Oct 31, 2013
John Jones
Jack Knows Company Culture

If you’re responsible for the energy and ultimately the performance of your team, how concerned are you about the culture of your company? Do you know what your company’s culture is? If you haven’t assessed this and established what the desired environment should be, you might be in trouble.

Disclaimer: If you haven’t seen the film “Nightmare Before Christmas” by Henry Selick and Tim Burton, much of the Halloween humor of this post will be lost on you. Stick with noting the emboldened parts I have highlighted as being essential pieces of strong company culture.

Jack Skellington, CEO of Halloween Town, had an elite crew of talent that was the best in the business at scary, creepy, inventive, and creative ways to terrorize all that they pursued. Scream volumes were up. Children suffering sleepless nights were on the rise. Ultimately Jack had a well oiled machine and solid “Company Culture.” Every one of his talented crew were committed to their roles and gave 110%. Each of the members of his staff knew the mission of Halloween Town, they felt empowered, they had effective systems and processes for all of their daily tasks, and Jack even encouraged support for innovation driven by the staff.

It is only when Jack decided to change the company culture away from the successful business model that was established, that the machine started to break down. Jack had a desire to try his hand at offering a Christmas menu of products and no longer focus on Halloween services and solutions that had made the organization so successful. He might have been able to make this transition but he made several significant errors which I have highlighted below:

  • Jack’s new culture lacked Mission clarity.
  • The Christmas menu lacked true Employee commitment.
  • The transition to the new Christmas offerings relied heavily on Jack’s input and failed to Fully empower his employees.
  • Since Jack himself was not an expert on this new world of Christmas, he failed to be the Highly effective leader he was for the Halloween focused environment.
  • Poor planning and a lack of research led to a lack of Effective systems and processes to support the new focus.
  • Jack’s new initiatives did not create Performance-based compensation and reward programs for the Halloween Town crew.
  • The new culture was not Customer-focused enough so that the Halloween Town staff truly understood what their Christmas offerings should be.
  • Jack’s new plans lacked Effective 360-degree communications.
  • Commitment to learning and skill development could have helped many of the employees transition to the new product line.
  • High degree of adaptability would have allowed the staff to adjust to their new solutions, new emphasis, and adjust to the changed market they were trying to approach.

Ultimately Halloween Town was not able to transition to support the Christmas customer space and they were forced to abandon the effort. They did return to the strong company culture they were accustomed to and are still #1 at Halloween solutions and services.

Company culture can can make or break your company. Companies with a strong culture that is aligned to their business goals routinely outperform their competitors. To reach the goals you have put in place, you have to figure out what your culture is, decide what it should be, and make sure your team has bought in. The environment should foster this culture and support every member of the team in their role.

Ghouls and Goblins of a toxic company culture to beware of. Ask yourself:

  1. Do our employees feel as though they are respected and valued?
  2. Do they have anxiety about their jobs? Why?
  3. Am I pushing my employees and using fear to rule them? Have I ever used threats instead of using coaching techniques? (even unintentionally)
  4. How much emphasis does our culture place on performance but not on development? Could we be doing more to develop our staff to help them achieve the goals we’re placing on them?

When you’re assessing your company culture remember that it’s okay to identify an area of opportunity and establish that you have aspirations as to where you want your culture to be in the future. Use planning, input from your team, and the emboldened points I’ve noted above to help you get to the place you want to be.

Happy Halloween everyone!

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