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Executive Podcast #204: How Leaders Embed Culture In a New Hire

September 8, 2022
Executive Podcast #204: How Leaders Embed Culture In a New Hire

Leaders need to be aware of the possible negative effects new hires can have on the culture of the organization. If you are not intentional about how you communicate culture, adding new people can dilute the culture and allow other ideas to surface. Learn how to embed culture in our organization’s new hires.

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Perry Holley:

Welcome to the Maxwell Leadership Executive Podcast, where our goal is to help you increase your reputation as a leader, increase your ability to influence others, and increase your ability to fully engage your team to deliver remarkable results. Hi, I’m Perry Holley, a Maxwell Leadership Facilitator and Coach.

Chris Goede:

And I’m Chris Goede, Executive Vice President with Maxwell Leadership. Welcome and thank you for joining. As we get started today, if you want to download a learner’s guide and then you can follow along with us, or if you want to leave us a question or a comment, or maybe just learn about even some of the virtual delivery that we’re doing for teams around leadership training, please visit maxwellleadership.com/podcast. There’s a form there and you can find the learners guide there. Everything that you need will be right there. And we would love to hear from you.

Well, today’s topic is entitled, Embedding Your Culture In a New Hire. Man, this is so important, and this is part of the onboarding process, but it might be the most important part. And I know for me, personally, as a leader, when we bring someone on our team, I’m so excited to have someone on the team to fill that gap that I’m like, “Forget about all that stuff. I’m ready to go level three. I need them to come and start producing.” And it’s so important for us to be embedding this into that individual and to be embedding the culture, in that we’ve got to be intentional about it and how you’re communicating about the culture, because if not, what’s going to end up happen is they’re going to dilute it over time and it’s going to happen.

Especially and we talk about this quite a bit, if that is an external candidate that you’re bringing in versus an internal, which we always would love to bring up an internal candidate if possible, because they get the culture. It’s not always possible, especially in today’s time is we are in the great resignation or the great moving around of people. And so you have people that are hiring it. Let’s unpack this today for our listeners and really help them because this is super important.

Perry Holley:

This came up from a coaching client that I’ve been working with for a couple of years, Chris, he’s CEO of his company and they’re doing great. And so he actually did an acquisition of a smaller company, integrating the employees from the acquired company into his company, which is a great story and very proud of all he’s done. But he’s walking around, he practices that walking slowly among the people, type of a thing. Back in the day, we called it, management by walking around, but it’s become, that’s cool now. But he was walking around, he saw one of the new employees doing something, a behavior that was not consistent with how they do things. And he asked the new employee, “Why did you do that?” And the employee said, “Well, at my old company, we did it this way and I kind of liked that way better.”

And Chris immediately knew he had a culture problem then. And this is what we always worry about, anytime you bring people into an existing culture that are coming from the outside, there’s the potential to dilute your culture and people bring their own ideas, their own definitions, their own behaviors. And Chris and I started talking about, “Well, how do you embed your existing culture into the new people that are coming in?” And you cannot take that lightly. It’s got to be very intentional, or like Chris found, people are out there doing things. What if he hadn’t been walking around? What if he hadn’t have seen this? It could really come off the rails.

Chris Goede:

Well, I love that he was being observant. He was walking around. Here’s what also I love and I hope listeners that you’re getting this, which is, I hope you’re listening to this conversation going, “Man, I got the same issues, I can say,” because we’re bringing to you, what’s going on in the field and what we’re hearing and what Perry’s coaching through and what our team’s coaching and hearing. And so we know that it’s not Chris, that’s dealing with this, that there’s many of us that are dealing with this.

But man, do not take lightly, that culture is happening one way or another. It’s happening in your absence and we need to make sure that how we’re communicating it, that it’s by design, not by fault. And then how and how often is it being communicated? Because it is happening one way or another and it’s probably happening more in your absence, than it is when you are walking around leaders, so just be aware of that, and make sure that this is something that you are super sensitive to.

