Tag Archives: culture

How Unhealthy Cultures Stymie Progress

(This article, written by Rick Dacri, was originally published in the Maine Town, City & County Management Association July 2014 Newsletter)

If you want to understand what truly makes your organization tick, focus on your culture. Former IBM CEO Louis Gestner, Jr. remarked, “culture is everything.” It is the driving force in managing your city or town.

Watch the ways your employees greet one another, address residents, and even dress. Observe their work habits, how they perform their jobs, and their willingness to do more. Understand your unwritten rules, beliefs, expectations and values. All of these will provide you a snapshot of your organization’s personality and culture.

I was asked by a new Town Manager to evaluate two finalists for a community relation’s position. One was an external candidate with years of relevant experience and a positive personality; the other, a long service internal candidate with no applicable proficiency. I asked the internal why she wanted the job, a position very different from her accounting role. She indicated that for the last 10 years she had watched the incumbent do the job and thought she’s like to do the same one day. When the incumbent retired, she assumed that with her seniority, she would be entitled to the job. When I inquired about what she had done over the years to prepare herself for the job—training, courses taken, anything—she looked at me incredulously. She had done nothing, beyond putting in her time. She didn’t get the job.

In this town, an “entitlement mentality” based on seniority was ingrained into the culture. The new manager and his Board wanted and needed a workforce that was engaged, energized, resident-focused and skilled. To get there, the manager needed to move to a performance based culture, built upon education, training and above all excellence. Merit always trumps longevity. Hiring the external candidate was the first step in the process and it sent a loud message to all.

Cultural change is never easy and it is often painful. It takes hard work, time and focus. The new manager was a take-charge leader who was committed to setting a new tone and direction. With an uncompromising approach and support from his board, he knew he had to be an exemplar–modeling and promoting the “new way.”

Creating a culture focused on performance required a powerful tool to both support this initiative and to measure employee progress. We developed a performance management system trumpeting employee recognition, rewarding excellent performance, and fostering employee development. An appraisal system that deemphasized a “report card” approach, while promoting career development, would get employees’ attention and support, begin to unthaw frozen beliefs, and was likely to generate support, acceptance and new attitudes. After all, you cannot raise the level of performance in an organization that floats on a culture emphasizing entitlement over achievement.

While it may be difficult to change behaviors and attitudes once they become the norm, strong leadership can make it happen. The effectiveness of town government, in an era of high resident expectations on bare bones budgets, rests on the shoulders of its leadership and workforce. Understanding your culture is critical. Changing it, if it not consistent with your strategic direction, is paramount.

Getting the best out of your people, nurturing their growth, in an environment based on performance, can be transformative. Promoting this can-do attitude, encouraging an acceptance of change, instills strong peer pressure for the new norms while enlisting the employees’ enthusiasm and dedicated efforts to achieving the town’s objectives.

Step back and critically look at your city or town. If you’re happy with what you see, build on it. If you find yourself falling short of your expectations, do what it takes to change. Your residents, board and yes, your employees will thank you.

If you would like to learn more about transforming your organization’s culture, contact Rick Dacri.



Filed under Leadership

Cultural Issues Makes Employee Uncomfortable

imagesThis question came in from one of Dacri’s HR HelpLine clients.

Question: I have a male international worker who has made one of my female non-international worker uncomfortable with some of the comments he has made to her. I am going to address this with him, but I want to make sure I handle this correctly. Some of the comments were how she needs to learn to cook for her husband and the like. She said he also has an attitude that she can’t handle some of the tasks because she is female. I know the Jamaican culture is quite different from here, so I want to let him know that he is making her uncomfortable without discounting what he believes to be true…Any insight you can provide, will be most helpful.

Expert Advice: While it is important to be sensitive to different cultures and an individuals personal beliefs, that does not give anyone license to espouse their beliefs to all. I would pull him aside, let him know that you have something to discuss with him that may make him uncomfortable, but his comments (walk him through them) are making some people uncomfortable. Let him know that this kind of language is unacceptable in the workplace and you expect it to stop immediately. At this point, stop talking and wait for his response. Assuming it goes well (it should), tell him you hope this is the end of it. Then, document your discussion. Let the female employee know you’ve talked to him and let her know if it happens again to let you know immediately. If it does happen again, I recommend a formal written warning, but let’s further discuss at that point.

