Leadership sets the standard for a trusting work environment

May 2, 2013 By    

Creating a healthy company culture is a complex challenge for both small and large propane marketers.

Its complexity lies in understanding what motivates employees to do their best, to serve the customer well and to work well with their coworkers.

The importance of a healthy culture has been confirmed through more than 25 years of research. That research strongly suggests that behind a strong performance is a strong, healthy company culture. Yet, for all of the importance that’s been placed on building a healthy company culture, few companies are able to achieve it.

Healthy company culture

The foundation of every strong, healthy company culture is trust.

Trust enables employees to work well together to create the synergetic 1+1=3 effect. Trust bonds the customer with the company. Trust creates employee confidence in the company’s direction and its leadership. Stephen Covey’s research on trust in organizations concludes that high-trust companies consistently outperform those without trust.

Significant benefits to creating trust will enable the company with a strong culture to:

  Work well together. Effective organizations root out toxic behaviors that destroy trust and teamwork. But it’s not easy. Since the days of Cain and Abel, conflict has been created by the desire to outdo a brother and coworker to the detriment of the company or family.

  Serve the customer with enthusiasm and common courtesy. At the core of a company that serves its customers well is being a patient servant of others. This leaves no room for arrogance or impatience.

  Accountability upholds the company’s standard of excellence. When management tolerates the rude customer service representative, the lazy bobtail driver or abusive manager, the company’s values become meaningless to the other employees.

  Communicate well. An employee who knows how the company is doing and feels safe to speak will be engaged. The employee feels connected to the company’s purpose.

The company’s leadership creates the culture. Over time, the company, branch or department reflects its leadership. One of leadership’s challenge is it generally has an erroneous inflated view of its own culture. This is according to Deloitte research done on core company values.

Further, the research found that only 15 percent of employees believe strongly that their stated culture is widely upheld within the company. These results are not surprising because it’s tough for those at the top of the organization to get accurate information about the true company’s culture.

Examples of effective leadership

FedEx’s People Service Profit (P-S-P) corporate philosophy takes care of the people who deliver impeccable service to the customer.

The profits generated secure the company’s future and provide the resources for employee development. The company’s performance starts with the employee and ends with the financial statement, not the other way around.

My second example is Woodrow Blossman, whose founding philosophy was that “Blossman Gas exists for the benefit of its employees, and the progress of the company depends on the employees rendering superior service to its customers.” This leadership philosophy has motivated its employees for more than 60 years.

Important questions for leaders

If you are an owner, executive or manager, here are three important questions to ask about yourself:

Do my actions consistently build a healthy culture? The leader’s example will establish or undo a healthy culture.

Is the culture of my work environment a priority? Take time to listen to employees at all levels, address workplace concerns and remove toxic behaviors that destroy trust and teamwork.

Is my assessment of the culture in my company accurate? Remember, a common blind spot for management is to have an inflated view of its company’s culture.

Ultimately, a company’s financial performance is the result of its employees and the culture that exists in which they work.

Randy Doyle is CFO of Blossman Gas in Ocean Springs, Miss. He can be reached at rdoyle@blossmangas.com.

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