Mike Ganino: Culture

Mike Ganino has huge talent, a giant heart and even bigger hair. We met through a number of shared connections and I first got to see Mike in action virtually. On numerous occasions I would witness him give to groups, share wisdom and steer the vibe and feeling of a conversation to outcomes that benefit everybody. I then found out he literally, wrote the book on creating corporate culture! In Episode 4 I talk to Mike Ganino who shares his insight into the word “Culture”. Seemed like the natural fit! Listen in on our conversation and enjoy being a fly on the wall to our discussion. Mike’s book, Corporate Culture for Dummies is a great read and you can grab your copy here.

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The full transcript

Phil Jones: So here we are on a new edition of Words With Friends. And today I have my friend Mike Ganino. Mike, welcome to the show.

Mike Ganino: Hey what’s up? Thanks for having me.

Phil Jones: It’s good to be here and the word we are talking about today is the word “culture.” So, Mike, tell me what “culture” means to you.

Mike Ganino: Culture means to me, whether we are talking about work or we’re talking about a friend group or a school or just any time people get together or the world because we’re a big culture and a bunch of small cultures, it’s ultimately the collective story of a group of people. What are the stories we tell about the right way to do things, what are the stories we tell about showing up places, about what to wear and all of those collective stories over time start to create a group identity and that group identity kind of lays out the plays we do so it’s the condition, it’s the way in which we kind of move through the world.

Phil Jones: Okay. So why does culture though create almost like a barrier around it? Some people feel like they don’t fit within that culture, that’s not me. Why is that such a big deal?

Mike Ganino: This is like an interesting thing, right cause there’s this idea of culture shock when we travel and you and I both get to go so many cool places but there’s culture shock. You go to Italy for the first time and you think “I’ve got this coffee thing down, I know how to do coffee.” And then the first time you walk into an Italian coffee bar, you’re like “This is different!They are all just shoving their way to the counter and they yell something and they drink it really quick and nobody’s getting to-go cups and I know that I am having coffee but something’s different here.” And its because the stories that we’ve written and the expectations we have around how to get coffee are different than the world we are going in to.

Well that same thing happens with groups. Whether we are talking about a group of high school mean girls, the movie Mean Girls, the musical now or we are talking about a group of people at work or we are talking about even just groups within a country where they live. The stories are what we use to connect to each other I think, and when you and I have a similar one and it’s like “Oh, yeah we’re these kind of guys and we have these shared experiences,” it’s easy for other people, one, to say “I don’t fit in with them because I don’t have those shared experiences,” and it’s easy for us to be like “Oh they are different than us.” And I think that’s natural, we didn’t exist in these huge groups that we are in now and so I think if we go way back, speaking of evolution, we’re used to being in these small tribes of people and we had to have something that bonded us and I think that’s the origin of us versus them and sometimes culture can be a tool that people use to maintain that.

Phil Jones: Okay. Now historically those cultures would have been almost quite clearly defined right? So what would have happened is that you know “I am going to Italy, coffee is different” and that made sense. Now here say it’s America or much of the westernized world, cultures are embedded, they’re interwoven, are clearly overlapping, etc., yet still these stories exist. So how do people perhaps behave better when they find themselves in a culture that is foreign to them? Or how do people better accept looking into somebody else’s culture and where it feels uncomfortable, and start to better embrace that. What is your take on that?

Mike Ganino: I think for me with the travel thing specifically and I think it’s useful in all kinds of situations, it’s being able to look for the things that are the same, and so sure maybe we don’t get coffee the same but is there something that’s the same? And one, to be able to embrace, I teach a lot of improv, theater improv tricks, in my little bag of tricks we use, some of them are improv to help people learn to say yes to each other and learn to say yes to the experiences they are having to say “This is happening, what can I do with it?” And if you take that same idea when we do find ourselves in new cultures whether it’s traveling or getting a new job or going to a new school, or moving across town or going to a new grocery store—even going to a new grocery store can be a little bit of a culture shock sometimes.

I remember the first time I went to Whole Foods, a long time ago, I thought “Wow, this is like both-whether you’re very wealthy or you’re very poor on the other end-people at those two things have very specific-and this is me at 22, so maybe I don’t feel this way at 38, but it was like “Oh these rich people at Whole Foods are pretty weird, this is a weird group of people because it was totally new to me.” Someone like spritzing you with patchouli oil as you walk down the aisle, to me that was a new thing.

