Improve Your Culture, Buy a Chicken!

Dr. Randy Ross

I was having lunch with a friend who told me about an interaction that he had with one of his team members. Apparently, he caught wind that a young lady who reported directly to him was at her desk, crying inconsolably. After inviting her into his office, he began to inquire about what had upset her so.

Being a newlywed, she was experiencing difficulty adjusting to married life and a number of challenges had come their way, compounding the stress. But, the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back was that her favorite chicken had died suddenly from an unknown cause.

When she shared the news of her departed fowl friend, he wasn’t sure how to react to the non-cackling conundrum. Not living in a rural area, he was in a quandary imagining how, or even why, she would have chickens. But holding his intense curiosity at bay, he expressed great empathy and comforted her to the best of his ability.

When she left his office, he knew exactly what to do. He needed to buy a chicken. But buying a chicken turned out to be far more complicated than looking for little cluckers on Craig’s List. Evidently, purchasing live poultry is highly regulated. After doing a little research, he located a hatchery several states away that eagerly schooled him on purchasing her preferred egg producers.

Before the end of the day, he called his colleague back into his office and told her that she would be receiving three little chicks, of her favorite variety, within the next few weeks. Overwhelmed by his thoughtfulness and delighted at the prospect of having three downy replacements, she broke into tears once again. But these were tears of joy. The impact of this ingenuous gesture continues to linger long after the original fowl was forgotten.

It is a story of a simple act of kindness, which upon repeated telling, sends positive ripples throughout the organization.

You see culture is the collective expression of the values, beliefs and behaviors that individuals bring to any endeavor. It’s the environment that is created when people come together. A Remarkable! culture is a place where people believe the best in one another, want the best for one another and expect the best from one another.

Believing the best in one another speaks to trust. Expecting the best from one another is about ownership and accountability. But wanting the best for one another is all about creating a sense of community and compassion. It’s how people take care of one another.

Do they support one another in the pursuit of their dreams? Are they there for one another during difficult times? Do they demonstrate their support for one another when there are strong headwinds…or when someone’s favorite pet poultry passes?

It has often been said that culture is the single most important differentiating factor that any organization possesses. Culture is about engagement and has a direct impact on discretionary effort, loyalty and ultimately the performance of your teams.

So, if you want to improve your culture … buy a chicken!

But, if you don’t have a hatchery nearby, here are a few ideas to get your organization moving toward a transformational culture:

Hire well. Hiring quality people is the fastest way to infuse new life into an organization. Simple to say; difficult to do! We recommend that you use axiological instruments to screen for functional values. Personality profiles and IQ assessments are essentially non-predictive. You need to use instruments that are designed and validated to screen for values alignment.

And while we are talking about hiring, be sure to hire slow and fire fast. The best organizations take their time in hiring to make sure that the values, beliefs and behaviors of each prospective team member matches that of the enterprise. It’s not enough to simply embrace certain propositions.

Each person must embody the right values. This takes time and ample observation to ascertain correctly. And, when it becomes obvious that there is not values alignment, don’t linger long about moving a mismatch out.

Focus as much on what you want for your people as you do on what you want from your people

When you shift from being a value extraction organization to one of value creation, that perspective will flow through to your clients and customers. Investing in the personal growth and development of team members will pay rich dividends.

Measure, monitor and move engagement levels within the organization. There are a variety of approaches to measuring engagement among team members. Each methodology has certain benefits. We suggest you focus on the individual’s emotional health and wellbeing. When you have healthy team members, good things naturally happen.

Drop the word employee. You must recognize that you have no employees in the traditional sense – thirty years of service for a gold watch. In today’s economy, everyone is a free agent. They will play for your franchise for a season and then decide whether or not to stay based upon what they deem to be the value you bring to the table – and its not based upon pay as much as it is passion. If you want to keep good team members, treat them like family…and not the dysfunctional kind!

Good culture cannot be reverse engineered.

You cannot break it down into a formula. It is far too fluid and dynamic to be encapsulated. But if you could, it might look something like this: 

Remarkable People + Remarkable Culture = Remarkable Results.

Dr. Randy Ross is founder and CEO (Chief Enthusiasm Officer) of Remarkable! Randy is a “craftsman of culture and a catalytic coach,” who inspires elevated performance. A master of cultural transformation, Dr. Ross has a unique understanding of employee engagement and offers practical solutions for increasing both the morale and performance of teams. He is also author of the book, Remarkable!: Maximizing Results Through Value Creation.