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Mom Gets It. Do You?

1_ Yeargin_Culture article

My mom, who has been retired for many years, worked much of her life in the medical field, mostly in small obstetrics and gynecology offices. Having never worked for a large- or medium-size company, Mom was not versed in organizational culture. So when I invited her to watch the recent Culture Summit that our company, Correct Craft, was hosting online, she said she would watch the first part while I presented, but that she was not planning to watch the rest.

After the Summit, I was surprised when she told me that after signing on, she could not stop watching. She loved hearing from the speakers, and she was energized by what she had heard. Mom had been inspired by the potential impact of a great organizational culture.

Six hundred marine-industry leaders signed up for the Culture Summit that Mom watched March 3, and their comments were positive. This year’s summit, presented online, was a follow-up to a two-day, in-person summit held last year in Orlando, Fla. Last year’s event included 43 industry leaders discussing how we could use culture to transform our companies and industry.

This year, we heard about the power of culture from best-selling author and retired Chick-fil-A executive Dee Ann Turner, as well as industry icons Kris Carroll of Grady-White, Duane Kuck of Regal Boats, and Paul Singer of Centurion and Supreme Boats. It was almost impossible to watch the summit without being energized about the power of culture. Attendees picked up ideas for implementing an effective culture at their own organizations.

2_Yeargin_Marine Cullture Summit

We were honored to have Turner as the Culture Summit’s keynote speaker. She used her experience as longtime vice president of talent at Chick-fil-A to share lessons she has learned about culture.

Culture, she said, is the soul of an organization. A leader’s most important decisions are about people. A great organizational culture not only solidifies trust within a team, but also generates emotional connections and a significant sense of loyalty.

Turner also shared three critical elements of an effective culture: a meaningful purpose, a challenging mission and demonstrating core values. At Chick-fil-A, one demonstration of these three elements was called “second mile service,” or going above and beyond for customers.

Culture Summit attendees also heard from the panel of industry leaders noted above. They spoke about the benefits of an effective culture to their organizations. Hearing about actual business experiences helped make culture real during the summit and provided attendees with ways to improve culture in any organization.

As host of the summit, I tried to provide specific ways that attendees could begin developing an effective culture. These ideas included the following three points.

Embracing a culture mindset. To develop an effective culture, the first step is to acknowledge that culture matters. Then it is much easier to be intentional about creating culture. Embrace a culture mindset by creating a team of learners. Having a team of learners is better than having a team of knowers.

Creating clarity. An effective culture requires an organization to create tremendous clarity around what is important. This means identifying and continually reinforcing the organization’s values. At our company, we have created a culture pyramid that clearly identifies what is important to us.

Engaging the team. Every team should read, as a group, Patrick Lencioni’s great book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. The book will lay the foundation for effective teamwork. Additionally, organizations with the best cultures invest heavily in their teams; they see this as an investment with a huge return, not a cost.

There were a lot of other great takeaways from the summit. To me, the best ones included the idea that every organization has a culture, whether or not the leader realizes it. If the leader is wondering what that culture is, ask a new employee. He or she often will have a great sense of the culture by the end of the first day.

Another great takeaway is to be intentional about culture. Occasionally, a good culture will just happen, but most of the time, great culture results from the leader being intentional about it. The best leaders understand the power of culture and work to create a great one.

Yet another takeaway is that culture drives financial results. Leaders often think of culture as an espresso bar, dress-down Friday or bringing your dog to work — things that make people feel good. It is nice to help people feel good, but the right culture is also a significant driver of financial results. Companies with effective cultures get better results in every area, including financial.

And culture is not an expense; it is an investment with a huge return. Many leaders see culture as an expense that can be cut to improve financial results. Culture should be viewed as an investment with a significant positive return. In fact, there are few better investments for an organization.

After the Culture Summit, a friend and I were talking about how leaders sometimes get frustrated because once they decide to invest in culture, they want immediate results. My friend said, “When developing culture, a leader should focus on effectiveness, not efficiency.” There is a lot of truth in that statement.

Much of the Culture Summit can be viewed online at marineculturesummit.com.

Bill Yeargin is CEO of Correct Craft and the author of Making Life Better: The Correct Craft Story. 

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