Why the Best Leaders are Culture Driven with John Waid

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Why the Best Leaders are Culture Driven with John Waid

John Waid of Corporate Culture Consulting

In this episode, we sit down with John Waid who hones in on the importance of building a strong company culture, stating, “the best leaders are culture driven.” We talk about how to create a purposeful culture and how to align our hiring of candidates who re already living the values and type of culture we want to grow within our businesses. 

Transcription:

Fletcher:

I want to welcome John Waid from Corporate Culture Consulting to The Hire Talent’s podcast, straightforward recruiting advice for entrepreneurs by entrepreneurs. John, thanks very much for coming to join us today. Tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into this business.

John:

Okay. I started in this particular business when I was in my early 40s. I got involved in training and development. So I did about seven years of that, and then I got involved … Then I came across the phrase, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” which is attributed to Peter Drucker, a management guru.

Fletcher:

Yeah, that’s a great phrase.

John:

And so I took that phrase and I built … I went and I looked up corporate culture consulting, and it was available as a dotcom, so I registered it. And I said, “All this training and development work that I’m doing on human behavior is applicable to culture.” That’s exactly what culture is. Culture is how people behave. That’s it. I’ve defined culture as a real easy … It’s how your people behave, how your leaders and people behave.

Fletcher:

Okay. So how does that evolve within an organization? How does it come to be, I guess?

John:

Okay. In the research that I’ve done, about 2% of companies are actually what I call culture driven, and so they’re focused on culture. The number one priority of the leaders is culture. Culture is about their people and how their people behave. This 2% of companies out performs all the other companies by three to five times in bottom-line profits and revenues, and they do it with incredible retention. A lot of them have 95, 98% retention rates of their people. And that they’ve grown the type of culture where people just don’t wanna leave because they love it and they work really, really hard and they contribute to the wonderful results and also to the wonderful culture at the company. Some of those companies you may have heard of. Chick-fil-A, In-N-Out, Southwest Airlines, Zappos Shoes are a [crosstalk 00:02:27] few of the examples of what we call culture-driven companies.

Fletcher:

Yeah, they’re all great brands. I think anybody who’s interacted has had an opportunity to experience the culture, ’cause they make great products or great hamburgers. And yeah, it’s really pretty awesome.

John:

Just a quick example, if you were to go to Kentucky Fried Chicken, they sell about a million dollars per store. In 2018, Chick-fil-A outsells them by five to one. They sell five million per store on average. The only difference, they both sell chicken … Matter of fact, I prefer the chicken from Kentucky Fried Chicken. Thing is, I’d rather go and buy from Chick-fil-A. Their stores are clean. The people are nice. They smile.

Fletcher:

The experience, yeah.

John:

They interact. The experience is amazing. It’s amazing. Every company should be culture driven. That’s my mission for the rest of my life is to promote this idea that leaders, the best leaders are culture driven, and leaderships start with culture.

Fletcher:

So these companies that are culture driven, they’ve identified what they want their culture to be, and everything they do is helping reinforce the culture that they’re striving for and that they’ve achieved then.

John:

That’s correct.

Fletcher:

As opposed to letting it develop naturally on its own. That’s one of my big questions is what happens when you’re not culture driven? There is a culture in every organization. How did that become? What’s driving it in that case?

John:

Okay. Most organizations from small to very large have some values, a purpose, a vision. The issue is that that’s where they stop. A lot of those are done in one-day workshops, and not thought … They’re not thought out very well. So they’re generic. A lot of the values, trust and respect and honesty. I don’t think there’s an employee that you hire out there that you’re not gonna want trust, respect, and honesty out of.

Fletcher:

Yeah. There’s nothing unique about it.

John:

Exactly, there’s nothing unique about it. That’s where they go wrong is that those generic values are printed up on the wall and then never lived by the people that get in there. That’s why we have the vulture of culture, I call it, that sweeps down and invades most companies. That’s where you get the lawsuits and the criminal investigations and all that is because they’re obviously not living those values. For those of you that are old enough to remember Enron, that was their demise, and there’s many, many other-

Fletcher:

A billion-dollar company.

John:

Exactly. And Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns that no longer exist because people got … They didn’t follow the values, and they didn’t follow the purpose of the firm. And those firms no longer exist.

Fletcher:

So if your organization has been around for two, five, 10, 25 years and maybe your company values and vision and purpose have been defined in this old-fashioned way that we’ve talked about and the culture has really been self-developed as opposed to purposely developed, what are two things that you can do to change that and become more culture driven?

John:

Okay. The idea is to … Well, you can hire us. That’s what we do for a living is we go and facilitate the development of great purpose statements and values that are unique to your company. More importantly, after you develop it, and we recommend you develop short purpose … Worked with a company the other day and we made their purpose a little bit shorter. Basically it was a real long sentence, and we narrowed it down to “Saving patients’ lives through infection prevention.”

Fletcher:

So, easier to remember.