Perry Holley:

Something our friend Greg has taught me that I hadn’t really thought about it until I heard him verbalize it was, “Your culture exists in your absence, so what is it to do that?” The first question I ask Chris, when we were having this and I probably would ask every leader listening to us today is, how clear are you on what your culture’s about? What is your culture? Could you describe it? Have you done it intentionally? You were just talking about designing, you either design or you default, you always have a culture. You cannot not have a culture. So you have a culture, did you design it or did you default to it? But maybe for those listening and I’ve talked about this kind of a little model I use on, I just did it this past week, it’s a fantastic exercise in a room of leaders to say, “How do we design a culture? What would be the…”

Chris Goede:

Yeah, let me stop just for a minute. You mentioned Greg, one of our executive facilitators and coaches also helps us with a lot of content. Man, he really helped us with a piece that we worked with on Teams called, Four Dimensions of a Culture, and what does that look like? And so again, I’m going to just refer you back to what I mentioned early on that if you want information on that, even just visit maxwellleadership.com/podcast and in the form mention that and our team will follow back up with you, it’s a powerful training.

Perry Holley:

He does have a book coming out and if he ever gets it out published, we’ll announce it here-

Chris Goede:

We will absolutely do that.

Perry Holley:

… and make that available.

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Chris Goede:

Back to your point about what is it that we’re teaching or we’re trying to help leaders when you want to design your culture. Here are a couple key things that we talk about. Number one, decide on your core values. What are they as an organization? Number two, define what each of those core value means. And here’s what I would also say. Keep it simple, make sure that as you define them, just keep them simple for the team, so that they understand it and that you don’t get too complex, too wordy.

Perry Holley:

The magic there, what I learned was if you say we have a core value of respect for others, you have to define that because what you think respect for others means, what I think respect for others. I think that’s what the definition step was so important is the team, that’s what the design part is. You say what it means so that nobody can is… You’re not free to make up your own definition of respect.

Chris Goede:

I love that, yeah. And not only that, then how do you attach maybe some behaviors, that are to that definition of what that looks like. The fourth thing, which the third thing was the behaviors. The fourth thing is catch people exhibiting those behaviors. And that’s what I love about what Chris is doing, he’s managing by walking around, so he has the opportunity to catch that. And then finally, capture stories of where people exhibited the behaviors of those core values. And not only capture them, but then talk about them and share them and make sure as you’re doing this, that you’re using the core value as the example and the main point of the story, and by the way, thanks Perry for doing that. Don’t necessarily lead with the individual and then talk about the core value, make the core value the main part of that story.

Perry Holley:

Well, the stories are so important because this is how it becomes part of your history, about what are we expecting to see, Hey, this is what we saw. I love it when we start a team meeting, in two minutes of the team meeting, once we start the meeting are, “Hey, I just want to mention an observation I made last week. I saw Chris and how he exhibited our core value of respect for others. What I saw Chris do was this,” and then you move on with your team meeting, but you’re letting people know that this is not a poster on a wall someplace. These are things we are living out and it can become a part of your onboarding. When you say, “Here are our core values. Here are the definition of those values. Here are the behaviors we look for, and here’s some examples of what we’ve seen on site.”

All of a sudden people start to embrace, embody and really make them part of what they do. The second question I asked Chris was, who carries the torch for your desired culture? This turned out to be a very revealing question and for most leaders, we probably need to consider that. His answer was mostly him. I’m carrying mostly that. And so we realize that’s an action we need to take in his culture development is. That’s why him not being present would allow others to undermine the culture. But if he can have culture carriers, not just him, but his senior team, his supervisors, all the way down to who’s managing the front line. Are we all supporting that? Who develops these culture carriers?

Chris Goede:

That’s a critical question. I think that is absolutely what has to happen in order for the culture to be sustainable over time. And so, you have to be very intentional about pouring into and developing your leadership team or those that work directly with you. That will be boots on the ground more than you will. And so couple of questions for you around this, for you to think about as you’re listening today is, do your senior leaders have a voice in developing the culture? Do you allow that or do you try to control that? That may be another episode, another podcast we ought to do?

