By Harrell Kerkhoff, Maintenance Sales News Editor
Leading a sales team, branch office or entire company can be difficult during the best of times. Add a major event, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, and many challenges are often intensified. The good news is, they are not impossible to overcome, according to Dirk Beveridge, founder of UnleashWD.
Beveridge discussed, “Leveraging Your Purpose & Values To Lead During Uncertainty,” during a recent presentation, the second of a four-part series. His first presentation (covered in the March 2021 MSN eNewsletter) focused on, “The Three Pillars Of Leading During Uncertainty,” highlighting how leaders can lean into each of the three pillars to inspire focus, commitment, growth and to find better results. The three pillars are: Lean Into Your Core Values; Lean Into Shifting Toward Tomorrow; and, Lean Into, And Embrace, Your People.
During his second presentation, Beveridge focused on the first pillar, “Lean Into Your Core Values.” He explained that in order for a leader to start the process of leaning into a company’s core values, it’s important to understand the culture surrounding the company.
“There is a lot of talk today, and rightfully so, about culture,” Beveridge said. “Many of the smartest minds (in business) are suggesting that culture goes before strategy.”
A company’s culture can involve its “feeling of purpose and values.” According to Beveridge, author John P. Kotter, from the Harvard Business School, stated in his book Leading Change, that a firm with a strong and adaptive culture, based on shared values, will significantly outperform a firm with weak values and a neutral culture.
Many agree the culture surrounding a business is important, but what exactly is “culture?” Beveridge broke it down into three characteristics:
■ Beliefs — “Within an organization, what do we fundamentally believe in? What do we believe in so strongly that those beliefs are going to drive our actions, even if it drives the company toward losing money? What do we believe in so strongly that it forms the foundation of everything we do, within our organization?” Beveridge asked. “That’s the foundation of a company’s culture.”
■ Behaviors — “A company’s beliefs define behaviors that are deemed important, and lead to a company’s standards. That is true throughout an organization,” he said.
■ Commitment — “A company’s culture is often challenged in times of uncertainty. It’s going to be under pressure to drive certain actions, strategies and/or decisions that do not align to what the company has stated are important in terms of beliefs and behaviors,” Beveridge said. “In times of uncertainty, a company’s commitment (to its culture) may also be challenged. That is when company leaders must lean into the three characteristics (of culture) even harder, to help preserve that culture.”
Leaders can help co-workers identify, define and articulate certain “guiding ideas,” in order to determine the best decisions, actions and strategies for future business growth. Beveridge outlined four basic guiding ideas. They are: Purpose, Vision, Mission and Values.
Although there is no magic wand or single right answer, Beveridge said he has found many successful organizations typically focus on one, two, three or all four of those basic guiding ideas.
■ Purpose — “Purpose defines ‘why a business exists.’ It’s the fundamental reason for being. And often, that fundamental purpose must go beyond simply generating a profit. It must be deeper and more meaningful. (Purpose) stands as a deeper meaning to why we are in business,” Beveridge said.
■ Vision — “The vision of an organization is defined as a ‘future reality,’ something that we really believe is possible with committed effort. Vision says, ‘This is who we are as an organization today, and this is what we are going to become. This is how we are going to innovate. These are the new capabilities we are going to develop. These are the new markets we are going to enter. These are the new products we are going to offer. This is our technology platform for the future.’”
■ Mission — “A company’s mission defines how it plans to win in a competitive, challenging and uncertain market. It also defines what ‘winning’ really means to a company,” Beveridge said.
■ Values — “Values define the behaviors to live by — day in and day out. They are values that are truly important to a company,” Beveridge said. “It’s a leader’s job to help (his/her) people connect with, and apply, those guiding ideas each and every day. Doing so helps provide clarity and focus for every individual within an organization. That is especially critical during times of uncertainty, such as with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Guiding ideas provide direction, helping employees become crystal clear relative to where the company they work for is heading, what it’s trying to accomplish and why certain goals have been set. Guiding ideas also provide meaning. In times of uncertainty, every individual is looking for meaning.”
Guiding ideas also provide “a vivid image” for individuals.