John:

It’s real easy to remember. Everybody can remember it. And everybody, more importantly, can live it. Then they had their values were … They had more than three, which normally I recommend three, no more than three. And they should be a little bit like the Southwest Airlines. They need to be unique to your industry, to your company. Southwest has values that are like fun loving, and loving is spelled l-u-v-i-n-g, which goes nicely into their advertising. ‘Cause they stand for love and for people. And then they also have one called warrior spirit, which is a wonderful way to describe the value that they stand for. They fight for low prices, they fight to make sure that they serve the customer well. And so that warrior spirit is wonderful.

John:

So you wanna come up with three, no more than three, values to live by, so that everybody can know them. Because there’s a rampant disease out there, which is that people don’t know the values. If you don’t know your values, then you don’t know your culture. ‘Cause the culture is the values. And I would say in 90-some-odd percent of organizations, people do not know what their culture is, even if it’s been written down.

Fletcher:

So by keeping the mission, the purpose, or vision, whatever you wanna call it, short and sweet, like a short sentence not even a full sentence, keeping the core values down to three or less, and also keeping them short and sweet so that they’re easy to remember will help in the reinforcement of that down the road and how you communicate those values every day, right.

John:

Absolutely. Absolutely. Keep it simple. That’s one of our core values as Corporate Culture Consulting is keep it simple.

Fletcher:

Good.

John:

Keep everything simple. Keep it short and simple, KISS.

Fletcher:

You know I’m a talent acquisition guy. So I’m always curious talking to somebody like you, how do we use our company culture in the recruiting and interviewing process? What role does that play? And yeah, how do you take advantage of it, or how does it hurt you?

John:

Okay. The culture-driven companies, like the In-N-Outs, Chick-fil-As, and Southwest Airlines, they hire for attitude. This is what Southwest Airlines says, “We hire for attitude, and train for aptitude.”

Fletcher:

Hire for attitude, and train for aptitude.

John:

Aptitude.

Fletcher:

That’s definitely something [crosstalk 00:09:42] I know our organization is a huge advocate of. So that’s something we can get behind.

John:

Right, right, right. And then the other thing is, is hire for culture. That’s what Chick-fil-A does is they make sure that they hire people that already believe what they believe, what their values are. ‘Cause they’re more likely to do what we’re gonna ask them to do anyway.

Fletcher:

How do they figure that out?

John:

Their main purpose in life is to serve others. That’s their purpose is “We’re here to serve others.” So they hire people with a service spirit. They want kids that’ll smile with teeth. They want kinds that’ll serve and be willing to clean a bathroom, be willing to sweep the floor, be willing to take the tray out, be willing to go out in the drive-thru, be willing with a positive attitude to do all the things that they’re gonna ask them to do anyway. They go to churches. They ask the priests, the ministers, the rabbis, “Who are your best kids? The ones that come from good families that are great people and that smile a lot and are there to serve others?”

Fletcher:

So they seek out kids with credible references then.

John:

They do. They seek out kids with credible references, and they make sure they’re immaculate in their hiring. Their entire headquarters is dedicated to hiring. And they look for a certain profile. They’re sticklers. They even try to talk you out of a job once you get it. They say, “Well, I don’t know if this job will really be a good fit for you.” You gotta fight for it. You gotta say, “Yes, it’s a good fit. I’ve been interviewing for this for six months, and I want it.” And then they go, “Welcome to Chick-fil-A.” They really want you to wanna work there.

Fletcher:

They bring you in. Yeah. You made an interesting point how they go to community leaders, and they look for references for the best people that are part of those communities and those organizations. I think we’ve all heard that your best hires come from references from your best employees. Assuming you have a great culture, your best employees are probably the ones that embody or demonstrate your company culture and values better than anybody else in the organization. And so when they refer somebody in, they’re more likely to meet the … to be like that and to fit that culture then, I assume.

John:

Yes. Birds of a feather flock together. So if you’ve got … Take your best employees, and if you want more of them, ask them who their friends are. ‘Cause normally that’s who they hang around with.

Fletcher:

Yeah. That’s interesting the approach that they take. What are two parting thoughts that you could leave us with? If tomorrow we just did two things to improve our company culture and how we use that in our hiring process, what would those things be?

John:

Start with culture. Your number one role as a leader is to work on your culture and your people. Remember that it’s all about people and how they behave and that that’s your culture and that that’s what’s gonna make you successful. So start with culture. That’s the number one. And number two, hire for culture. And remember that culture’s three values and a purpose. That’s it.

Fletcher:

Awesome. John, it was-

John:

And the living of that.

Fletcher:

… a really great pleasure talking to you today. I wanna make sure everybody knows how to get a hold of you. I think your approach and simplicity that you take to this really complex idea that I think a lot of people have a hard time getting their head around is great. So anybody listening, anybody in our world, definitely recommend you give John a call. How do we get a hold of you?

John:

Okay. It’s jwaid@corporatecultureconsulting.com. Or you can call me at 404-915-3051.

Fletcher:

Awesome. Well, John, thank you very much for coming on today and sharing. We’ll end it here.

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