The Key to Culture

Nov. 1, 2019

In the end, it’s authenticity that will win out.

A colleague recently shared a study with me about what people want from a manager. It was conducted by LinkedIn with more than 2,000 responses from its users. Ignore the manager vs. leader differentiation for a moment here, but these were the results: 1) problem solving (68 percent); 2) effective time management (44 percent); decisiveness (41 percent); empathy (38 percent); and compassion (36 percent).

Surprised by the results? I was. I assumed that more of the soft skills of leadership would jump to the top of that list. But the more I thought about it, really, that list makes perfect sense; effective management (and leadership) clearly starts with more basic elements, or at the very least, a clear display of competency. To develop trust within a team environment, empathy and compassion don’t go very far if people can’t rely on you to perform up to or above expectations, right?

This was all top of mind for me in going through our magazine this month—and it caused me to find (imagine?) a particular connection between a number of stories in this issue. 

Our main feature this month, “Rewrite Your Culture”, offers an in-depth look at what some of the industry’s brightest leaders have done to fortify the cultures in their businesses. Nora Johnson, one of our editors, combined that insight into four main stages of team building. As with any culture topic, leadership is at the forefront. The story dives into the ins and outs of how a leader can navigate growth, success and, sometimes, failure and still keep a positive organizational culture.

Growth is often where culture shifts—or has the greatest potential to do so. How do you balance the desire for, drive toward and execution of growth, while maintaining the same culture and team atmosphere as when you were smaller? Or is there always an inevitable shift? Does your culture and team have to adapt just as your processes, products and overall scale shift? 

In Joe Marconi’s column this month, he discusses the importance of making an emotional connection with customers during the selling process, and how that outweighs any technical sales skills when it comes to the decision-making habits of the vehicle owner. One of his points: Why should a customer listen to you? Somehow, my mind morphed this into another leadership thought: Why should an employee listen to me?

In Shop Advice this month, Truckee, Calif., shop owner Bill Greeno explains how he works to connect with his team, and discusses the importance of differentiating your leadership style to motivate team members individually. “Our job as employers and managers is to make sure [to] nurture that moativation, and, moreover, not to quell it,” he says.

Flip a few more pages to Mitch Schneider’s column, and, per usual, Mitch waxes philosophically on an interesting thought about being both “guides” and “scouts” to others in our lives.

Clearly, there’s no single path to strong leadership or culture. If there was, we wouldn’t approach it in four different ways within one issue of our magazine. A team’s culture and a leader’s approach is always unique to them. Maybe that shifts as you grow; maybe it doesn’t. Either way, everyone has to find an approach that’s authentic, that best serves their team in their current environment.

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