This series of “Lessons from Al” is dedicated to the life and legacy of one of the most influential mentors in my life, career, and management, Al Berg.
Whether it was a conscious effort or not, Al managed to create a very unique culture.
It was like a company mixed with the fervent conviction of a religious sect mixed with all the bustle and trimmings of a large Italian family event. And like an Italian family patriarch (even though he was not), Al managed to form a team that could both vociferously disagree internally at times and yet fight as one against any competitive odds.
Mottos like, “Work hard, play hard, no surprises,” and “Tee it up!” became legendary.
And when the work was done, there was celebration and breaking of bread together.
When the company established a new facility, it was an extended family affair – employees and their families were all taken on a tour of the new addition, and everyone was proud to have a part in it.
In the early days, Al spun the culture around “The Three Keys to Marchon’s Success: Great Service, Great Marketing, and a Great Team.”
That simple mantra was told and retold around the world as each new team began. It was woven into the tapestry of the culture.
Al’s unspoken lesson on culture was this: it doesn’t have to be complicated or perfect. Companies go to enormous lengths to create the “perfect” culture based on complex paradigms developed by others. Al created his own flavor. It was simple. It was uniquely odd and beyond the norms.
It really worked.
How can you create your own unique company culture?
While Al certainly didn’t follow a formula, there are underlying principles that support strong culture in any organization. Here are some of those principles.
1. Be Like Family
When it comes to relationships, familial relationships are those which last a lifetime. Neighbors and acquaintances come and go. But family, with all its goodness and faults, is for life. You work together, play together, eat together. You know each other’s faults. You may squabble amongst yourselves. But let an outside challenge come near the perimeter, and you are one formidable force.
Foster a family environment, and you create a culture of commitment.
2. Work Hard
People are most content when they are working to accomplish a meaningful goal. You see this on full display when the chips are down and deadlines loom. The team dynamic surfaces to the top and team members work shoulder to shoulder to carry the load. Seldom do you hear rumblings and disgruntlement at these times. You do hear such things when the work is slow or when people do not feel like they are contributing to the cause. Boredom leads to discontent.
Keep your team engaged, and you create a culture of contentment.
3. Have Fun and Celebrate Success
You are going to spend decades working. You may as well make it fun. Some leaders have the mistaken idea that in order to be productive, work must be serious. If co-workers are laughing together in the workplace, for example, these leaders see this as wasted time. Unless it is a perpetual problem that really does impact productivity, the congeniality of shared stories, experiences, and laughter in the workplace is a sign of many things, and they are all good. It is a sign of team bonding, engagement in the work, enjoyment of the work, and life in the workplace. Laughter is good medicine. It sparks not only bonding but creativity and innovation. You can be a leader who sends the message that “work is no fun,” or you can be a leader who makes work fun and rewarding. As an employee, which leader would you rather work for?
Have fun and celebrate success, and you create a culture of collaboration and creativity.
4. Focus on the Business of People
No matter what type of business you are in, at some level, your business is about people. It is the people you work with, customers, vendors, and community. It is about mentors and mentees learning, growing, and developing together in order to serve others. If you create a team centered on great service to people at all levels, you will have an unimaginable success.
Center your business on service to people, and you create a culture of community.
5. Build Your People
Each person in your organization plays a critical role. They fill a need; otherwise, you would not have hired them. But your responsibility as a leader does not stop at the hiring point. In fact, that is only the beginning. One of your greatest – and frankly, most rewarding – roles is to take those entrusted to your care and help them become the best they can be. It is to see not only who and what they are, but who and what they can be, just as you see ahead of the curve in business. When you invest in a future leader, you are investing in your entire organization, and very often in your own legacy. This focus on growing employees within the business has been lost in recent decades, and Al would say it is time to get it back. I am grateful that Al chose to invest in his people because…I was one of them. Who are you investing in today?
Center your business on building your people, and you create a culture of competence.
As the CEO of Strength Leader Development, Deb Ingino is a highly sought-after international executive mentor, coach, trainer and speaker. Deb is well versed in global business operations and helps business leaders and their teams to discover and leverage their strengths, so they can create highly collaborative teams that deliver great results. With a refreshingly direct style, Deb helps leaders and their teams to deliver profitable results. Connect with Deb to learn more about her mentorship and coaching programs to equip you with advanced strategies to elevate your results.