Turning Your Employees Into Owners
Phone: 314.283.1589

As business leaders our results impact more than our families, employees and customers.  In a recent USA Today article America’s fastest shrinking Cities, the demographic realities are impacting cities and businesses alike.  The U.S. population is increasing at a deceasing rate, just 0.82% in 2013 with the domestic birth rate at a multi-decade low.  Immigrants are less attracted to the US with immigration down 30% from 2001 levels.  Manufacturing has declined in the US 30% between 2001 and 2013 while employment in this category is down 57%.  This has had devastating results in communities that focused on manufacturing like steel and automobile industries.

The US has shifted to services making up 80% of the US economy.  90% of companies with less than 20 people are in the service industry.  Dave Gray suggests in his book The Connected Company, that product saturation, information technology and urbanization are driving the move to services. 

As business leaders we need to anticipate and react to change.  The options for passing the corporate baton to the next team is different than that of even 10 years ago.  The transaction is less focused on bricks, mortar, and equipment that produces, but on the intellectual horsepower of your team.  Investing in your team and turning them into owners is critical to your sustainability and future.  The fact of the matter is they walk out the door at the end of every day and your company must offer them something the others can’t or won’t so they walk in again tomorrow.  We are all in this together.  If we fail our community fails and vice –a- versa.

Communication is a pillar for Ardent.  As business leaders, communication nurtures and develops our team to think and act like owners.  When we are owners we put ourselves out there for all to see.  We may be imperfect but we are worthy of sharing connections that are authentic.  In Dr. Brown’s TEDX presentation, she suggests these connections are not based on a hierarchical business expectation but on being vulnerable.

Dr. Brown states that in order to connect we need to have the courage to be imperfect, to be kind to ourselves and others and the ability to be our self.  We have to learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.  This could be entering into a business, relationship, or conversation where there are no guarantees.  As owners we need to embrace space where failure is an option.

Vulnerability is not a weakness but a measure of courage.  Vulnerability unlocks the door to innovation, creativity and change.  If we are not willing to be vulnerable we avoid.  Avoidance may manifest itself by ignoring the obvious, being dictatorial or micromanaging.  By being vulnerable it gives owners the ability to work through the tough decisions (hire/fire, new markets, turnaround, new products, define culture, succession planning, financial performance).  By having the tough conversations we foster growth and maximize success for the organization, team and ourselves.

I encourage you to watch Dr. Brown’s Presentations

The Power of Vulnerability

Listening To Shame

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage.  Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness”.  Brené Brown

Are you blasting away at your prospects through advertising, direct mail, and email?  Is your message a one-sided shouting match of pontificating how big, great, and accomplished your organization is?

Today’s customers have more fact based information at their fingertips than any other time in history.  The slick salesman approach of Professor Harold Hill in the Music Man would be run of town with the first Tweet or Facebook post.  Not to mention Angie’s List.

I submit that today’s business relationships are co-created between the buyer and seller.  The company can outline the premise of an offer.  The customer needs to help define the product and its value.  This required marketing dialog involves authentic discussion where the parties are listening intently.  This point is articulately made in the 1990, United Airlines commercial called “Speech”.

In my experience there was a manufacturer that offered a unique industry solution to an industry challenge.  They could have easily doubled their market share every year.  However, their approach was transactional with sacrificing any foundation of a relationship to “bag” the customer.  While this generated short term successes, it poisoned the well to develop strong working relationships that could have transformed an industry and brought significant accomplishment to the organization.

Every touch point with a customer generates a perception and response.  Is your goal transactional focusing on the “kill” or strategic that develops long term relationships built on respect, trust, experience and loyalty?

You Earn It!

Culture cannot be mandated.  Engineered vision, mission, values and principle statements are meaningless if they fly in the face of observed behaviors.

I would suggest corporate culture is much like a marriage.  The participants are continually building it up or taking away from it based on their actions.  Every action by a team member has an intended and likely an unintended outcome.  A team member might be willing to spend some cultural capital to achieve his or her desired outcome.  A short term individual gain can have a long term charge to collective organizational cultural capital.  When the organization members are able to align goals, achieve transparency, and share in the collective fate top to bottom, a strong foundation is laid on which to build.

As leaders we can create a big wake that dramatically affects others.  Our actions or inactions can trump months of work to build up cultural capital.  Are you walking the walk and talking the talk?  Are you tolerating others toxic behavior that suck the cultural life out of the organization?

Productivity can drop 50% when an organization takes a major hit to culture.  Tangible measures such as service levels, safety, turnover, and absenteeism may all take a turn for the worse.  If survivable, these may be the short term costs and don’t quantify the true cost to the organization.

A healthy culture is willing to be vulnerable.  Vulnerability and trust are the foundation for innovation, creativity and change.  Team members embracing vulnerability is a measure of organizational courage.  A company without these attributes is static and dying a slow death likely driven by a dictatorial, micromanaging culture.

In the short term, nurturing a positive culture will require giving more than you get or faking it until you make it.  A positive corporate culture cannot be built overnight, but it is the only way to build a sustainable organization.  Turning your employees into owners requires continued investment in your culture through actions until the collective team has “Earned It”.