I doubt that you woke up this morning and wanted to be average when you went to work. I didn’t. We all have an inherent desire to be great and do exemplary things. These days I spend a lot of time thinking about culture and how important it is to performance and achieving greatness here at Schneider.
The performance I’m referring to exists at both the personal level for each associate, our customers and the company as a whole. When our people do great things, our customers receive great service and the company delivers great results. Everybody’s happy and we all win. But fostering a culture that allows our drivers, warehouse and office associates and diesel technicians to be great is no small matter.
The secret ingredient
Think of culture as your organization’s secret ingredient — the one thing that takes something ordinary and makes it extraordinary. Culture is a unique blend of values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors, making us who we are and guiding our daily business practices. So powerful, culture has the ability to ignite us, inspiring great things and helping us to continually enhance our capabilities. At Schneider, our culture drives us to enhance the lives of people everywhere through the goods we deliver every day.
Culture drives greatness. So does exemplary character. Blended together, culture and character invoke a sense of purpose that motivates us to leave a place the best we can … and likely better than it was handed to us. Culture and character can become so rooted in an organization that they ensure an organization lives on after we’ve moved on — that it’s built to last.
It’s easy to confuse core values with culture. Core values should be preserved at all costs. True, authentic core values never change. The attitudes and beliefs that create our culture, on the other hand, are always changing as we adapt to the evolving world around us.
Don Schneider’s goal of building a company that would last forever is legendary. So too was the mantra that as organizations move forward, we must be willing to examine everything – to change everything we believe in – except our core values and sense of purpose. Doing so ensures we are not limited by our beliefs.
There’s a story about limiting beliefs that I just love. It’s the story of Cliff Johnson. Listen to it:
Cliff beat the record because he didn’t know the truth. He wasn’t limited by his beliefs and he did something remarkable. Our culture has to allow for encouragement and examination of our long-held beliefs so that a Cliff Johnson doesn’t sneak up on us. That’s what’s required to deliver admirable results.
When people ask me what this company will look like in 10 years, I say I don’t know, but I do know we’ll be great. And I know we’ll hand off this organization to others better than it was handed to us.
What do you look for in a company’s culture?