It is important to be sensitive to cultural issues, but in this case, his comments are making your other employee very uncomfortable. After you address this, follow-up with the female employee in a few days to be sure everything is OK.

If you would like to learn more about Dacri’s HR HelpLine service, where you can get all your workforce questions answered, click HR HelpLine.

Other posts you may want to read:

  1. HR HelpLine: When You Need Expert Advice
  2. Body Odor: It’s a Problem Supervisors Must address
  3. Medical Marijuana: Hospitality Issues

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Filed under Employee Relations, How to, Management

Culture Trumps Everything

(Posted by Rick Dacri, June 2, 2014)108

Walk into a Whole Foods, order shoes through Zappos, or spend a night at the Ritz and you’ll quickly see the value of a positive workplace culture. Whether its Zappos emphasis on delivering “WOW” through service (ask my wife), or Whole Foods’ friendly, smiling clerks (I love shopping there), and I can’t even describe the joy in staying at the Ritz–the emphasis on taking care of the customer is ingrained into the fabric of each company and embodied in its workforce.

Culture is not a squishy concepts best left to human resources. No, its the essence of a company, its personality. Culture is made up of a company’s core values, beliefs, goals, and traditions. It’s who they are and how leaders form and shape it determines whether the company will flourish or wither on the vine.

L.L. Bean hires employees who are Continue reading

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Filed under Leadership, Management

Why Cleavage Should Not Be A Job Requirement

(This article, written by Rick Dacri, was originally published in the York County Coast Star on May 22, 2014)

You can only make one first impression, so you want to make it a good one. You’ve heard this a million times. Yet, so many companies ignore this advice. In this competitive world, the impression we convey can either open or close a door.

We form quick opinions about people we meet. Same for a company. Walking into their facility, meeting their employees, reading their annual report or reviewing their website—all convey a certain message about them. Most recently I learned a lot about a company through a recruitment ad they placed on Craigslist seeking an assistant to the president called a “Director of First Impressions.” Yes, that’s the real position title.

A little background: One of my clients spotted this company’s ad and forwarded it to me seeking my first impression. Well, I formed one quickly and it wasn’t all that good. This small, but busy office, was seeking “a mature, think outside the box, open minded, assistant to the president.” So far so good–this should draw people I thought. The ad went on to state they wanted someone who “wants to prove themselves, make themselves invaluable, and if selected, retire from here in 30 years!” While I applaud their desire for a stable person who isn’t into job hopping, I would advise they be careful with their wording. “Retire from here in 30 years” could be code for “we want someone young” and that would be discriminatory. It gets worse. In describing their ideal candidate, they noted that they wanted someone with a sense of humor because “we are definitely not always politically correct.” Well, OK, but what does that mean? Here it comes: “the successful candidate should be aware that naughty words are spoken frequently and it is a male dominated culture…think cleavage.” What? Did they really mean to put that in writing? What kind of impression do they expect their Director of First Impressions to present? Is a certain dress expected? Are they suggesting only women should apply? Continue reading

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Filed under Recruitment

Bench Strength: 5 Steps to Building a Strong Bench


This article, written by Rick Dacri, was originally published in the York County Coast Star)

There is nothing more energizing to a company than growth. Increased sales, positive cash flow, an expanding customer base, outpacing your completion. It is very exhilarating for executives and employees.

But with this excitement comes challenges. Growing from a small company to a large one requires outstanding talent. Talent that can adapt, change, thrive and deliver. Growth brings newness, unpredictability, ambiguity, and often stress. Having equipment, capacity, sales and cash will only prove helpful if a strong team is ready and able to step up. In sports it is called bench strength.