So you can either be scared of it and you can say “Oh no, this isn’t happening, this isn’t right.” Or you can accept the fact and say “Oh, you know what? There isn’t one right way to do whatever, coffee or grocery shopping in this case, or if you’re at work, there’s not a right way to do meetings necessarily. And so what would happen if I just sank into this and figured out what works about it, what’s interesting about it and can I add this experience to my patina as a person.

So my recommendation for travel specifically and really any time you’re plopped down in the middle of culture, even for us, you live in New York, I live in LA, if either one of us got a gig with like, Walmart, and we had to go in the middle of the country here, that’s new experience for us and we can either “Whoa, what are these people about here, what do they doing, they’re so weird and odd.” Or we can just say “Oh, this is a different vibe and what can I pull from this, what can I learn from this?”

Phil Jones: Yeah and I think that’s so true. This belief of “Okay this culture is different. They have a different story to what I’m used to. I love that piece of advice of almost just play into it, just lean into it see what you can learn and see where you can find common threads, and chances are something that is currently crazy scary to you, all of a sudden, you’re like “Oh we’re not all so different across the board.” And we see this politically speaking now, we see this with- we’re doing this interview and we’re kind of right in the time of Pride, right? And those things are all kicking off and people have strong beliefs about overlaps in culture between political persuasion, sexual persuasion, race, creed, those kind of things. I’m listening to what you’re saying here right now about lean in and look to better understand and find commonality and I’m thinking that would be applicable everywhere. Would you agree?

Mike Ganino: Oh yeah, totally. I mean again, on a very micro level, even just you go to a new city, not even internationally, you’re just traveling around and you go to a new place and it’s like “Oh, where do they grocery shop? How do they drive? How do they park? What are they all about?” All the way up to what you’re saying, these very core beliefs that people carry around, like you said this month with sexual orientation and what we believe there. There’s some quote, I don’t know who said it, someone really famous, but I don’t remember who, “It’s very hard to hate close up.”

Phil Jones: Love that.

Mike Ganino: So if you’re traveling, if you’re in Italy or whatever, like just get closer to it, like go closer to it and experience it and what you can often find is there is a lot more that’s the same about us than is different. And that works regardless of whether we’re talking about travel, about political beliefs, about social beliefs, or about work. It doesn’t matter what it is, it’s hard to hate close up.

Phil Jones: I remember that real specifically actually from a trip, the first time I went to Bangkok in Thailand. And I got off the plane and walking out for an hour or so with my wife Charlotte and I hated it. It was horrible, it was dirty, people were everywhere and just doesn’t feel right. I woke up the next day, walked into the exact same environment with a completely different view about it. And two hours later “This is cool!” Weird, but I love it. It was a completely different thing but it was the same and it was all about the lens I chose to be able to look at it through.

Mike Ganino: You had to sleep off your city thoughts.

Phil Jones: I think I would have hated everything at the moment.

Mike Ganino: Like your own reflection.

Phil Jones: Looking back on it, I was just tired. We’re all allowed to do that.

Phil Jones: You spending a huge amount of your expertise now working with companies in the area of corporate culture, business culture. Whenever I speak to somebody who has left a job, the typical response I get from all of the people I’ve interviewed through the years has been “It just didn’t feel right. I didn’t kind of fit.” What are some of the commonalities that you’ve seen through your world about getting that fit and feel right within a corporate organization?

Mike Ganino: Yeah. You know what’s interesting is that it’s very few people, you know there are some people, you know they moved or they went off to have children or for some other reason, they had some interesting opportunities. But most of the time, the reason people leave is something related to culture. The managers didn’t listen or this didn’t happen or it wasn’t an environment that was positive or something like that or I just didn’t fit. Over and over and over that’s what I hear and I think two things happen. One is that a lot of organizations really, you know, somewhere along the way somebody said you should pay attention to culture fit, and so it started to look like this robotic group of people who all were the same. It was this very homogenous group of people and I think that’s part of the problem that we’ve seen in Silicon Valley, I think it’s part of the problem that we’ve seen at the top levels of the entertainment industry where we just continue to bring people in who were cultural fits which meant they sounded and looked like us.

I think that cultural fit is a very easy way to slip into unconscious bias and sometimes you get conscious bias of “Well, if you don’t like playing rugby every day and getting drunk, than you’re not a cultural fit.” And so I think a lot of places did that and so if you’re somebody new, if somebody comes along and says “Hey, we should start bringing different types of people into the org,” well if you’re one person in a group of a hundred or a thousand people who is different because someone decided finally “Let’s bring in some diversity here,” then of course you don’t feel like you fit because you actually do not fit.

