I serve on the board of a start-up company that is preparing to launch into global leadership training and personal development late this year. The mantra of this new company is “That you may become….”. In developing the vision statement and establishing the culture for this enterprise, there was a tussle regarding how to currently implement this with an employee who was living outside of our vision statement. One board member made the observation that “We all work with _______ [place any descriptive here that you wish- such as numb skull or lame brain] because of some of the great skills they bring to the table.” Folks, this is a board of vast experience, some ran billion dollar companies; so I feel humbled to just participate and observe; however, when it comes to where I stand on culture and having the right people on the bus with NO compromise of the vision statement, from my point of view, there is no leeway. Yes, I do believe that we can all GROW into our vision statements, but during that growth period, there ought not to be anyone on the team that jeopardizes the dream; no one who is not earnestly striving to grow with the group into a culture of excellence.
At this point in the board meeting, the newest person at the board table, a very bright young lady who is well recognized in the global leadership business, said “Culture eats strategy for lunch.” In other words, any plan or person that does not inculcate the vision statement of governing values ought not to survive. Great strategy is needed, but never at the expense of violating the company culture.
To make this point, let me share the condensed vision statement of this start-up is as follows:
INTEGRITY: OUR BEDROCK
Be good, do good.
Leading with insight and relevance.
SMART & GLOBAL
The world is our marketplace. Be smart, be savvy.
With more, we can do more.
We seek after the best ideas, and build on them.
Your potential is why we exist.
We care honestly. Our words are felt as well as heard.
EXECUTION IS EVERYTHING
An idea is only as good as its execution. Execute well.
Now looking at the above statement; and considering a fictional situation, would it be wise to have on the bus a person who has some excellent skills, but is not authentic? Or how about a person who demonstrates a life style of indulgent decadence and yet stands before a group to teach about integrity? Or, what about a person that sees people as objects and not human beings?
What strengths do we consider “putting up with” to keep the wrong (or not quite right) persons on the bus—-because they do something extraordinarily well? Maybe that great thing they do well brings in revenue—now we have a tough decision to make, do we not?
This question arose in the board meeting, to which the CEO said—“we could keep this person, but at what expense?”
My point is this; and the great works of Jim Collins and Patrick Lencioni and Steven M.R. Covey verify this point: THERE IS NO VALUE TO THE TEAM OR COMPANY BY KEEPING ON BOARD ANYONE WHO DOES NOT FULLY EMBRACE THE CULTURE AND VISION.
Truly, the statement made by my board friend is true: “Culture eats strategy for lunch”.