By: Carol Abel, Vice President, Education Program Development

Future Leaders 2018“There’s never been a time when people are looking for leadership more,” suggested Kevin Holt, Ahold Delhaize USA CEO. “It’s a key thing we all have to pay attention to inside our organizations and our industry. We really have a calling to provide the right purpose, framework, optimism and confidence about the future so that people want to work for us.”

Holt and his fellow FMI Midwinter panelists, Chris Coborn, president and CEO of Coborn’s Inc., and Judy Spires, chairman and CEO of KB US Holdings, Inc., emphasized the need to build a strong culture. And to do that, Coborn added, “We need great people to work in our stores to provide and exceed the expectations of our guests. We know it’s good business.”

It turns out that research backs this up. A study referenced in a May 2017 Forbes article by Dan Pontefact looked at the impact of culture on performance, sales and customer satisfaction at automobile dealers across the country over the course of six years. The results were crystal clear: Those dealerships with the most engaged cultures--with high levels of involvement, consistency, adaptability and a transparent mission--had the best sales and customer satisfaction ratings.

But what exactly is it about culture that makes the difference and what can companies do to build a better one? Why we work determines how well we work, suggest Lindsay McGregor and Neel Doshi in a November 2015 article.

There are three direct, positive reasons people work:

  1. Play—the work is fun
  2. Purpose—you value the impact
  3. Potential—the work enhances your potential

And, there are three indirect, negative motivators for work:

  1. Emotional pressure—some external force threatens your identity (peer pressure, guilt, etc.)
  2. Economic pressure—you work to gain a reward and avoid a punishment
  3. Inertia—because you’ve always done it

High-performing cultures in industries from airlines to grocery to banking maximize the play, purpose and potential felt by their people and minimize the negative motives.

Culture is complicated. McGregor and Noshi call it an ecosystem, dependent not just on one or two things, but a whole set of inter-related processes within an organization.  Among the most important are role design, organizational identity, and career ladders.

Companies can make efforts to design highly motivating roles, such as letting employees treat customer interactions like play, such as turning routine announcements into comedy acts. Companies can help employees connect with the identity of the organization, highlighting the impact their work has on their customers and communities.  And, companies can help their workforce see the career paths available in their organizations and provide performance systems that de-emphasize emotional and economic pressure.

The FMI Future Leaders eXperience is an innovative resource for company culture-building. The program, built on the world renowned Root Compass® experience, offers leaders a positive approach that emphasizes many of the key components of a positive culture and will change the way leaders see themselves, tackle their roles, and motivate their teams.

Learn more about Future Leaders eXperience during an overview webinar on April 3, 1:00-1:45 pm EDT.

Hear Kevin Holt, CEO, Ahold Delhaize USA, discuss the need for organizational leadership: