I have heard employees complain about it more times than I can remember. I’ve seen the disappointment in their faces when reality is far from the image they had on their minds. When they look forward to meeting the executive only to feel at the end of the encounter as though they no longer understand the company culture.
As an executive, you have several roles and responsibilities. You need to be a Visionary, Decision Maker, Board Developer, Manager and more. There is an enormous amount of pressure to get the desired results. However, there is one role that you can never take for granted, “your role to keep your Company Culture strong”.
Picture this scenario:
You are an executive in a retail company. Sales have been drastically down and you decide to visit some stores to get an idea of the real picture. You invite a few executives from other divisions (Sales, Marketing, Purchasing etc.…) and plan a few visits.
The stores’ District Managers have informed the teams that their stores will be visited from executives. The team prepares, ready to answer any questions and share what they are most proud of.
Visit Day: You walk in with your team and start analyzing the store through the eyes of each head of division. You are in the store around 5 minutes when the store manager approaches you and introduces herself. You then begin to introduce yourself and your team and let her know that if you have any questions, you will come find her.
The team then begins questioning the staff on discrepancies they find:
- Why weren’t those customers approached with open-ended questions?
- Why was a certain product displayed at the front of the store when direction was given to put it in the back?
- Why is there missing signage?
- And on, and on… about what the store might have missed
Then you thank the manager and leave. How do you think the team felt after you left? Would you be inspired by the company culture if you were them?
This wasn’t just a scenario but it happened during a store visit about 10 years ago. I have heard stories like this many times. Unplanned and planned visits where the executive does not even take the time to introduce himself to the team.
I understand and get it. When you visit the store, the production plant, the office, or wherever your front line employees are working, you want to find opportunities that you can improve on. You want to find the button that you can press that will explain everything. You want to find the magic solution to why sales are down.
Next time you visit your front line employees, ask yourself this question, “What do I want to accomplish? What do I want to leave behind?” There are ways to try to pinpoint opportunities while inspiring at the same time. As an executive, YOU represent the brand to front line employees more than anyone else.
Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, was well-known for his 10 Commandments in running a business:
- Commit to your business.
- Share your profits with your associates and treat them like your partners.
- Energize and motivate your partners.
- Communicate everything you possibly can to your partners.
- Appreciate everything your associates do for the business.
- Celebrate your success.
- Listen to everyone in your company.
- Exceed your customers’ expectations.
- Control your expenses better than your competition
- Blaze your own path.
Re-read commandments 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Out of 10 points, 6 involve engaging your employees.
Although one of the leading drivers of employee engagement is workers’ relationships with their immediate managers, developing good relationships with upper management can boost engagement further. When senior leaders don’t take the time to connect with employees when the opportunity arises, this could create disappointment in the culture.
Be authentic and take the time to ask the right questions. You may be surprised at the quality of information you will find. Don’t forget that these front line employees tend to be the direct link between the company and your customers. Isn’t their level of engagement and motivation important? Don’t underestimate the positive impact you can have when you take the time to connect.
What is one way you feel executives should be connecting with their employees?