Jan 26, 2016 | People

When was the last time you took a field trip?  A time when you stepped out of your office, drove yourself to another company, and just observed.  It’s easy to get wrapped up in the daily drama of leading our organizations.  It’s tempting to tell ourselves that our methods are the best.  Yet, a 90-minute field trip inside the office of another organization can be a major accelerator for your leadership journey.

That’s just what happened last week when we arranged for Stone Brewing Company President, Steve Wagner, to take a team of five employees to visitWD40 President and CEO, Garry Ridge, at the company’s San Diego headquarters.  The mission: to learn what role culture plays in creating the WD40brand and performance.  The outcome: the ability for Stone Brewing to springboard its own initiative to align its culture and brand integrity.

With a total international employee base of just over 400, Ridge shared insights he’s gained to help WD40 achieve annual sales of over $400 million in 2015 – that’s nearly $1 million per employee.  Here are some of the Stone team’s top takeaways:


1. Create a learning environment. When Ridge was promoted from within as CEO, he knew that growth was being held back partly due to deep silos within the organization.  “Those who knew the most about how things worked guarded that knowledge, which gave them power,” Ridge said.  He immediately set to work to define the concept of learning moments.  Over time, he built trust in the concept by showing that no one would be punished for trying something new and sharing knowledge about what worked and what did not.  At today’s WD40, knowledge is shared and information moves easily.


2. Personalize accountability and responsibility. InHelping People Win at Work, a book co-authored with Ken Blanchard, Ridge shares the unique WD40 performance review system.  Employees develop measurable, achievable goals that will help the company reach its annual strategic targets.  They describe what ‘A’ work looks like, rate their own progress each quarter, and review these ratings with their manager.  The manager’s role is to help employees achieve all As.  Ridge says, “If you help your people get As, your performance management system will ignite them to blow away your customers with outstanding service. Because people who feel good about themselves want to return the favor.”


3. Get your values off the wall. WD40 doesn’t just want good performers, it wants good performers who are also good citizens.  Ridge believes that values must be at the core of your business model, not just words engraved in a plaque on the wall.  Not only does the company have six, clear-to-understand values, but they are ranked in order of importance.  He explained, “Life is about values conflicts. When these conflicts arise, people need to know which value to focus on.”  Employees are taught the values at orientation, assigned to ‘tour guides’ to help explain values in action, and hold themselves accountable for demonstrating the values, which make up 30% of their performance review.


In 1 ½ hours, the Stone team saw a company that was candid about sharing knowledge, committed to achieving results, and clear about what it stands for.  They gained actionable insights to help them crystallize their values, and cultivate the very best of Stone.


Question: If you were asked to share how your culture is aligned with your performance, what would you share in 90 minutes?



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