We believe that values-driven leadership teams are redefining success in the industry. While all companies love the journey of mastering our craft, the compass of rising market leaders is guided by a different "true north": a unique set of core values known as the Evergreen principles. These teams not only have the grit and resourcefulness to build and scale profitable, market-leading businesses, but they also make a positive and long-term difference in peoples' lives and in our world. BOSS LM is proud to be announced as an Evergreen Company, and we invite you join us in learning about "What is Evergreen?" in this blog series.
I challenge you to ask a few of your staff today, "What is your purpose on our team?"
Far too many of us will find out our teams explain what we do rather than why we do it. Usually the first answer involves task lists or functional areas: mowing, office stuff, billing and payroll, signing new customers, etc. Graciously brushing past that to again ask why we do things will cue people that the first answer was not what you wanted, so… pardon them a moment to mentally scramble. Even then, though, most second answers will be either objectives or outcomes. "Make my quotas." "Feel good about myself." "Keep my great pay." (Or, if you have one, a few might quote your vision statement.) These are all still impersonal, and mostly a what, not a why.
Is it any wonder, then, how many of us experience a sense of lost direction during the stormy seasons in our business or our life? Or, equally tragically, how many of us get lost in the growth and wake up disillusioned, wondering how we got here? Thomas Carlyle explained the feeling perfectly when he said, "The person without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder." You are afloat... but you are adrift.
One of the most consistent separators between high-performing companies and low-performing companies, in our experience, is a surprisingly intangible thing: a team with a crystal clear sense of the core value of purpose. Every employee, from ownership and the executive team down to the new mowing team member, can clearly explain not just what they do but why they matter. Yes, we sometimes find a person whose beliefs are stronger and clearer than the team around them, but those are the outliers. Most teams with a clear sense of purpose got that way as the result of long-term, the intentional focus at every level of leadership in the company.
When companies execute on this core value of purpose, three important things happen. First, team morale and retention dramatically increase team-wide. No one wants to feel like just a "cog in the machine" - even if, in fact, the type of task or labor they perform is simple or common in the market. When they matter, what they do matters. When what they do matters, it is worth doing well. This drives the second and third dramatic impacts of purpose: team ownership and team excellence.
Think about it for production. How many tailgate talks have our pruning and mowing crews sat through on quality control and site inspections, giving a nod to good jobs or a scathing highlight to misses? Now, how few talks have they sat in where we share how Mrs. Jones said thank you, explaining how life as a business owner responsible for dozens of employees is challenging right now, and the excellence of their residential maintenance visits gives her the gift of coming home to peace and calm? …Suddenly, what you do really matters, and you matter. So let's do it well.
Or, walk through your management team in your mind. That's not a whip-cracking production manager out in the yard; that's our chief promise-keeper, the guardian of our company's value of integrity, making sure we do what we said we would do. That's not a spreadsheet-drowning office assistant; that's the champion of peace and calm in all our systems, making sure our last word is excellence on everything from customer satisfaction to employee compensation. And over there, the inside sales rep making countless hours of prospecting phone calls? That's our rescuer of disillusioned people, constantly searching for those who are tired or upset with what they currently have to share the good news that a better way is available. They team up with our outside sales professional, who by continually closing new business during a tough recession keeps the team together, protected from layoffs because we still have a job to do.
The tasks and their management didn’t change… but suddenly, the purpose did.
Take some time today to ask your people about what they see as their purpose on your team. But, before that, take some time to reflect and refresh your own, and to get yourself ready; the vulnerable moments that follow might be some of your best chances yet to speak worth, value, and dignity into what matters first and most: your people.
To learn more about what it means to be a Tugboat Institute certified "Evergreen Company", and the "7 P" core values involved, visit tugboatinstitute.com.
David Rempfer shares from 13 years of profit and non-profit team leadership, is a veteran leader of multimillion landscape and snow operations, and is one of less than 300 professionals in North America to be SIMA Executive CSP certified. He now consults industry executives and leadership teams in their pursuits of business improvement and quality-of-life.