, whether I’m at home, whether I’m at work and it wasn’t always like that. But I learned that if you don’t, you become schizophrenic because you say, okay, well, what situation am I in now? How should I act? When I was a younger executive, I was really, really professional and serious at work.
And I said, “look, you can’t mix relationships and friendships at work because you have to be very professional at work and you have to conduct yourself that way.” And then in the social circle, in my private circle, I was a kind of wild maniac guy, right? I mean, I had energy, but I – the energy that I channeled at work was very professional energy.
And the energy that I channeled in play was, you know, crazy. I spent probably about six months, two months, nine months working with these two gentlemen, we did a project in in the Midwest. So every Monday we would get on a plane and fly out to Kansas city and work there for the whole week and then fly back on Friday.
So during the week we were always together, you know, we went out, we had dinner, we had drinks. So they saw me, and then I guess about a year later, a year and a half later, they came out to our weekend house as guests. And about halfway through the night, they pulled my wife over and it goes, “Tom – there’s seriously something wrong with your husband.”
So Kathy goes like, “well, what do you mean?” She goes, he’s, he’s like very different. He’s like totally a different, different person, like this – he’s schizophrenic. You gotta get him checked out. Kathy goes, that’s just Tom, so that kind of thing and you know, the light went on and say, look, you know, you can have fun at work.
I mean, yeah, you don’t have to be a crazy guy at work, but it’s okay to form friendships. It’s okay. In fact, it’s healthy to form friendships at work. And then as I grew on later in life, I mean, we made it a point always to have, you know, weekends with wives, you know, coworkers that we work together and build that, that family atmosphere, you know, that’s kind of, you know, one of the lessons that I learned about, you know, character or being consistent on where you are.
And, and the other thing, if I could just share with your audience. There’s three questions. Every person should have to answer themselves. It’s what I call Venn diagram. You’ve got three circles and then each circle contains a question and where to three circles intersect. That’s your sweet spot.
So the first question is, who are you? Ask yourself a question, who are you. And who I am and, I mentioned to you early on is I’m a servant leader. So I’m very clear on who I am and not everybody is. And I encourage everybody that’s listening to you to identify who they really are. The second question is what are you passionate about?
Right. So I’m passionate about helping younger executives become better executives. I’m passionate about getting older executives to be better executives. I I’m passionate about helping folks become better. And then the third circle is knowing what you’re good at. If you have a clear picture of knowing who you are, knowing what your passion is and knowing what you’re good at.
And so many people that I know are, they’re not passionate about what they do. They do it for paycheck. Life is too short, you know, don’t do it. If you’re not good at something, you know, some people think they’re good at it, but you know, actually they’re not that good at it. It was some self evaluation, have other people evaluate you and say, Hey Tom, you know, you think you’re good at this, but you should maybe do something else because you really are not that good at this.
But once you find that sweet spot, I guarantee you that you will be successful.
Sean: I want to rewind a little bit because you mentioned something that’s interesting. The podcast or information that you mentioned earlier, where someone said that you have to be, you have to have a different character.
At work and at home, and it is the opposite of integrity, right? Integrity, the root word, integer, which means one or whole. And when you have integrity, you should be one man, one woman, wherever you are, you have to be one person at home when no one’s looking at work, same person at school, same person, because that’s integrity. When you’re a person of integrity, that is what you should be living.
When you mentioned that culture is the same as character for an individual, you mentioned there the high importance of culture, because character is very important. That’s where your behavior stems from. That’s where attitudes stems from all your relationship stems from your character, how other people see you and treat you.
And you mentioned that you have to have culture by design. You have to be intentional at it. And it is built by your core values. With character for an individual, is it the same? Do you design your character? And if so, how do you do it?
Tom: Well, I think with character, it’s a combination. You said it starts with values, right? And values are something that I believe you learn at a young age. Right? So one of my values is honesty. Now, how did honesty become one of my values? Well, honestly it became one of my values when I was like, I dunno, maybe I was like six or seven years old. And I said, apparently, what was a blatant lie to my grandmother?