And then the other thing I see that’s related to what you said about somebody saying “Eh, it wasn’t a good fit for me,” is that organizations make decisions in certain ways. They communicate in certain ways, they share ideas in certain ways and it’s really important in the interviewing process to figure out “Is the way you do this, the way we do?” And a lot of times when we think of company culture, people think they are trying to go for this specific one, like “we all need to look like Google,” or “We all need to look like this company,” but the reality is any corporate culture can be good as long as you’re clear about it. If you have a super stuffy banking environment, and we’re very formal and we’re very serious, that’s totally okay, but you need to hire to that, you need to teach to that, you need to lead to that. It’s when there is this inconsistency and the scenario you said is often one I see where people, they don’t feel like they fit anymore and its largely because it’s so inconsistent that they don’t even know what’s expected of them.

Phil Jones: Ah, so the inconsistency is the issue. And if you take a scientific view on culture, you’re talking about a petri dish with cells in it that is growing out in a certain kind of way and you’ve got some things that grow and do good, right? And then you got some things that go on to be able to kill a generation of people. So the term itself could run in either direction.

How do I create a good culture then? If what I have is, I am a company owner, I am entrepreneur, I am a leader within a large organization, and I decide today I want to take steps toward creating a good culture, how do I go about it?

Mike Ganino: I think first thing, one, is to- So I have this belief that experiences that we have as people, experiences create stories, that’s it. Your story of going to Bangkok, that is probably a story you’ve told many times as some experience you had there.

Phil Jones: Yeah, you just threw it out on me but it’s lived in me for a while for sure.

Mike Ganino: Good, we got to get it out, there’s probably some good stuff that happened there. So experiences are what we go and tell stories over and so those stories when they start to be collected and shared and maybe become part of the collective conscious of a group of people, that becomes culture. So there’s this very clear through line for me of experiences we have become stories we tell, As we share those stories and more of us have the same story, then we end up with this culture.

And so if you want to understand “Well, how do I have a good culture?” I don’t think it’s possible to sit down and say, “Let’s draft a culture, let’s sit down with a blueprint and what are the ingredients?” It’s not like baking, “what are the ingredients of this?” It’s a little bit more like- I’ve always wanted to do this cooking show called Improv Kitchen, cause I’m married to a Chef who is super genius at- I could go to the fridge and there’s-I don’t see anything, there’s nothing to make. We got some baking soda and some leechy to make a martini and that’s it. It sounds like I live in a bachelor pad or a frat house. And he will come along and be like immediately “Oh, here we go” and it’s some five-star meal, some amazing meal and I didn’t even see anything there. So I’ve always wanted to do this thing called Improv Kitchen.

I think that if a company is watching this or somebody is watching this and says “Oo, I want to think about culture,” it’s more like Improv Kitchen and a little less like a Martha Stewart baking show. You don’t get to go to the the cabinet and choose all the right ingredients and put them together and end up with some beautiful Martha Stewart level dish. What you have to do is go to the kitchen and figure out what’s in this kitchen, let me go explore what’s here and let’s figure out what’s working, and where there’s dysfunction in our culture, let’s figure out what are the experiences that are leading people to have a certain kind of story that’s being told collectively, and now let’s go change those experiences cause it’ll shift the story. And the stories, once they shift will lead us to a new culture.

It’s like if you and I go on a trip and we’ve both been to-it’s always hard because then you say a city and someone from there watches and then be like “I hate what you said about us.”

Phil Jones: You were about to say De Moines, Iowa.

Mike Ganino: I went to college in De Moines, Iowa so I feel like it’s fair game. If we were to both to say that we had some bad experience and then we met another friend of ours and they had a bad experience, well great, now we all start talking about it and everyone else who’s never been there starts to say “Ooo, don’t go to De Moines.”

Phil Jones: That’s so true. I get it even here in New York where people are like “I’ve been to New York and didn’t like it.” And I’m like “Well, where did you go?” “Well I was in Times Square for 24 hours from a layover on my way back from San Francisco to get back to the UK,” and you’re like “Oh, so that’s your whole experience of New York, no wonder you don’t like it.” I see that. I love this thought of collective consciousness. That is huge. I see a giant challenge with it. Now I do a lot of work with small independent businesses that have gone through a lot of growth. So they started as a one-man band, became a two-man band, became four people in an organization, became seven people in an organization, beautiful collective conscious, all these stories grow, layered on top of each other, people had time for each other, people cared for each other. Then seven becomes fifteen after seven years, and it gets lost. And I wonder if it’s because they don’t take the time to: A, give people the edited highlights of the collective consciousness that got them from A to E and then didn’t set down and say “Hey, it’s now time to write some new stories to get us from E to H,” or whatever in the alphabet. Is that your experience too?