The second question is, do your senior leaders know the behaviors expected that support your core values? And then the third question is, do your senior leaders catch people exhibiting or not exhibiting these behaviors? And so do they have the voice of them? Do they know them, and then do they catch people doing them, and talk about it, and share the stories, as we had mentioned just a minute ago?

Perry Holley:

Yeah. That’s fantastic. And that’s exactly the action Chris took as we wrapped up our coaching calls, that he wants to make sure he’s not the only person that’s walking around with an eye for finding examples of what it means to live out these core values and to really promote intentionally this culture that they’ve designed. He really wants people to know that he’s easy to make you think, I actually asked this question a lot, who’s responsible for culture in your organization here? Is it John Maxwell? Well, definitely John sets a culture and Mark Cole? Definitely, Mark has a voice in designing the culture. But at my level in here, I kind of look to you. And then to your level, you kind of look to Mark and thinking, “Who’s responsible?” I think every leader is responsible for what it feels like to work for you.

Chris Goede:

No doubt, I agree. And that goes back to even just an engagement level. I’ve read a study and where it says, “Hey, the engagement level of team members, the same as culture, is directly tied to your supervisor, your leader. And to your point, I report directly to Mark Cole. My engagement level is his responsibility. It’s not John, it’s not John Maxwell and that happens all the way throughout an organization. All right, coach, I’m going to put you on the spot. You’re working with Chris through this. You guys are having conversations about it, give us some applicable, some action items some things that Chris did, as he began thinking about who is going to carry the torch of the culture inside our organization.

Perry Holley:

Well, to compliment him, he recognized it immediately that there’s behaviors happening that are not consistent with the culture that we’ve established. First thing he did was he met with his senior team and reviewed the core values. These cannot be viewed as something that was on a poster on the wall, on a coffee mug or on a t-shirt. These have to be real things that we live by. He then reviewed with each of the leaders, not only what are the core values, but what are the definitions and what are the behaviors that we want to see with that? And he said, he went around the room and he began to really ask each individual person, “How do you see this? What’s some examples of that?”

He asked every leader to spend, I used the example a minute ago, two minutes, he said, “Two to five minutes at the front of every team meeting or team huddle,” in his business, they gather every day, but he said, “At least once a week, they spend a couple of minutes sharing examples.” He said, “You’re going to have to be intentional looking for,” they had four core values that they wanted to have, “I’m looking for examples of one of those four, every week, we start to share that.” And he said, “That there’s something that we do well.” He said, “I’m getting people now to start sharing stories, someone did something and we want to capture that and begin to have those stories being shared among the organization.” It actually sounds pretty simple. They confirm the core values. They confirm the behaviors of the definitions and behaviors. They committed that they would start looking for examples. They would share those. And one thing he brought up is we also find examples of them not living up, so again-

Chris Goede:

Which is good, because they’re aware-

Perry Holley:

Going back to a previous podcast about, do you critique someone in public or private. He said, “Taking someone aside to say, ‘That’s not how we do things here.'” And then asking them, “How would our culture, what would it require of us in that situation I just witnessed?” And so holding people accountable to living by the, not just catching positive stories, which you hope they do, but also holding them accountable, if there are negative stories that are happening there.

Chris Goede:

I think what you laid out and what you’re walking through with Chris is simple but not easy. And I love the action steps that he’s taking. It is so important as you bring on new team members to think about the impact of your culture. And you’ve got to be intentional about it. I’ll close with this. This also comes from Greg, one of our facilitators on the culture piece, the Four Dimensions of Culture, where he talks about, how do you think, act and interact? And so when you begin thinking about that, that’s not only relevant for you as a leader, but your leadership team and then they do the same thing. But it goes right back to the values and the behaviors and then catch them in the act and then tell the story. And when you do that and you’re repetitive with it, then it’ll be sustainable over time.

Perry Holley:

Fantastic. Great stuff. Thank you, Chris. And just a reminder, if you want to learn more about our offerings or download the learner guide for this episode or leave a question or a comment for us, you can do all that at maxwellleadership.com/podcast. We always love hearing from you and very grateful, you’d spend this time with us each week. That’s all today from the Maxwell Leadership Executive Podcast.

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