Cumberland Farms developed a management program, cultivating basic skills necessary for members to be successful.
By John McMahon
No one disputes that leadership matters in any organization.
We all know good leadership when we see it because leaders inspire and engage us. We follow them for the right reasons. In fact, research shows the quality of a company’s leadership is a critical component in meeting the expectations of investors, customers and team members.
It’s also a fact that when you are in a leadership role, people are watching you and the attitude you bring to your role each day is contagious. A positive, can-do attitude will inspire and motivate your team to give that discretionary effort when it’s needed, and to the betterment of the team. At Cumberland Farms, we were confident that if our leaders brought that positive approach to their job each day, we would see tangible results.
The first thing we did during my tenure was to develop a management program that would cover the basic skills and thought processes necessary for someone to be a successful leader.
The first module in the program focused on “Your Role as a Manager.” We spent a great deal of that first day discussing the concept of what it means to have the right leadership mindset and why that is a foundational building block for any successful leader. The program also contained sessions on building specific skill sets like how to give feedback, how to conduct a performance review discussion, how to handle disciplinary matters and other basic competencies.
This program has continued to evolve over the past six years and Cumberland Farms has put more than 600 managers through these programs during that period.
As our managers’ confidence continued to grow, they became more effective leaders and the response from their team members was very positive. One of the best ways to measure the impact of this training was to participate in an engagement survey.
At Cumberland Farms, we decided to participate in the ‘Great Place to Work’ survey and did so for the first time five years ago. Based on a number of questions in the survey, which is designed to determine the level of overall engagement of the team, you are given a score. In our first survey, 69% of the participants felt overall this was a great place to work.
In addition to receiving a score, we also got thousands of comments and ideas on how to improve the workplace for everyone.
We took those comments seriously and worked on the most impactful issues we felt would move the needle. Fast forward five years later, to 2017 when the company participated in the survey again, and 83% of our team members felt Cumberland Farms was a great place to work.
Your team members want to know that they have a voice in the direction they are going and how critical decisions are made in the company. Effective leaders understand that we have two ears and one mouth—we need to use them proportionately in order to really hear what’s going on. We also create an environment where everyone has a voice, where people feel valued and respected.
This culture of inclusion creates a place where people want to be part of the team. We found they often chose to remain at the company as well. Our retention numbers between 2012 and 2017 improved significantly. In fact, our hourly turnover rate dropped to about 60% in 2017, from a 100%-plus level in 2012.
When an organization can create the right mindset within the leadership ranks, it helps drive collective organizational success by establishing a culture of accountability while motivating your teams to deliver an outstanding guest experience, improved profitability and overall superior results.
At the end of the day, leadership is a privilege. How we think about it and how we show up each day allows us to not only impact the success of the company we work for, but impact the lives of the team members who work with us side-by-side.
Bring that positive, can-do leadership to work each day and watch your team soar.
John McMahon is recently retired from his role as chief human resources officer of Cumberland Farms and is now a consultant on leadership and HR Strategy. He can be reached at [email protected].