Mike Ganino: It’s two-fold. The example you gave is so common by the way. Some people don’t realize it until you get to ten thousand employees and its like “Wait a second, we all knew what was going on when we were in the garage,” and it’s like, “It’s been a long time since we’ve been in the garage.” And that’s so common that we went from one to two to seven. And its so easy when you’re in the same room. All of the energy from the founder and a few founding people, that’s all you need to get by in the beginning, because every experience is them.

So I’m having an experience, so if you founded a company, I was working in it and we’re just working seven of us in your house or something, then I’m having experiences with you all the time that are telling me the story of who we are which creates that culture. As it goes on, I’m having less of those experiences, so my stories start to become different types of stories. There’s still a culture being created, it’s just different than it was before because we’re not actively creating experiences that are in the interest of a specific story.

What I find often, is that . . . I’m gonna preach a little on story cause I’ve said it a lot here. One of the things that happening in the world right now is the word story became so popular, I blame The Moth for it, but everybody and their grandmother is talking about and teaching story-telling and often it is used in a way that is about “How do I as a brand tell a story that consumers will be interested in?’ And that’s great, wonderful, sure that’s important and we should be doing that, it’s a great way to communicate. But I think there’s something really interesting about listening to the stories inside of your company. So not saying, “Oh my god, we’re fifty employees, I, as the founder, need to come up with a new story to tell everybody.” I think it’s more going in and listening to the stories that they are telling and saying “Okay, well what does that mean then?” Because again, this isn’t Martha Stewart, this is Improv Kitchen, so you’ve gotta go in the kitchen and say “What’s in this kitchen?” Like you gotta open up and say “What’s in the bottom in the back of that fridge? What’s the story people are telling about that? What is the story people tell about their first week here, their first day here, their interview process here? About how decisions are made here?’

And so, often, when I go and work with a group like you’re talking about, if I went in with somebody who had thirty or forty clients, you said “Hey, I’m working with this group, they need some culture help,” that’s where I’d start, not asking the CEO “What story do you want people to know?” I’m going to go listen to the stories inside of the company and say “Well here’s what they’re saying. What here works and what here do we need to shift?”

Phil Jones: So what you’re saying is instead of having a six year old opinion on the story being told, saying I’m gonna sit back and I’m gonna soak in and I’m gonna believe the fairytale, you’re saying let’s take an adult view on the story and let’s go question the story and have a little more curiosity fueling your listening and go looking for the truth in the story rather than the fable in the story.

Mike Ganino: Yeah, totally. That’s exactly it.

Phil Jones: Got it, got it, got it . . . love that. Okay so what about mission statements and values and slogans and all of that kind of jazz. What’s Mike’s take on that?

Mike Ganino: Yeah, I mean, again I think it’s helpful if it’s helpful. So if I go into a group, so again, let’s say you sent me someone over, I go to work with them, they’ve got a hundred employees, they’ve grown from two employees to a hundred in two years, and they say “Okay we’ve got all this stuff going on,” so we start to cultivate the stories so we can understand what experiences have led to those stories that are ultimately impacting culture.

The thing that happens sometimes is that people pull out their little book, their little handbook, and they say “But look, they’re not doing what the mission says, so I understand that story the employee is telling but that’s not our mission” or “That’s not our vision” or “Those aren’t our values.” And what I always say is, all of those things are great and wonderful as long as they are true. If you read one of the fairytales that you’re talking about and it said in the fairytale “Well, the moral of the story is that you’ve got to wake up early to get the worm,” or “The early bird gets the worm.” But then everyone in the story who was winning, was not the early bird, it was the late bird and they kept winning, eventually the culture in the group is gonna say “Well, that stuff in the book about early bird gets the worm is total BS. So don’t do that anymore, they lie to you.”

And that’s what I see happening in so many companies, they say “We value really clear and candid and caring conversation” and yet everyone is being passive-aggressive and unclear with each other and holding back. And so eventually that experience is gonna change the story which is gonna change the culture. And so mission, vision and values have a total place in it. In the book, I write about those things, ‘cause I think I would probably be thrown into the culture volcano fire pit if I didn’t include them cause it’s a standard thing, but I think I there’s a different way to approach it, and the way to approach it is to say, how do we use those things to work together differently?

