What makes a great company culture? In his book, StandOut 2.0, author Marcus Buckingham shares a story of interviewing two award-winning Hampton Inn Managers. Diana managed an Inn in Pennsylvania; when Marcus chatted with her he found her to be outgoing, energetic, and verbose. He asked her what she would tell other managers to do to build an award-winning team such as hers. She advised starting by choosing a mascot to create a company culture. Their inn’s mascot was the turtle because you don’t make any progress without sticking your neck out. They had turtles all over the building; regular guests received toy turtles; they even had a turtle (employee) of the month.

The second manager was Tim who ran the Hampton Inn on Times Square. He was quiet, introspective, and thoughtful. When asked the same question his first answer was to put the team in charge. That’s what he did. He believed his staff had the best solutions for guest services and ground maintenance decisions because they were in the midst of it—he wasn’t. Marcus questioned Tim further and learned Tim’s Hampton Inn had a staff library. He wanted his motel to be known as a learning motel. Every month each staff member added one book to the library.

It’s Not One Size Fits All

My point is this; too often upper management recognizes the accomplishments of a team and tries to duplicate it without understanding what drives the process. Both of these examples were leadership driven. Can you imagine how Tim would react if corporate told him he had to choose a mascot, or if Diana were told to create a learning library?

It’s difficult to duplicate actions driven by personality and talent. Sure, like-minded managers might jump at the chance to create a mascot, while others might see building a learning library as worthy, but creating an outstanding company culture is not one size fits all.

Driving Excellence

The summer of 2019, I went to my local BMV, I needed plates for a motorcycle that had been sitting in my garage for more than ten years. I expected the worse. What I found was the best. Not only did the staff help me solve my problem and secure a plate, but they did it with expediency. It was fun.

When I entered the branch, I heard a voice shouting, “We’re down to three minutes—three!” I learned later this was the wait time. The team continued shouting the times, and when they reached two minutes, they applauded, hooped, and hollered. They did the same with several other actions. Their focus was cutting wait time, and they had fun doing so.

When it was my turn, the staffer was pleasant and efficient. While she was processing my paperwork a team member came over and asked how she could help; my clerk gave her copies to make. I asked if the teammate  was a floating helper and she told me no, she wasn’t a floating helper; she was the supervisor. It was service leadership in action.

People Aren’t Projects

When I left I was excited by what I’d seen and wondered why all BMV branches didn’t adopt this system? Then it hit me, it wouldn’t work at every branch, would it? People aren’t projects. However, as leaders how many times have we expected different teams to share the same talents, sundry managers to lead the same way, and attempted to manage varied departments and operations as if they were the same? I know I have, have you? If you want your team to grow and excel then you must allow managers to develop a leadership framework based on their talents and convictions, not someone else’s.

How Can I Help? 

I like to help people and organizations, but I have three criteria I consider before taking an assignment – I believe in what the organization stands for, I know I can help, and it looks like fun. If you have any questions, Contact Me. 

Does your business have a  management training plan? Many organizations, large and small, use my book, The New Manager’s Workbook a crash course in effective management, as the basis for their leadership development program. Check it out.

Photo by lucas law on Unsplash