Red Sox manager John Farrell enjoyed the upper hand over the St. Louis Cardinals in last year’s World Series. Farrell had one of baseball’s most productive benches. Being able to look down the bench, seeing the right player to send out on the field at a critical time in the game proved to be a significant advantage, propelling the Sox to the championship.

I recently spoke to a business owner who was looking at doubling his business in the next two to three years, expanding his facility, and opening his business to some new, promising markets. Yet, his excitement was tempered by the sober reality that his bench strength was weak—strong enough for today, but lacking in capability for what loomed ahead.

So what steps should an organization take to build bench strength?

  1. Know What You’ve Got: Evaluate your current staff. Their ability and willingness to change, adapt, and learn are essential traits. Ongoing assessment of your employees will allow you to know your current capacity and determine what your future needs will be. At the same time, through training and coaching, you can begin to raise skill and performance levels. All high performers should have a development plan in place to ensure future readiness. While growing your staff is a critical first step, sometimes individuals who performed in the past will be unable to help you in the future. Bench strength means having high potentials that are ready to step into new roles. Difficult decisions must be made. Continue reading

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Filed under Leadership

Hiring Only The Best (Webinar)

hiringThis webinar, titled Hiring Only The Best, was designed and presented by Rick Dacri on October 22, 2013. 

Click Hiring the Best to listen in. There is a one minute lead in where you will not hear anything.

The webinar covers the following:

  1. Understanding what it takes to make a great hire
  2. Developing a positive recruitment brand
  3. 7 musts needed to improve your overall recruitment program
  4. Hiring solid candidates every time
  5. Interviewing so you know what you’re getting
  6. Getting a “yes” with every job offer
  7. Getting meaningful references

This webinar will last about 55 minutes, including the one minute of silence in the lead in.

Click here to listen.

If you want to learn more about developing a recruitment program, contact Rick Dacri.

If you like this webinar, you may want to listen to Avoiding Legal Pitfalls.

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Filed under Job Search, Recruitment

Simple Formula For Increasing Sales and Profits

images(Posted by Rick Dacri and originally published in the York County Coast Star)

Watching people connect in the workplace will tell you a lot about a company. In over 25 yeas in business, I have found that by observing how people interact, one quickly understands how a company operates, its effectiveness and its level of employee engagement.

One of the perks of being a management consultant is the opportunity to visit literally hundreds of different organizations. I always try to arrive at scheduled appointments early. The condition of the facility, the initial greeting by the receptionist, and the interplay of employees provide me a wealth of information about the organization’s culture. Am I greeted with a smile or am I another intrusion? Are employees talking with one another, engaged and animated or disinterested and frustrated? Is the “feel” of the organization warm or cold?

You can get that same read in a restaurant. My wife and I frequent the many fine area establishments. We both watch for how we are treated by the host and our server. The chef can make a fabulous meal, but it is the host and server that make the experience—and they will determine whether or not we return. We expect a smile; a cheerful and helpful attitude; quick and knowledgeable responses to questions and requests; and a willingness to do whatever it takes to make our experience positive. When that happens we return – frequently. And we also tell our friends.  Engaged workers engage their customers and engaged customers buy.

Gallop recently released their annual poll on employee engagement (2013 State of the American Workplace Report) and the results are not good. Only 30% of the approximately 100 million people in America who hold full time jobs are inspired and engaged at work; 20% are actively disengaged; and half are not engaged at all. In other words, 7 in 10 workers are either simply showing up or are actively sabotaging their companies. It gets worse. Only 41% of employees feel they know what their company stands for and what makes it different from the competition. And of these workers, “Millennials”, those born between 1980 and 1994, are likely to quit their jobs in the next 12 months if the economy continues to improve. Finally, service workers, those employees with the most direct contact with the customer, are the least engaged of all workers. Imagine – customer service reps, bank tellers, sales clerks, wait staff, call center reps – those individuals who have the greatest daily customer contact, those employees upon whom employers depend to take care of the customer; the very face of the organization, are the least engaged. Remember, disengaged workers directly impact the company’s bottom line. The CEO may set the goals and direction of the business, but it is these workers who determine whether it reaches them or not.