Phil Jones: Right, how do we use them to work together differently. I like that. As an example that always jumps to mind, and as a kid when I was studying business studies like at school, etc., we got deep into this mission and purpose etc., and we were tasked with the challenge of going to look out to big brands and find their mission statements and find the ones that you adore. And one that I used to adore, I won’t share the company, I’ll just see if anybody knows it, is “love all/serve all”. And then I got to experience many of that brand’s experience from my travels and realized it isn’t true through my lens and it created this giant contradiction. It went from being an organization that I had admiration towards sitting within the space and having a belief around those employees were carrying themselves, to being like “it’s a load of BS.” You know it’s a front, like there’s no truth there, etc. So I guess if this is incongruent, that’s where we can decide to exit a culture. We can say “I don’t want to be a part of this because it doesn’t feel true to me.”

Mike Ganino: Well it’s probably the example you asked before of, you know you’ve run into so many people who say “Oh I left ‘cause it wasn’t a good fit for me.” I’d imagine that the espoused values or the first week or the interview, it was a fit. What happened was that values gap between what was said and what reality was, that is where the person in your example said “Ooo, that’s not a fit for me.” Because they wouldn’t have made the decision to join it if it didn’t sound great originally.

Phil Jones: What I’m learning here is the enemy of culture is incongruence.

Mike Ganino: Oh yeah. Completely. ‘Cause even if you want to have a culture that’s super-I mean we can look at so many companies and say “Well working at Pixar, is very different than working at Apple,” who by the way at some point, shared Steve Jobs. But that is a very different experience, those two places. And is either one right or wrong? I don’t know. I don’t tell anybody there is a specific type of culture we should all have, except for an honest one that is about communication. I think regardless of whether you want a formal culture, an intense culture, a laid back culture, whatever it is that you want, do it clearly and have lots of communication in it. And so the challenge is when we are unclear or we’re unspecific or we’re inconsistent because then people don’t know how to-it’s like if you and I again, we were traveling and think about the times when you go to the airport and this is such a stupid thing that people like you and me say, of like “I was traveling and this happened,” but when you go to the TSA and all of a sudden it’s a completely new set of rules and it’s like “wait, why does this matter in De Moines but it doesn’t matter-”

Phil Jones: I hate that, because what they do is they look at you like you should know and I’m like “I’ve gone through way more airports that I’d believe you’ve ever gone, and this is different than you said yesterday, belt on, belt off, jacket on, jacket off, laptop in, laptop out. I’m confused.”

Mike Ganino: Right so now imagine that happening inside of a work where you’re going every day and now people are saying “You know what?”-This is what I think we’ve been studying this whole like engagement thing for twenty years and it’s not moved the needle at all. All of these things we’ve done whether ping pong tables, stock options, snacks, retreats, trust falls, it has not moved the needle on engagement and happiness at work and I think the problem is that we’re because we’re not dealing with that enough. Which is to say “I’m disengaged because I just don’t know how to live in this world because one day we do this and the next day we don’t. Sometimes it matters. We talk about respecting each other’s time”-this happened recently-“we talking about respecting each other’s time” and I was watching in this organization and it was like every single manager was ten to fifteen minutes late to a meeting. And it was like “well, if you’re going to say that that’s super important, then now that as an employee, I’m confused.” And I think that’s where disengagement comes from, cause its easier to check out then to constantly feel like you and I at the TSA, “What’s the rule today, friends?” That’s a hard thing to live with every day in your 9-5 job.

Phil Jones: Its hugely difficult, before challenging you today, I could have easily seen that culture is like this fluffy little thing that we do on Thursdays. But what I’m seeing here is that culture played right leads to certainty for people within that culture. That certainty leads to trust. That trust goes towards less friction, more accountability, more momentum. The long and the short of it it’s probably the biggest single ingredient towards productivity, which is probably the single biggest factor towards profitability, which is largely what most people are in business for is some form of success, regardless of how you choose to measure it, yet the one thing that fuels all of this is the environment of which its created and that environment is set by culture.

Mike Ganino: Yeah, 100 percent.

Phil Jones: So this is probably a pretty darn important thing. There are leaders in the home life, leaders in business, leaders in giant corporations, that at this moment in time, are 100 percent certain that there is a problem within their culture. And doing nothing about it other than confirming the certainty that they know they have a problem with their culture and their own life. And this is a scary place for people to be. That regardless of where your life is, is if you’re feeling like, there’s some incongruence, there’s stuff that doesn’t fit here, how do you act on that? What are your first steps? Because it looks like the biggest elephant that you could possibly try and eat. Where do you start?