And my grandfather pulled me over and smacked me across the face so hard that my head bounced off the wall that the smack hurt, but what kind of woke me up even more than that, it was. What could I have said that ticked off my grandfather so much that he smacked me so hard across the face. And then when I put it all together, it was like, all right, well, it’s not good to lie, right.
It’s not good to lie because A – I got smacked. But, but B I really got somebody really upset. So that’s a value that I learned when I was six or seven. And that’s the value that’s with me today. So I think your character is formed as a result of the environment you’re in and really the way God created you.
So look, if you’re in an environment where you see your parents being dishonest, then you see, you know, your family being dishonest and you know, their lie. And then probably thats – you know, unfortunately that may be one of your values that you grew up with. Then you adapt because that’s what you saw growing up.
So values, I think, are extremely important in establishing character and it comes from your environment, what you learn. And it also comes from, you know, how God created it.
Sean: And so funny, because when you mentioned environment, your environment has a culture, right? You have a culture at home. So you could argue that your character is a product of your culture at home. And if you become a founder of your own company, that character, that you have becomes your defacto culture, which you mentioned earlier on the pre-show.
Here’s the thing, Tom, a lot of founders, a lot of leaders when we’re starting up, we paid no attention to these things. Culture is a buzzword that flies over our heads. I know it was for me, like culture – I don’t have time to think about that. I only have time to think about where am I going to get the next meal for me and my team. So what happens is you’re completely, right? My character just seeps in to the culture, but it doesn’t form concretize or make the culture what happens in between that.
And finally, the founder being woken up and sitting down and saying, okay, this is not going well. I have to design my culture.
Tom: You know, th th the sign will be essential, right? The sign will be essential. So the, reason character is a de-facto corporate culture is think about it, right? And this will actually was a lesson for me because you know, when I used to work for, large companies, whether that was Colgate-Palmolive, whether it was Phillips electronics, whether that was Reckitt Benckiser.
When I had to hire somebody, it was an easy draw. I mean, I would get people with executive MBAs from Oxford or Harvard, you know, they all wanted to work for us because the brand name of the company stood for something.
Right. That, that was the. And then I opened my own business in, in 2004, 2005. And you know, they were like, well, who the heck are you? And why should we work for you? Right. So in a startup organization, the founder’s character is so important because that’s why people will come to work for you. They buy into you, because you have no company.
It doesn’t exist. It’s an idea. You’re an entrepreneur. You’re setting something up. So the only draw is you. So either people buy into you, they buy into your character. And then the company grows because some great people, some talented people came and bought into you. And your company grew, or your character wasn’t that strong.
And you know, people maybe try, but then they said, no, I don’t buy into this. This is not for me. And then they left, then your company didn’t grow. And then if you’re, if you’re mature enough, I mean, one of the things when the three of us, I mentioned to you early on that I have two business partners. One is a retired Navy seal, and the other guy is a very smart marketing guy.
And, and he’s called Culture Force. I said, well, look, you know, if we’re all about culture and trying to transform companies’ cultures and to into positive culture environment. How about if we start with our own culture and let’s define our culture going to be so, so we spent, you know, a bunch of time together, the three of us and say, what will be our culture.
Right? Because the, the other thing that happens is, in seeing that example, right? So you have, if you’re a single entrepreneur, then it’s really just your culture, but when three people get together and they do not pay attention to the culture, well everybody’s character is going to be a little bit different.
And if you don’t address that elephant in the room, you know, four or five years down the road, one of the guys who are partners, whose characters are very different than the other guy’s character and his character, maybe didn’t dominate. And the other person’s had a stronger character and that nominated and elect three or four years down the line. They’re going to say, well, this is not what I signed on to, I’m out, right?
Because one part in his character dominated and they never addressed what the culture of the organization should be. It just became the de facto culture by whoever had the strongest character. And then ultimately somebody says, and not for me anymore.
Sean: Really good point right there. And Culture Force, that’s an interesting name.