The news is not all bad. While the national statistics are damning, organizations are not condemned to follow. Great organizations have engaged workers, but they must first have engaged managers and supervisors. Studies show that without them, a committed workforce is nearly impossible.

Great managers create engaged workers and when that occurs, organizations enjoy significantly higher productivity, profitability, customer satisfaction, less turnover and absenteeism, and even fewer on-the-job accidents. Gallop even found that organizations with an average of 9.3 engaged employees to every actively disengaged employee experienced 147% higher earnings per share compared to their competition. You can take that to the bank, literally.

The best organizations are lead by and with strong managers who demand excellence from their staff. These managers set high standards and mirror it in their own behavior. Successful organizations hold their managers accountable for their department and staff’s performance. Every employee, manager and non-manager must buy into the company’s philosophy or they must go. The evidence is clear. When all employees are willing to do whatever is takes to make the company successful; embrace the direction of the firm; and value their customers, then success follows. And it all hinges on good management. It is that simple.

The formula for success is not complicated. It may take hard work to achieve and investment in their people, but the benefits are huge.

Customers know. Whether they’re shopping at the local store, purchasing a car, ordering dinner or calling customer service, they quickly realize the level of engagement by the employee with whom they interact. That singular exchange will often determine whether they buy or not and whether they’ll ever return to buy again. Organizations will likely have engaged customers when they have strong management and engaged workers, and engaged workers means higher sales and greater profits.

Other posts you may want to read (click to read):

  1. Where Has Company Loyalty Gone?
  2. Costly Turnover Can be Controlled
  3. Employees Providing Great Customer Service?

If you want to know more about how I can help you, click here: Dacri & Associates, LLC




Filed under Compliance, Productivity

Union – Management Relations: It is Not Easy



Posted by Rick Dacri, June 13, 2013

In a recent post (Manager: Its Legal Definition), I recounted a response to an HR HelpLine client on how he could promote a union employee to a nonunion manager. My response elicited a comment from another client (listed below, with the client name redacted), which I wanted to share with you:

Client Comment: Many issues to consider here.  First of all, if the employer is promoting a person from the Union to exempt status, how can that person still have many of the same duties as that of the Union person?  In our organization, the duties of the “supervisor” need to be different than those of the Union position or we run the risk of grievances for a supervisor doing “Union-type” work.  Also, in munis (the client is a municipal public power), only the General Manager can “hire, transfer, lay off, promote, or discharge” employees.  We’ve promoted employees from the Union to management on occasion, but it usually depends on the person and the Union group.  In our organization, where there is a significant divide in philosophy between the Union and management, it is often difficult to get a Union employee to crossover into management and embrace a completely different ideology, especially if he/she will be supervising his/her former Union group.  The new supervisor often struggles with the new thinking, and with holding his/her former “buddies” accountable.

Dacri Response: Continue reading

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Filed under Employee Relations, Leadership, Strategy

NE Patriot Randy Moss Had To Go

New England Patriot superstar Randy Moss had to go. The fact that he was a great player and someone who was a game changer was irrelevant. He violated Patriot coach Bill Belichick’s tenets of a successful team. He could not stay.

 This organization has won three Super Bowl titles and nearly won a fourth in the last decade—an unprecedented feat. How did they do it? Their success is based on their philosophy of always building a team that competes for a championship.  Belichick built a strong culture in the locker room that is in line with this philosophy of winning.  The culture of the locker room is key and everyone must buy into their overriding philosophy. Moss no longer did. The moment he publicly spoke out against the team, focusing attention on him and his contract issues, distracting the team from their ultimate goal, he could no longer stay. The team could not remain cohesive with an unhappy, non-believing team leader.

Organizations can learn from the Patriot’s actions.  Two key points:

  1. Organizations must have an overriding philosophy to guide them in how they operate their business.
  2. All employees need to buy into this philosophy.  Any employee, who does not embrace the philosophy, must go.

 It was that simple. Randy Moss will be missed. At the same time, the Patriots will be better off with Randy gone.

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Filed under Leadership, Management