Most people who engage in coaching do so with a desire to improve themselves. Passionate leaders, however, typically strive to enhance their teams, departments, and organizations as well. Wanting to create an engaging and flourishing culture, strong leaders know that they set the tone and are always on the lookout for ways to do that effectively.
As you surely know, success leaves clues and we can learn a lot from the experience of those we admire.
In that vein, when it comes to coaching around organizational culture, I often find myself referring to the book that captures Zappos’ experience so well: Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh. It’s a terrific case study of an organization that strives to wow its customers with service, empower employees to make decisions and lead with confidence, and create a fun, engaging, even weird place to work.
How does Zappos do it?
It starts with one foundational piece upon which everything else is built: core values.
“Your personal core values define who you are, and a company’s core values define the company’s character and brand,” explains Hsieh, who goes on to share Zappos’ 10 core values:
- Deliver WOW through service.
- Embrace and drive change.
- Create fun and a little weirdness.
- Be adventurous, creative, and open-minded.
- Pursue growth and learning.
- Build open and honest relationships with communication.
- Build a positive team and family spirit.
- Do more with less.
- Be passionate and determined.
- Be humble.
Defining your organizational core values can prove the guidepost for decisions, actions, and commitments. Once clarified, you can turn to your values when interviewing new hires, planning development goals, conducting staff meetings, and more. They become the touchstone of your entire organization.
The fear, and unfortunately, often the reality is that values become simply another item to put on the website or employee manual and then forget. You must work the values into your day-to-day operations for them to have any bearing, and Zappos does a terrific job of this.
In probably its most notable example, after their first weeks of training, all new hires are offered $2,000 to quit. Why? “We want employees that believe in our long-term vision and want to be a part of our culture,” says Hsieh. Fewer than 1 percent take the offer, and Zappos also boasts a retention rate not many can match. To take a phrase from author and researcher Jim Collins, Zappos takes extra measures to “get the right people on the bus,” and it works.
The “fun and weirdness” value is expressed in a variety of ways, from themed costume days to hot dog socials to on-campus petting zoos. And I love some of their strategies for value No. 7, such as “The Face Game”: In addition to a login and password to get into their computer, the photo of a randomly selected employee will also appear on their screen, and they must identify the person’s name. Once they do, a profile and bio of that employee appears to share a bit more insight.
“In the end, it turns out we’re all taking different paths in pursuit of the same goal: happiness,” writes Hsieh. Creating a positive culture will benefit everyone involved as well as the bottom line, and it all begins with clear values upon which everything else is built.
What are your organization’s core values? How do employees fulfill them on a day-to-day basis?
If you can’t easily answer these questions, take some time this month to read Delivering Happiness.
Then, take the initiative to reevaluate your organization’s (as well as your own) values. Seek the necessary support to define clear, agreed-upon values that truly fuel your business. You can then design the path to ensure those values are honored and celebrated on a daily basis – and you, your employees, and your customers will reap the benefits!
Dr. Christi Hegstad coaches leaders and executives succeed in work that they love – and to help their employees do the same! Learn more at www.meaning-and-purpose.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MAPIncFan, and via Twitter at www.twitter.com/DrChristiCoach.
Hsieh, Tony. Delivering Happiness. Hachette Book Group. © 2010.