Some things about leadership just leave you scratching your head.  Like the time I was sitting in my office a few months back, thinking up ways to motivate and inspire AWC employees. I wanted to establish a culture that had a broad reaching effect on employee morale and good customer experience.

Trouble was, I was thinking I had to revamp policies and overturn everything we had already done up to that point to make it happen. I struggled with it for a few days.

Then it occurred to me: No company head has to reinvent the wheel when it comes to influencing company culture…I was all wrong. All I really needed to do is start a dialogue with the folks who best impact employees in a big way: my managers.

Job one was giving them something solid to work with and using it as my talking points whenever we got together. I knew my people instinctively wanted to make a positive impact on our overall culture, but needed just a little direction. So just providing some needed tools, I could help them.

Here are some management strategies that helped me:

Use a resource guide. I’m using the book The One Minute Manager Situational Leadership (Revised Manager) in all our meetings. It’s really a great read and focuses on different ways to motivate different kinds of people. Clear and simple, the book teaches how to become an adaptable and successful leader, forming your style to the needs of the individual and to the situation. I’ve already given each manager a copy of the book as a guide and am getting really good feedback.

Pick a theme. “Be the Hero” is a good one. I used it in our monthly meeting and as a focal point for communication throughout the month. The idea centers on letting employees know they are our number one asset and that everyday is their opportunity to be the hero, to make a difference in the life of our customers and fellow employees. It’s really a point of pride and rallying point to boost a sense of culture and togetherness in our employees. Just change up themes ever so often and pick ones that reinforce your overall vision.

Define your purpose. This is not just a one and done exercise. Your company’s purpose is your roadmap and the ultimate guideline for making your business a true success. Talk about it daily. Make it a centerpiece of your culture. For AWC, our purpose is very clear: We are in the people business and our resolve has to be about meeting the waste needs of families and the community; otherwise we’re just blowing smoke (well, trash fumes in our case).

Truth is, I’ve always been of the mindset that any positive culture shift has to come from the top down and resonate with your leadership first. But, at the same time, it doesn’t take a complete over-haul to accomplish your objectives. Just keep it simple.

Simply start a dialogue with your managers (and then employees) and see where the discussion leads. What we perceive as a monumental task often just boils down to directing the narrative.

You’d be surprised how eager folks are to talk about positive change. Just keep the conversation encouraging, and, above all…keep it going.

Paul Ross