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Strong leaders choose where change, technology fit in their businesses

May 14, 2014 By and    

One of the hardest things every company has to deal with is culture.

Culture isn’t something you can order online or negotiate from another vendor in hopes of getting a better deal. Day in and day out, it’s amassed whether you like it or not. It can be as subtle as a gentle breeze or as brass as a punch in the face, but make no mistake, like snowflakes, every company has a culture all its own. It’s also a fragile notion that can take years to develop and only moments to tear down. It can seem unfair, and it probably is.

You may be asking yourself what place culture has in a technology column. Well, technology and change management seem to go hand in hand. A company’s strategy toward almost anything, including technology, hedging, insurance or lunch, is important. However, it’s the organization’s culture that determines the overall success or failure of the initiative. Think about it; any of your competitors can copy your strategy, but they can’t touch your culture. Peter Drucker was right when he said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast, lunch and dinner.”

Over the years, I’ve had the immense privilege of working with fleets, assisting their journey from the “stone age” to the “space age” in a short amount of time. In many cases, decades of habits and procedures are scrutinized. The process is never without its challenges. How could it not be? But organizations with strong leadership always seem to persevere through hard times and make it through the other end a stronger company.

Lou Holtz once said, “Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you respond to it.” High-performance cultures are resilient, and their people enjoy a good challenge. In such organizations, winning is clearly defined. From drivers, customer service representatives, sales, finance, service and dispatch, each modality understands what it needs to do, not just to carry their weight, but also to exceed expectations.

The overwhelming majority of employees want to be part of a compelling future. I’ve never been let down when I’ve “believed up” in people. There is no better way to instill personal pride and company loyalty than to assume the best in people. That faith in their ability and spirit usually pays large dividends. Fellow Brit and recently deceased author Doris Lessing wrote, “Any human anywhere will blossom in 100 unexpected talents and capacities simply by being given the opportunity to do so.” When employees feel as though their contribution matters and the role they play is important to the overall goal, a sense of ownership ensues. That connection to the big picture is crucial.

Creating a shared purpose and a common direction is of obvious importance. However, there needs to be a purpose that goes beyond the balance sheet. Please allow me a moment to get a tad existential, but we are all on our own journey and have our own personal reasons for doing what we do occupationally. If you take the time to understand an individual’s short- and long-term goals for their own path, it goes a long way. Teaming with that person to assist them toward their ideal creates loyalty and a plethora of positive energy.

I love the poem by Henry Grantland Rice that goes, “For when the one great scorer comes to mark against your name, he writes – not that you won or lost – but how you played the game.”

Tying culture back to technology is really all about successful projects and vision. Leadership is the message. Everything leadership says or doesn’t say sends a message. The ability to lead through trying times and get more than you ever thought you could from your staff comes from the emotional equity you’ve invested in them. There’s a high correlation between the way your employees feel about your company and the way your customers do.

Anything is possible in the right culture, just as anything is impossible in the wrong culture. I’ve seen some amazing transformations of fleets that have embraced change. Technology is a wonderful thing, but it’s the team and the motivation behind it that decide the winners and losers in this game.

Vinny Mullineaux is the CEO of Vertrax, a provider of back office and mobile technology. He can be reached at or 203-952-7666.

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