Over my career, I have heard and played party to many of the buzz words and trends that regularly sweep the world of business. What we thought was the path to success yesterday takes a new turn today. For the most part though, many things that contribute to an organization's success remain the same.
It does seem, however, that drive and ambition are strongest when organizations are born. New companies have a complete understanding that it takes customer satisfaction to grow, and they are 100% customer focused. Older, stable companies have the pain associated with the business cancer I call complacency.
It relates to corporate culture. Many who holler about it the loudest have no real definition of what corporate culture is. In many organizations, corporate culture has been defined as the pool table in the breakroom, the putting green in the common area, free haircuts, day care centers -- one’s imagination can complete the list. The purpose of these perks is to create comradery and collaboration in hopes of sparking creativity and innovation. Organizations that understand corporate culture know it’s the corporation’s interactions and outcomes with their customers that define their corporate culture. These organizations also understand that happy employees create happy customers, and all these perks and employee happiness are great, provided the corporation can balance the needs of the two.
When organizations put their employees ahead of the customers in creating satisfaction, they will fuel the cancer of complacency. All leaders understand that happy, healthy workers can create happy, business-healthy customers. There is no denying that. The problem is when leaders put more commitment towards delivering happiness to the employees’ environment than to the customer's. Organizations must ensure that teams are a collection of assets derived from different personality traits, education backgrounds and business experiences. Teams that are cumulative of experience and personalities will always out-deliver teams that are based on conformity.
“Teams that surround themselves with those who cause them no disruption will never be the team that causes disruption.”
Complacency happens when the team is more focused on the team’s happiness than the customer’s needs, or fear the pain caused by addressing those needs. This complacency is hidden when things are going well for the organization, and frankly when things are good, employee perks can multiply. In some organizations, perks are honor badges for the leaders.
However, when the organization finds itself in a market shift, or even worse, a complete disruption, they also can find themselves surrounded by a team that does not understand, or have the wherewithal to challenge each other or their leadership. I contend this is the reason they are being disrupted in the first place. While things were good, the leadership -- with advice from their team -- created a complacent team. These organization had a defect in their hiring practices by seeking people who would not disrupt their so-called “corporate culture.” Their corporate culture which was intended to create happy customers was highjacked by internal customers. These internal customers would fight and in some cases sabotage the admittance of those who could potentially disrupt their status quo, their so-called corporate culture.
I believe as do many others that teams with camaraderie or esprit de corps will always outperform those without these traits. I also believe that such teams are not defined by how well they make each other feel; they are defined by how well they accomplish the mission, because they trust each other and understand each other’s weaknesses, and they capitalize on each of their strengths cumulatively.
The most important trait for any organization is the ability to have and embrace conflict when needed for improvement. The rules of business are not about what is best for employee happiness. The rules for business are based on customers’ happiness. The question for the team is simple. Can they ensure continuous improvement that leads to keeping those customers happy? Does the team understand that their happiness -- all the perks, the pool tables, the putting greens, the free snacks, all the fun stuff --depend on the organization's continued success in keeping customers happy?
Corporate complacency will be the biggest threat to a company’s survival in this new age, where overnight a competitive landscape can completely change. The teams that thrive today will be those built of diverse individuals who cumulatively come together to disrupt the status quo, inherently creating a corporate culture praised by their customers now and when things completely change or are disrupted.
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