What’s the secret that Norman Brinker, Ross Perot and Sir Richard Branson innately possess?

Recently a Forbes study asked HR professionals what their biggest challenges were as related to corporate culture and the response was that creating a cohesive culture (55%) and retaining talent (41%) gave them the most concern.

To me, there are three main challenges not addressed by many employers: rational, emotional and authenticity. The three can reflect that employees need more than positive jargon to trust employers. There have been few client relationships such as Jason’s deli and Enlivant that have gotten it right from the start. They’ve embraced their pilgrimage, one for over 30 years and the other for just only five years. Like Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, or the Cowardly Lion in the classic musical Wizard of Oz, these two companies embody their “heart’s desire;” something that, in reality, they carried inside and expressed from the very first employee and customer interaction.

For over 25 years, CFM has partnered with dozens of companies on a variety of levels of engagement. What I’ve found when employees and management are familiar with and understands one consistent and easy process the culture becomes a much more united purpose. Individuals start speaking the same language and using the same tools to work with daily employee and customer related challenges. This is where real positive change and trust is formed.

What’s the secret that Norman Brinker, Ross Perot and now the more popular Sir Richard Branson innately possess? Cultures they created started from the top. When I’ve interviewed the dozens of CEOs I can gauge their authenticity regarding topics related to employee and customer engagement… when it’s real and when it’s not. And so can employees and ultimately the customers. Just like parenting, people tend to look up to learn behavior. A recent Duke University study concludes that 52% of executives feel culture is primarily set by the current CEO.

Furthermore, while all executives overwhelmingly agree that people are emotional beings, they often are overruled by more senior leaders who cite their industry acts as the exception: we are the industry leader or our culture is defined by print or video; emotions don’t apply! Appealing to the emotional needs of customers and employees (aka human beings) by illustrating how their products/services meet what CFM defines as “feeding a human need,” is a differentiation that states their product/service is objectively better.

Vendor engagement is a whole other topic I will soon be talking about. Why? It’s not much different.