Nurturing Leaders and Your Corporate Culture

Corporate culture must be well defined to best entice top talent to join your ranks.

By John Lofstock

In today’s competitive convenience store industry, your corporate culture values and what you stand for are just as important to customers as the products you sell. More precisely, it is what defines your brand in the community and to the customers you serve.

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As such, brand culture is something convenience store retailers need to constantly coddle. Still, many c-store owners talk about their company culture, but often can’t identify what it is. That’s a concern because a well-defined culture is crucial for attracting top talent and keeping the customers coming back to your stores.

Simply put, this culture begins at the very top of your company’s organizational chart. Being a good leader and grooming young employees for leadership positions is vital to a company’s success. Study after study shows the main reason employees jump ship is a bad manager. And while you might think of a “bad boss” as one who is lazy, mediocre bosses usually have good intentions, they’re just poorly trained.

That is a key takeaway from James Manktelow and Julian Birkinshaw, authors of Mind Tools for Managers: 100 Ways to Be a Better Boss. “In a tight job market, you must do everything possible to create a company where employees want to stay,” Manktelow said. “Managers have a hand in almost every aspect of how your employees perceive their job—from how meaningful the work is to how appreciated they feel.”

In other words, being a good boss is a tall order. Doing a good job at it requires training, the right tools and lots of feedback—and very few managers get these things. The authors offered a few tips for creating the kind of workplace culture that will attract good people and, just as important, keep them from leaving.

Learn to listen carefully to employees. For the book, Manktelow and Birkinshaw surveyed more than 15,000 managers and professionals worldwide. The survey found that 66% of managers think careful listening is one of the most important methods you can use to understand and motivate people. It helps you understand what upsets the people who work for you so you can help clear these things away.

It also helps you appreciate what energizes them so you can shape their work responsibilities. Active listening—where you make a conscious effort to hear not only the words another person is saying but to understand the complete message being sent—helps make employees feel heard.

Give effective praise and recognition. The authors discovered that 54.8% of survey responders see giving praise as one of the most important ways of getting the best from their people. Walk around looking for opportunities to give praise. Be specific about what you’re praising and do it in an appropriate way—some people love public praise while others are embarrassed by it. Be sure that praise is honest and proportionate. Insincere praise will weaken trust.

Help people develop self-confidence. People want to feel good about themselves and their abilities, and they want to be successful at work. When you build your employees’ self-confidence, you’ll help them achieve both goals. One good strategy is to set small goals for employees that allow them to demonstrate to you and themselves that they have mastered a skill—then you can move on to set progressively harder challenges.

Handle poor performance right away. Don’t let it fester. When you don’t deal with poor performers, it puts a lot of pressure on other team members. This can cause high performers to leave. Dealing with poor performance effectively is a highly important management skill.

These are not easy skills to master, but they are extremely important. Keeping good people begins with creating an environment that offers great leadership, makes them feel important, valued and like a member of the family. It’s hard work, but well worth the effort. And remember, if you’re not willing to take these steps, there are always other companies out there that will.