It was only two weeks into a new job at a national trucking company when the CEO flew in. Jeff Jenkins and the rest of the executive leadership team walked into the conference room and sat down. Less than a few seconds after they all took their seats the CEO wrote “f***” repeatedly on the whiteboard. Then he threw the dry erase marker at the wall, yelled at the executive team, and basically lost it. Being the new guy Jeff honestly thought he was being pranked, or that he was on an episode of “Punk’d.”
Unfortunately, no. This was real. The CEO managed through intimidation and fear, and that became the company’s culture.
Would you want to work for a company like that? Jeff thought he would make it there 5 years. He couldn’t do it. He left after 18 months because it was a terrible place to work.
Your company’s culture is more than just something you add to a job posting (“We have a great company culture.”). It’s something you need to establish that both makes your fleet succeed and makes your employees want to come to work everyday to help the organization reach its goals.
In Episode 3 of “The Fleet Success Show,” our trio of hosts RTA CEO Josh Turley, Fleet Hall of Famer Steve Saltzgiver and former trucking executive Jenkins discuss why your organization needs an intentional culture to be successful.
Intentional Culture Vs. Accidental Culture
You might be thinking, “my operation has a good culture.” OK, but is your culture an intentional one that you worked to achieve, or is it an accidental culture that just happened over time?
In the podcast, our hosts define intentional culture as:
Purposely deciding the type of environment you want at your fleet, and taking ownership to shape that identity.
There is a huge difference between having an intentional culture and an accidental one.
RTA used to have an accidental culture.
“We had an established culture, but there was no set form, there was nothing typed out. We had accidental values,” Turley said on the podcast.
The culture just happened without intent or purpose. Everyone was nice to each other and was very family-oriented, and that became the accidental culture.
Unfortunately, in some organizations, an accidental culture can create a poor work environment.
“If you’re not intentional about it, then the lowest common denominator sets the tone,” Turley said.
It can lead to gossip, poor work habits, a lack of accountability, and can cause everyone to go in their own direction. This creates a negative place to work.
An intentional culture starts at the top of the organization. It’s up to the leader to set the vision for the company -- to determine what direction the company needs to go in, and most importantly, why.
“People get confused as to where they are going and why they’re going there,” Jenkins said. “They need to know this is what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.”
Once the vision is set, then it’s up to you to communicate it over and over again to the staff. As Turley said in the podcast, you might have to say something six or seven times to get people to hear it.
“When your team can do a good impression of you saying it, then you know you’ve done your job,” Turley said.
Reinforce the Vision
Once you establish your vision and you’ve overly communicated it, the real work begins to build an intentional culture.
You need to take actions to reinforce the vision. This can include putting new policies and procedures into place, and even hiring and firing based on the vision and core values.
In the podcast Jenkins recalled his hiring process at RTA. Before Turley hired Jenkins and Saltzgiver to join his executive team, he had them read a book. He basically said if you are not onboard with the culture outlined in this book, then you’re not going to be the right fit for us, and we can move on. Jenkins loved the bluntness of Turley’s request. “I’ve never had anyone say, ‘here’s our culture,’” Jenkins said.
While Jenkins and Saltzgiver fit the RTA culture, it doesn’t always work out that way. Sometimes you have to pass on a person for a new role or cut ties with an existing employee.
Saltzgiver lost an employee once when the staff member didn’t fit the culture.
At a former job he asked a miserable employee if he liked working at that organization. The employee responded with “I hate working here.” Instead of being offended, Saltzgiver said he’d help him identify what he really wanted to be doing and help him get a new job. The person knew he didn’t fit the culture and knew it was time to move on. Instead of being upset about it, Saltzgiver took the time to find the person a better fit.
“Don’t write them off,” Saltzgiver shared. “Help them find where they’ll be successful.”
You don’t have to lead your operation with fear and intimidation like Jeff’s former CEO to be successful. Instead, use an intentional culture to create an environment that employees want to work in, and that ultimately helps your fleet succeed.
We’ve only scratched the surface of Intentional Culture in this blog. Listen to the full podcast to hear the deep conversation and insight on how to create an intentional culture at your organization that will help your fleet succeed.