“As leaders, it’s imperative that our employees have a vivid image of exactly what the company is trying to accomplish, and why. Guiding ideas also provide an ideal standard of excellence for an organization and a future orientation,” Beveridge said. “As a company leader, a main question to ask oneself is, ‘How do I build the desire for guiding ideas into the hearts, minds and souls of our employees, with that desire showing up in their day-to-day actions?’”
The answer, according to Beveridge, is to “localize” the guiding ideas process.
“If I am leading a finance team, for example, I can take my company’s guiding ideas and ‘localize’ them to better meet what we, as a specific team, are trying to do each day,” Beveridge said. “Remember, the focus placed on a company’s main guiding ideas may be very strong within executive leadership of an organization. The company owner, CEO, president and/or general manager may live by those guiding ideas every day. However, what happens to the focus of those ideas further down within the organization? Typically, that focus is not as strong.
“The further you get from the ‘C-suite,’ the further diluted guiding ideas can become. As a leader, you cannot allow that to happen. Leaders — such as branch, sales and warehouse managers — who are in close proximity to front line people, can be the difference between guiding ideas fading away or being activated.”
Guiding ideas that are localized allow individual leaders to better define a specific team’s goals. That is particularly important during times of uncertainty, when employee alignment is most critical, according to Beveridge.
“When guiding ideas are localized, that process also clarifies, for employees, how the work they are performing fits into the big picture at a company. It serves, as well, as the foundation for common goals and expectations,” Beveridge said.
4-STEP PROCESS FOR
OF GUIDING IDEAS
A four-step process to help leaders localize their company’s guiding ideas, for the benefit of specific teams and departments, was provided by Beveridge. It involves:
■ The Review Process — During this step, a company leader can meet with his/her team to review the company’s existing guiding ideas, and have deep conversations about what stands out among those ideas.
“It’s important to find out what each guiding idea is trying to communicate to an individual and/or a team,” Beveridge said.
■ The Connect Process — “Next, as a leader, I would ask my team members, ‘How does each of the components within our guiding ideas mandate we perform on the job?’” Beveridge said. “If I were leading a warehouse team, for instance, I would go through key words and terms, such as ‘customer focused’ and ‘customer obsessed,’ and ask, ‘How do those words mandate the way we, in the warehouse, perform?’
“That process allows you to dissect each component within a guiding idea. If leaders have such conversations with their teams, I guarantee they are going to help drive significant meaning and purpose throughout an organization.”
■ The Envision Process — After reviewing and connecting, Beveridge said the Envision Process of localizing asks, “What is the standard of excellence at our company? What is the result of that excellence? What is the identity our organization wants to be known for by others?”
“If you, for example, are focusing on customer service, this is the process where you envision your company’s actual standard of excellence when it comes to working with customers,” he said. “If successful, the Envision Process allows everyone involved in a group to know how that group can live up to specific components found within each guiding idea being addressed.”
■ The Capture Process — “During this step it’s time to articulate and write down a team’s localized guiding ideas statement, making sure during that process it connects with the company’s overall guiding ideas,” Beveridge said. “A team’s localized statement should include focus, direction, meaning, a standard of excellence and future orientation.”
At the end of his presentation, Beveridge was asked: “When leaders work on localizing guiding ideas, what percentage of his/her team must buy into and/or agree with the company’s overall values and guiding ideas in order to achieve success, versus simply ‘going through the motions?’”
Beveridge responded: “You always want 100 percent, but let me throw out the numbers 20/50/30. For those organizations that are going to really excel, 20 percent of team members should be zealots for the guiding ideas at hand. They are the ones who live, breathe and sleep those guiding ideas. The 50 percenters are the people who are willing to buy-in and believe, as long as leadership is believing and performing to those ideas as well. The other 30 percent represent the people you are always working on, helping them better see, understand and internalize.
“As a leader, you constantly need to communicate, coach, mentor and tell stories. Great leaders are storytellers — discussing how their teams, units and/or individuals can better drive results through company values and localized guiding ideas. That is critical. Some of the best leaders I know will spend 25 percent of their time strategically communicating with people, helping ensure that those people are aligned with, and committed to, established guiding ideas. That focus leads to better results, vision and purpose.”