Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Culture Shock: Yes or No?

As I sit and write, my colleague Brian Cloud, GCSAA’s South Central regional representative, is sending another storm our way with forecasts of a foot of snow or more, yet the calendar clearly shows golf season is on the way. Soon the phone will begin ringing with seasonal employees checking in to verify their positions for the upcoming season and ads will need to be placed for open spots on the crew. Soon the staff will descend on your maintenance facility and fill the winter void with life.

Ponder for a moment, what will this year’s staff be like? I am sure your staff makes such an indelible mark on your season that you can rattle off the good and bad as easily as the end of the year results of your favorite sports teams.  Championship year, high potential with disastrous results, good free agents (new hires) and bad deals, and the dreaded trip to the IR (injuries or accidents on the job are never a good thing, and rarely forgotten). That is what superintendents see and remember, but what does your staff see?  What do they remember?

What would your staff say the culture is like at your facility? I get a chance to visit many facilities; what would I see when I enter your facility? What is the vibe like? Workplace culture can aide with staff motivation, level of engagement, productivity, and can help minimize employee conflicts. Simple physical cues can aid in a positive culture. Is your shop clean and organized?  Is your equipment clean and maintained? Do you place a priority on care of equipment no matter how old it is? If your employees respect the equipment and their environment, they will transfer that respect to their jobs.

Is there an emphasis on being on time?  When I was a superintendent, my motto was: “Early is on time, on time is late, and late is unacceptable.” However, mottos are no good without accountability. Is there a policy for tardiness, and is it adhered to? A lack of accountability can undo every good effort to build a culture. 

Who do you want your staff to emulate? Would you be happy if your staff tried to be like you? Are you a “do what I say, not what I do” type, or are you a model for what you want your staff to achieve? Good leaders hold themselves to the highest standards. Your staff will notice any time you stray from that standard, and they will react accordingly. They will hold you accountable, maybe not in words, but in actions. 

There are many ways to adapt a culture for your specific needs, but your staff will dictate the success of that culture not you. A staff of Baby Boomers will not react positively to a loose culture with too much flexibility, while a military-style approach might not get the most out of a staff full of Gen X and Gen Y workers. Get to know your staff personally. Have fun when the time is right. Stress can take a toll on a staff. Keeping things light in those times can often have positive results. If you have built the respect within your staff, they will understand when the light and loose time is over and back to business must happen. Engage them, as they will almost tell you what type of culture will motivate them.  Responding to their needs will develop a workplace culture that will maximize productivity.

Consider the Red Sox 2012 epic collapse as fried chicken and beer stories raged in the media. In 2013, they were World Series Champions. Credit was heaped on the people, new system, and the change in culture. Be a leader and set a standard for excellence at your facility. Develop guidelines that will maintain structure and maximize productivity. Hold yourself and others accountable for all actions. Finally, during the golf season you’ll spend more time your staff than with your friends and families, so keep it light. A good culture is self-perpetuating and contagious. You will not have to ask people to adhere to it; they will want to be a part of it.

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