President’s Letter – December 2017

Is it time to refresh the culture of your company?

Rebuilding a company culture can lead to new levels of engagement and satisfaction for all

Martin Howard, NTCA president

Have you ever thought about the culture (a.k.a.personality) of your company? If you haven’t, I’d like to invite you to give it a try.

There are many cultures that companies seem to gravitate to, and we’ll look at a few for comparison.

  • The Traditional or Hierarchy Culture is common and tends to be found in “Top Down” structured companies. This culture can be demanding with little employee empowerment, expecting employees to just follow directions.
  • The Market Culture is most often characterized as having “market share and profitability” as their top priority. One issue with this culture is that the top goals of market share and profitability can often compete with each other.
  • The Family Business Culture is very common in the construction industry, especially among trade contractors. Multi-generational owners usually hold the leadership or management positions. This can be good if a high level of training and career development exist to ensure competent and smooth transitions of leadership. Employees can feel that if they hold different ideas or opinions than the family, they will not be heard. They can also see that they will never grow to attain a high-level position and this makes it difficult to retain good talent. Additionally, this can cause good people to leave or do enough to get by rather than give their best effort.

At our company – David Allen Company – we had a mixture of cultures that had developed over a 90-year period. In 2010, we hit the restart button to rebuild our culture, led by our Chairman, Robert Roberson. This process required a 100% commitment from the ownership/leadership to establish trust and transparency. Our goal was simple: we wanted to become a great company with high value to our customers and team members while creating a great place to work and build a career.

We utilized several tools to assist us in this process, including 360 Evaluations, Skip Level meetings, and One to One listening sessions. These tools created dialog between departments and group discussions around a set of topics designed to foster honest dialog.

Early on in this process, we utilized a little book with a big impact: FISH! by Stephen C. Lundin, Harry Paul and John Christensen. Here we learned that, “There is always a choice about the way you do your work, even if there is not a choice about the work itself.” Said another way, we can choose to have a positive attitude while doing work we may not enjoy. To help encourage a positive attitude our leadership began to work harder to regularly communicate clear expectations, create transparency and demonstrate respect on a corporate level.

In our next step, we gleaned lessons from the book Good to Great by Jim Collins. One of the major take-aways was the concept of getting the right people on the bus, and then making sure those people were in the right seats. This brought a renewed commitment to hire only the “best fit” candidates and be willing to wait to hire if necessary. Everyone in the company took the “DISC” personality profile (a measure of Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Conscientiousness), which helped us better understand which seats were the best fit for our employees. DISC also helped us learn how to understand and communicate with personalities very different from our own.

On a structural level, we began dismantling some of the vertical silos that created division and started to build team levels of responsibility and accountability. This only works if all levels believe their voices are heard and can bring about meaningful change. To demonstrate this commitment, we assembled a cross-section of team members to review and modify the company policy manual.

Next, we developed clear career paths and the training and education necessary for success to improve team member fulfillment and job satisfaction. A key principle I learned many years ago is, “There is no success without a successor.” So, as we seek to develop ourselves, we must seek to develop those we mentor. The goal is that as one person takes the next step in their career development, they will have trained and mentored their replacement.

We then took on the task of developing a Standard Operating Procedure so that we could begin to work as a team. This offered the opportunity to scale our productivity by being able to support divisions that needed additional resources without having to hire and train for the short term. Through this process, duplications of effort have been eliminated and efficiency has lifted the level of work satisfaction. Encouraging team members to take ownership of their responsibilities requires empowerment and respect. Compensation and incentives have been reshaped and made available at more levels than ever before.

We then started a two-year company-wide process of studying Stephen M.R. Covey’s book, The Speed of Trust. This took us through the “4 Cores of Credibility:” Integrity, Intent, Capability and Results. Woven through these core concepts are 13 behaviors that build trust. Each month we created intentional opportunities to apply what we were learning by creating SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely) goals and team goals.

The study walked us through a progression of building trust within ourselves, in relationships, and within the company. Up until this point our focus had been building trust internally, but now we began to build and extend trust in our markets and with our customers.

We also began to build and extend trust in our community by addressing different areas of need there. Our team was excited to participate in various charity events where the company would provide matching funds, including Stop Hunger Now, Red Cross blood drives, holiday food drives, and Walk for Autism. At our traditional July cook-out and game day we reached new levels of fun as we teamed up with our co-workers to crown one team winner for the year. This spread to our annual Chili Cook-Off, which now attracts 30-40 entries. Our team-building event winners are recognized with trophies, plaques, and gift cards. We have offered Financial Peace University to the team and their families twice at no cost to them and have seen amazing results of personal debt reduction and wealth building.

With our centennial celebration a couple of years away and our desire to build a strong, stable, and enduring company for our team, we became an employee-owned company three years ago. Today the employees are the largest stockholders and we’re enjoying a high level of engagement to maximize the steps taken to improve our company. Throughout this process, the underlying theme has been to think about building others up and treating people like we want to be treated. The people that make up our team are – without doubt – our most important and valuable asset.

We still have much to accomplish, but the goal is closer than before and we are working toward hitting the mark. This journey has been enlightening, challenging and very rewarding. Ways of thinking about each other and work have changed and opened positive new channels of collaboration. I hope you are encouraged to think about your company and how you can make a positive difference for the future.

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Martin Howard, president NTCA
Committee member, ANSI A108
mhoward@davidallen.com