Does Culture & Performance Follow the Team or Leader?

There are no Bad Teams, Only Bad Leaders

I read a great story in the book, Extreme Ownership, by Jocko Willing and Leif Babin. During a Navy SEALs BUD/S training, SEAL candidates were grouped into boat crews of seven men and assigned to an inflatable boat that weighed more than 200 pounds. The most senior-ranking candidate became the boat-crew leader responsible for receiving, transmitting, and overseeing the execution of the lead instructor’s orders. They went through a grueling string of races that involved running with the boat and then paddling it in the ocean.

After several rounds, one team consistently came in first and another consistently last every time. The instructors decided to switch the leaders of the best and worst teams, and the results were remarkable. Under their new leader, the performance of the team that was originally winning all the events went down and they finished in the middle of the pack. The team that previously was finishing last now started winning every race, with their new leader.

The once-great team had practiced enough with each other to accomplish something even under bad management, but the bad leader was unable to command respect or maintain synchronicity.

Meanwhile, the excellent leader had taken his new team from last to first by getting them to believe that they were just as capable as his former team, and that bickering with each other during the exercise would not be tolerated.

Culture Reflects Leadership

I love and hate that phrase. I love it because it is true, I hate it when it has applied to me during my 30-year business career. At times, I have been guilty of thinking, “If I just had a better team, we would do so much better.”

On a scale of 1 to 10, what would you rank the culture of the team/department you lead? Is it fantastic (9 or 10)? Or does it have a lot of room for improvement (6 or 7)? Whatever score you gave your culture, understand you have just figured out your rating as a leader.

Have you ever heard a song while you were on hold, the song may not be one you would put in your playlist, however, hours later you cannot get that song out of your head? Well, that is how I want the next phrase to impact you. I want it ringing in your head later, haunting you:

Culture Reflects Leadership

Do you like your organization’s/department’s culture? Are you proud of it, or is it lacking? Do you wish you could change many of your employees’ attitudes? If you don’t like your culture, look in the mirror, because every time, in every organization, culture reflects leadership. How good your organization or department’s culture is, is a direct result of how good you are as a leader. Great leaders create great cultures. You don’t even need to take a survey, do any studies, or even see any turnover reports; a culture is something you feel when you walk into a work environment. There is either a strong energy/vibe, where everyone understands the organization’s purpose and their role in achieving that vision or you may feel a “fog,” a thickness in the air, a place where people are trading hours for dollars.

Grading your Teams = Grading your Leaders

This lesson is replicated every day in the business world and sports world. One of the best business practices is to create a scoring system for each department/location in your business that considers several key drivers of your team’s performance. For example, at the first business I started, John Robert’s Spa, for each location, we track the following:

  • Sales growth
  • Employee Engagement Scores (Morale surveys)
  • Employee Turnover
  • Client Retention

We then rank each location by their cumulative grade. Our salon coordinators are incentivized by their quarterly & annual “Salon Grade”. This helps them focus on what is most important and are naturally inspired by the competitive nature of where they rank. Like the Navy SEALs example, we will rotate our salon coordinators to different salon locations, and we have found that a correlation of the team’s performance is tied to who their leader is. Think about how unfair it is to your employees on the underperforming team, who have been stuck with the same leader for a long time.

This doesn’t always mean the leader who has underperforming teams, is bad. Many times, it is they were thrown into the position with a lack of leadership training and preparation.

Episode 058: Making Your Brand Tattoo Worthy

Chief Revolution Officer John DiJulius of the DiJulius Group talks with the legend of creating fantastic company culture, Chuck Runyon CEO, Co-Founder at Self Esteem Brands (Anytime Fitness, Waxing the City, The Bar Method, Basecamp Fitness, Provision Security, Healthy Contributions, and Nutrition U). Chuck has created one of the most amazing company cultures for his employees and franchisees. More than 5,000 employees and their members (customers) have Anytime Fitness Tattoos! Listen to Podcast 58.

The Customer Service Revolution is Next Week!

If you can’t join us in-person, you MUST join us virtually. The lineup of subject matter experts is exactly what you and your leadership team need to be inspired to build a strategy to make 2022 your most successful year ever. Your virtual ticket will allow you to listen to all the recordings until November 1st, 2021. Register today!

Our Incredible Lineup of Speakers for the Revolution and their Topics:

  • Scott Blanchard, President, The Ken Blanchard Companies – The Art and New Science of Leadership
  • John DiJulius, Chief Revolution Officer – CX Strong
  • Dan Gingiss, Author – How A Remarkable Customer Experience Can Be Your Best Sales and Marketing Strategy
  • Johnny Jennings, Chief of Police Charlotte – Transforming an Organization into a Customer-Focused Culture
  • Ron Lovett, Author – Outrageous Employee Empowerment
  • Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, CEO Celebrity Cruise Lines – Revolutionizing an Industry Through Inspired Hospitality | Service Excellence with a Purpose
  • Jack Mackey, Sales Expert – You can Market all you like, but people Believe what they Experience
  • Scott McKain, Author – The Ultimate Customer Experience: Delivering What Customers Really Want
  • Alden Mills, Former Navy Seal – Build Unstoppable Teams: 4 Essential Actions of High-Performance Leadership
  • Dave Murray, Senior CX Consultant – A Key to Customer Service Consistency
  • Jess Pischel, CX Consultant – Retain your Top Talent in an Employee Market
  • Mike Rayburn, Musician – What if?
  • DJ Santiago, Author – Believing in Your Dreams

About The Author

John DiJulius

John R. DiJulius is a best-selling author, consultant, keynote speaker and President of The DiJulius Group, the leading Customer experience consulting firm in the nation. He blogs on Customer experience trends and best practices.

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