Re-igniting the spark with a ‘founder’s ’

Economy June 02, 2017 01:00


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WHERE HAS all the fun gone? Where is the sense of urgency among business teams? How come we don’t enjoy our work any more? 

And more important, our customers are saying that we don’t deliver the same quality of service as before. 

I often hear these statements from organisations, particularly start-ups that have grown in scale.

The knee-jerk reaction is to assign this task to HR managers to improve human-resource practices. Companies end up implementing rewards and recognition, performance appraisal, employee engagement and even new work rules. These are all good remedies and well intentioned, except that they may or may not work. Companies might see performance improvements in the short term, but long-term performance generally will revert to what it was before the initiative. 

Why? Because we are not fixing the cause, or what I call the “core”.

By core, I mean the mindset of all employees. I touched on this subject in my previous article “Corporate culture – the secret sauce”. Today, I want to touch on another equally important part of employees’ mindsets called “founder’s mentality”. 

Chris Zook and James Allen in their book “The Founder’s Mentality” defined this as, first, the mission is the company itself, not the bottom line; second, employees act as if they own the company; and third, an obsession with serving the customers. 

Eastman Chemical is today a thriving business, unlike its former parent firm Kodak, which faltered. Eastman Chemical never grew complacent like Kodak did and continues to innovate; in other words, it stuck to its founder’s mentality.

So, what can HR do to preserve and promote a founder’s mentality? 

First, make sure your leaders, line managers and employees are aware of your company’s mission even if the owners are no longer at the helm. Ask yourself, why do you exist as a company? 

For example, Google’s mission is to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. It’s a simple statement, yet a powerful mantra that all googlers can relate to. And yes, if your employees believe and strive to achieve the mission, money will follow.

Second, make your hiring practices a priority throughout the company. Leaders and HR departments must work together to get the right people. Make it a rigorous process to ensure that the right person gets through the door even if that means taking a longer time to fill the position. 

The right person means having the right skills and the right culture fit. Yes, mistakes will be made. But as my former boss says, “If it’s not the right person, then deal with it quickly and in a proper manner with a human touch.”

Third, put the decision-making in the hands of your managers. Empower them to become project managers. The project manager’s job is to achieve the mission by leading the team members and managing the bottom line just like an owner of a company. 

To sum up, re-ignite the spark in your employees’ hearts instead of putting it out with ambiguous rules. 

And if you get the chance, watch the movie “The Founder”, the story of how McDonald’s has grown.

SUVIT CHANSRICHAWLA is next-generation HR consultant under the brand Serendipity & Co.