What a 90s Power Ballad and a Cardboard Box Company have in common
If you’re a nearing middle-aged adult who, like me, grew up in the 1990s (or ever turned on the radio during that musically questionable decade) you’ll remember, perhaps by heart, the dripping-with-emotion power ballad that played on endless loop on nearly every station: More Than Words by Extreme.
Like many a hopeless romantic who wanted nothing more than to feel an impossible, only-in-the-movies kind of love, singers Gary Cherone and Nuno Bettencourt had a simple request of their lovers: don’t simply say that you love me. Show me.
The same request could be made of many companies and the less-than-believable commitment they often make with their purpose, values, and vision. Its not enough to just tell these statements to your employees, vendors, and clients. Companies must breath life into these commitments with actions. Every day. All the time.
“More than words is all you have to do to make it real,” Extreme pleads.
I wonder if they ever thought how very applicable their sappy lyrics were to corporate cultures?
How to make it real
Thriving corporate cultures are actually very simple to design; its the diligence in sustaining them that is hard. As Brian Chesky, Founder of Airbnb, once said, “Culture is a thousand things, a thousand times. It’s living the core values when you hire; when you write an email; when you are working on a project; when you are walking in the hall.” In the end, cultures (both good and bad) are the collective impacts of repeated behaviours.
Which is why good routines matter.
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting Mike Nunn (VP of Operations, Ideon Packaging) and Cameron Christie (Technology Team Lead, Ideon Packaging) at a BC Food Processor’s Association event. After just a few moments of conversation, what struck me was how much they love working for their company. But really love it. Like the kind of love that early 90s power ballads make you yearn for.
Immediately, both spoke about Ideon not in terms of what it does (packaging) but why it does it (to create WOW for their teams, vendors, and clients). Then they spoke about how they find ways to personally deliver that WOW everyday.
They also spoke about their core values (which not only are printed on the back of their business cards…WOW). Then they recited them. By heart. When I asked which one was his favourite, Cameron didn’t miss a beat, “conflict with resolution, of course. Without it, no company can innovate.”
It was as though I had met two unicorns — the kind of team members every company dreams of having, but rarely gets. Indeed, as I learned more about Mike and Cameron (and subsequently went on a tour of Ideon’s HQ in Richmond), the more I learned that everyone at Ideon embodies the 6 skills needed to for thriving corporate cultures, and indeed the ones that I teach through Six and a Half Consulting:
- Emotional Intelligence
- Healthy Conflict
- Uncompromised Trust
- Shared Purpose
- Values-driven Communication and
- Alignment in Vision, Strategy and Execution.
The sixth skill is how the previous 5 come to life. Through regular meeting rhythms and predictable communication flows, thriving cultures create routines that make cultures come to life.
In no particular order, here are some of the routines that Ideon does, just as More Than Words demands.
- Daily Huddles. Everyday for no more than 15 minutes, everyone comes together to tell a few quick stories of how their values and purpose came to life the day before. Then, they talk about what actions needed to keep them on track with their vision.
- What Matters Plan. What is regularly talked about by leaders is what the team will deem important. With this in mind, leadership definez the top 12 most important vision, values and purpose-based things at Ideon and assigns each one to a month. Then, every month operation leaders meet to review the theme, be it one core value to highlight or creative ways to Deliver Wow (Ideon’s purpose). This theme then comes to life over the course of the month within weekly meetings and daily huddles. The day I visited, team members wanted to Deliver Wow to their truck drivers. Someone had the great (but in the end expensive) idea of buying air time and giving a shout out on a radio station that the drivers were known to listen to.
- Wow Board. A simple bulletin board that is covered in handwritten notes, updated regularly, on how Wow was delivered to clients, vendors, and team members.
- Consistent Messaging. Every email, text, and communication aims to embody the values that Ideon stands for. Exceeding expectation, growth, healthy conflict, integrity and honesty, listening, training and team — Ideon’s values — are talked about all the time, and more importantly, are front of mind in every decision and interaction they make.
- Monthly Town Halls. Part of the agenda is task and performance based, but a good chunk of the time is spent by senior leaders asking for and receiving feedback. Often, activities are specifically designed to deepen the interpersonal connections between team members who don’t always work with each other.
- Regular one-on-ones. Ideon asks that its leaders address everything in the NOW, whether good or bad. If not now, when? Feedback should not wait for an annual review. In the annual review there should be no surprises. This is because formal and informal one-on-ones and check-ins happen consistently, and by design.
- On going coaching. Mistakes happen. In Ideon’s mind, these mistakes are an opportunity to get better at who collectively Ideon wants to be. Never blame a person, always look to the process.
- Self-reflection. Culture starts at the top, which is why Ideon’s leaders are deliberate in living their purpose, values, and vision — and being accountable to themselves and their team members when they fall short.
- Empowering everyone. Purpose, values and vision at Ideon lives within every team member. That is why, without question, team members are empowered to make decisions for their clients, vendors, and team members that advance these shared tenants. As Cameron states, “if its the right thing to do, guided by our values, and delivers Wow, [team members] can make that choice.”
What routines does your company have that bring its purpose, values, and vision alive? I’d love to hear them.