7 Questions to Challenge Your Corporate Identity

Over the past few months the Randomtype team has been bringing in guest speakers to talk on their area(s) of expertise. Undergoing some growth at work, we’ve been focusing much of our attention on resonating Randomtype’s Brand with our family of employees, clients and partners. Our featured speaker was my Grandfather, Ralph Coombs. If you don’t recognize his name, here’s a snippet of his pro-bio:

Ralph & Bea Coombs

Mr. Coombs served as the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Foothills Provincial General Hospital in Calgary, 1973-1990. He is a past-President of the Alberta Hospital Association and the Association of Canadian Teaching Hospitals, was founding Chairman of…

The hour of his time seemed to skip by in a heart beat so I’m going to jump right in. Ralph started off with “If I knew very little about your business or how you conduct business, and would like to decide if I would send work to you, maybe join you, or invest money, I’d start with the following questions”:

  • Are the objects, purposes, and values of this organization clearly spelled out? In other words, what business are you in and how do you conduct that business in relation to your staff, your customers, and your suppliers?
  • Do the people who work here clearly understand the goals and values and can clearly enunciate them if anyone asks. Basically, do they feel connected to the work and exhibit a sense of “ownership” in the work of everyone who works here?
  • What evidence is there that you actually meet your goals, objectives, and values? In other words, what tangible measures do you have that demonstrates how well you are doing internally and externally? Furthermore, how does your company self criticize?
  • What evidence is there that you will be successful in the future? If he found unfunded debt, rapid turnover of staff, slow recruitment of new and shortage of work, he would worry about the future.

I was shocked at how simple, rudimentary even, these questions seemed. I’m used to people telling me what to do, not unleashing the Socratic method. I’m a third his age, a third as experienced… It’s time for me to pipe down and listen up.

He fired more questions at us that sounded something like:

1. Does your organization value its most important assets? Regardless of industry, what determines the success of any business/organization is the people at it’s core. If the work environment is right, staff will form mutually trusting relationships while putting their best ideas forward… They might even start to take some risks. Essentially, a constructive work environment accepts mistakes that are made as foundational learning experiences.

2. Does your organization value and respect its customers? Your customers will come back if the following resonates through your business:

  • Value for competency, quality in work, courtesy to all, and compassion/empathy for employees and the client alike,
  • Care about your work and you will go the extra mile to get customer satisfaction,
  • Have integrity and respect not only for customers and suppliers, but with everyone connected to your work. If a mistake is made on a customer’s work then tell them about it immediately, take ownership of the mistake, and promptly fix it!

3. Is there a recognizable brand of behaviour/culture in the organization? As an example Ralph mentioned how the foothills hospital resonated their brand through the motto “The patient, their problem and their time – what we care about most.” This was further defined and broken down into:

  • Our patients deserve our respect, our courtesy and protection of their person and dignity at all times,
  • We will deliver contemporary science and technology in the diagnosis and treatment of their problem,
  • We will make careful use of their time – before and after admission.

I’m severely fired up by this point. He’s showing me that it’s simple to validate a relationship by fulfilling a promise. In this context, he promised the Foothills Hospital staff and patients the above, and lovingly embraced being accountable to them!

His final remark was be diligent about tracking your time! Regardless of your billing process (time and materials, fixed rate, etc.) almost all businesses make their money from selling their time. Simply being busy isn’t a good measure of how effective you are. When it comes to time management, Papa (Ralph’s real name to me) had two rules of thumb:

  • Schedule both work specific projects and meetings on your team calendar. If you need time to work, make it known!
  • Agree amongst your team that you will not “pop in on each other” before a set time in the morning. This gives everyone a little of their own space to start off the day right. In other words, management should appoint a set time of the day that will always be free of interruptions, everyone can use this as ‘brain use’ time.

Summary Please!

The three tasks of a leaders are to:

1. Set the specific purpose and mission – of course with much help from your team, but when all the information is in, the leader condenses it into working goals.

2. To make the work productive and every one of your team members an achiever – The leaders job is to help every worker to be a success!

3. To manage the social impact and social responsibilities of the organization.

Now you have to understand this blog post is me simply distilling my grandfathers words. What’s lost in my translation is that Papa is one of the most personable, humorous people I know. It was his mission to know a few things about everyone that worked for him on top of their name (he applied this across thousands of employees). He lives and breathes compassion alongside a willingness to help! He signed off our conversation with the following quote:

Building a successful company is like making love to a gorilla – you don’t quit just because you are tired.

I’d love to hear more about how you intend in expanding your brand. If you have comments or questions feel free comment below or tweet @Randomtype to keep our team in the loop!

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