Letter From the Chairman – Magnetic Culture, Do You Have It?

BOB WILSON, FOUNDER AND CHAIRMAN OF ADVISA, WRITES A QUARTERLY CHAIRMAN’S LETTER. BOB’S LETTERS SKILLFULLY INCORPORATE HIS YEARS OF CONSULTING EXPERIENCE INTO REAL-LIFE STORIES. HE WRITES FROM THE HEART. WE HOPE YOU’LL ENJOY.


Organizational cultures have magnetic qualities. They either attract people, repel them, or are neutral. What’s the impact of your culture on your people? How does it work to attract or repel employees? And why does it matter?

Let me address the last question first. The current national unemployment rate is 3.8%. Indiana, ADVISA’s home state, has a 3.6% rate. North Dakota has the lowest rate in the country at 2.4%. Only one state has a rate of over 5% – which is considered full employment. So, if you’re having a hard time finding people, you’re not alone. There aren’t a whole lot of people to see.

And, the situation going forward, is likely to get worse before it gets better – regardless of the economy. For the next ten years, 10,000 baby boomers across the nation will be turning 65 DAILY. Talent has always been a prized commodity, but for the next decade, it’s going to be even dearer. During both good times and bad, for the next decade, competition for talent will be fierce. Talent is in a long-term seller’s market. Winning the talent battle will be fundamental to your winning competitive wars.

You need to find and keep talent. Your culture is key to your ability to do just that.

Whether your culture is Cultivating (centered around people development), Stabilizing (centered on reliability, efficiency and scalability), Producing (centered on driving for winning results), Exploring (centered on creation and innovation) or some mix of the above, that culture does have a positive, negative, or neutral impact on the people within it; and, on those looking to change jobs. If you think about it, you know what your culture’s influence is. And, the world does too.

Let the shift begin.

I built the business as a group of lone entrepreneurial wolves. Our consultants succeeded based on their ability to create a Predictive Index business independently. They were hired, trained, and given clients and ongoing coaching. There wasn’t a real need for collaboration because what they did, they mostly did themselves. People who liked the work and success stayed. Or, they didn’t or weren’t successful and left. I didn’t see a need to focus on our organizational culture. The business didn’t require it. Our culture was magnetically neutral. When we needed people, we had to go out and find them.

We’d always wanted to build a more significant consulting business that wasn’t exclusively focused on PI but weren’t particularly successful at it. When the company transitioned to Heather Haas, our current president, it became clear to her that the team would have to work together, to collaborate; to successfully deliver the more extensive consulting engagements we’d envisioned. She set out to transform our culture to transition the business to the broader market we’d envisioned.

We had a Values Statement that didn’t need much tweaking. What it lacked, Heather realized, was reinforcing – especially, around the teamwork components. Where I ignored the conflict between people because it really didn’t affect our clients, Heather addressed it. We couldn’t collaborate with festering conflict among employees. Under her leadership, she wouldn’t tolerate unresolved conflict. People didn’t have to like each other. They did have to work together seamlessly, and she made sure everyone understood that.

It takes time.

It took several years to transition the culture fully, but once transformed, several significant changes affected how we worked and how the culture landed on our people and the world around us.

First, the consultants who were uncomfortable in a more collaborative culture either left of their own volition or were forced out. Lines were drawn in the sand. Behavioral standards were established and reinforced. Collaboration became the internal gold standard.

Second, she created significantly more opportunities for our people to socialize inside and outside of work. These opportunities gave our people the ability to get to know each other, trust each other, and if not always like each other, to at least work together seamlessly.

These two cultural changes gave us the wherewithal to deliver the multi-year project and learning journeys with clients involving as many as a dozen of our people working together to deliver on one of the most critical elements of our Values Statement – Amazing clients with our service. And those vast projects allowed us to help our clients go through similar cultural transitions to our own.

And, all of the above created the one thing that ultimately matters the most in terms of culture – they evolved into a positively magnetic force. We now have people knocking at our door saying, “I’d like to work for ADVISA. I’ve heard it’s a great organization.” They say that because it’s true. And that’s our most significant competitive advantage. When people leave us, and all organizations experience that (even us), we’ve got a pipeline of people hoping to join us.

Magnetic Culture

Don’t you wish you had a magnetic culture too?

I’ve always been proud of our business. It’s been successful since its onset. Today, the success of our business is dependent upon our continuing to nurture our positively magnetic culture. That’s what we’re most proud of today. It drives our results.

Our success transitioning our own culture helped us drive the actions for clients looking to do the same. How do we do it? The same way we’ve done all our work since 1986. We gather data (through The Predictive IndexEQ-i 2.0, etc.), work with clients to provide insight into the data; and finally assist them in crafting and executing a plan of action. And, the process works. It can work for you.

The first step is answering a simple question whose answer is likely clear to you and your staff. In what way is your culture magnetic? Is it positive, negative, or neutral? Do you need assistance turning it positive? If so, give your ADVISA consultant a call or send me an email. We can help.

Next Steps

Interested in learning additional ways culture can help transform your organization? Intentional culture is Step 4 in my article Engagement As a Verb (And 4 Steps That Help You Drive It), read on to learn about and integrate Steps 1 through 3.

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