After presenting to an MBA class at Denver University, I was asked the following question by a young woman who’s a manager at a restaurant that is having major employee morale issues: So how do you turn an employee culture around?
On Monday I included a very perceptive quote from Howard Schultz of Starbucks: “People have come to me over the years and said to me: “I admire the culture of Starbucks. Can you come give a speech and help us turn our culture around?” I wish it were that easy. Turning around a culture is very difficult to do because it’s based on a series of many, many decisions.”
Very true. And not terribly helpful if you’re in dire straits. There is no easy, quick fix. However there is a huge positive initial shift that can be created quickly – ONLY if there is a genuine desire for REAL change to occur. (Keeping in mind that change is often difficult, painful and takes time.) And here’s what it looks like, straight from the mouth of the CEO/owner/executive director/principal:
“I’m sorry. We are where we are because I’ve lead us here. I know I’ve lost a lot of respect from you all because of XYZ (lay the cards on the table – they look like the long avoided cloaked elephants in the room). And I’m truly sorry for all of the insanity/disunity/drama/frustration/difficulty/pain/apathy (nail accurate real deal words that apply) that I’ve created/allowed. And I need your help to turn us around. I would like to have a company where people truly feel good about coming to work at X organization. I know we’re a long ways from there – but really, I want us all to be happy. And I can’t do it alone. We’re all crew on this ship, and while I’ve led us astray, I’d like to create a new map together on how to move forward in a way that honors and respects everyone who works here. And no, I’m not talking about giving everyone raises – I’m talking about creating a place where we all feel good about coming to work. A place where we feel positively challenged to do and give our best, where we grow personally and professionally, and where we can count on one another and look to one another to be an extraordinary XYZ. So I hope you will forgive my transgressions and mistakes and help me learn from the ones I’ve made. If you’re willing to give this a go, please raise your hand. Thank you. Thank you so much. Over the next few weeks I will be looking to gain input from each and every one of you on the next steps we should take to turn our culture around. And while it may not be easy, I simply ask that you say what needs to be said. Be as constructive as possible, and doable suggestions for improvement are warmly welcomed.”
Don’t say it if you don’t mean it. And if you don’t mean it, be prepared to have the same brutal employee culture that eats at your heart and your bottomline for years to come.
And if you mean it, say it. And be prepared that you impact your culture day by day, decision by decision, word by word, action by action. You are the example. Be the change you want to see in your company.