Mike Ganino: I think there’s two places to start. I think the very first one is to say- and this is something I see happening all the time when I’ll talk to someone about culture or talk about the work environment is it’s always relegated to be the job of a person or a team of people in HR. And that is wrong, that should not be-it’s impossible for them to do that. They are not in every meeting, they are not in every conversation, it is a huge mistake. So when I run into leaders, executives, CEO’s who say “Oh yeah, culture, great, we will send our HR person.” I know, good luck [crosstalk 00:26:34] Yeah that can’t be where it lives. Now those people can be in charge of finding programs and measuring stuff, but they can’t be in charge of culture because its just not the reality of it. So it’s the number one mistake.

The thing I think that people have to do at all levels is really rethink their beliefs. And this goes back to what we were saying at the beginning around “What should it be like in when you arrive in Bangkok for travel?” “What is it like wen you get to Italy for coffee?” “Or Bentonville to go to Walmart?” “What do I believe about that?”

The way that this presents itself almost all the time to me is when I run into leaders who say “Employees today___ ” and then fill in the blank with whatever you want, are entitled, lazy, there’s no good talent today, all of those things and I always say “well that’s a belief, that’s a story you told yourself. So sure you had some experience that lead you to that story that has created this culture where now you can’t hire anyone because you believe everyone is stupid.” So what if you change that belief? And I ask this question, there’s this woman that’s like a self-helpy lady named Byron Katie who has a program called “The Work” and the first question of it is “Is that true?” And its really funny when I ask leaders that and they say “well, there’s no good people today.” And I say “oh wow, so let’s shut up close the windows, lock the doors. You’re in trouble if that’s true. So is it true?” And its often not true, it’s a story they’ve told themselves, and they keep playing it.
So the first thing I always have people do is go in and say “What beliefs do you have that are blocking your success?” And almost always, there’s stuff there.

Phil Jones: I love that. Great question. What beliefs do you have that are blocking your success?

Mike Ganino: And it’s hard sometimes, you sometimes need someone else because it’s hard to evaluate yourself like that unless you’ve went through a lot of psychotherapy, it could be hard to do that because of your beliefs, it’s what you think is true but they are interchangeable.

Phil Jones: It’s the collective your though, isn’t it? It’s like what beliefs are blocking your success, not your success. Individual your, it’s the collective your.

Mike Ganino: Totally.

Phil Jones: Okay this is really freaking interesting. I like this chat. This is why I have “Words with Friends”. I know that you could chat on this stuff forever but I got time for three more questions. First of those questions is, have you had something you wanted to ask me? Flip the interview around in some way? Related back towards the word “culture” in some way, what might that question be?

Mike Ganino: You know what I’m interested in, this is something I see a lot, so I want to get your take on it. What do you see that leads to a healthy sales culture? Because I’ve seen so many teams and in a lot of organizations, this is their largest team of people is the sales team, and I’ve seen it go so wrong so often, I’ve seen it become a really unhealthy place. And you know whether that’s blamed on extrinsic motivation from these commission plans or it’s based on some cutthroat thing, I’m curious. What do you think are the ingredients of a healthy sales culture?

Phil Jones: Two things. One is collectively moving the finish line. The finish line isn’t the day that you close the sale, secure the contract, win the purchase order, bank the check. The collective agreement that needs to be the finish line is when the other person receives a return on the promise that was made to them at the point of transaction. Now if everybody believes that and then plays towards that new finish line, then the closing of the sale is a step in the journey. It’s not the day that we should go celebrate.

It goes against what much of what people see romanticized around the sales culture. Like the romantic version movie version of great sales culture is Glengarry Glen Ross or Wolf of Wall Street, let’s get the team on a private jet, clinking champagne flutes and popping pills. That’s not a great sales culture. That just robs people and we are happy about it.

So moving the finish line is a big thing and then the second part of that is to understand that sales is a philosophy; it’s not a department. You know we all need to be on the same page, and there are two departments in every business as I see it. One is the sales department and the other is the sales support department. Now if everybody can understand that that’s what their job is, what now happens is everybody in an admin, management, HR leadership role understands that what they’re there for is to support the sales force which is the lifeblood of the organization, and the sales force believe that what they’re there to do is to make promises that can be exceeded by the other operational staff within the business, then we create a culture that is one team. So that would be my take in terms of what I see, and when you see an organization that’s truly winning, it’s when those things are in sync.

Mike Ganino: I love that, I love the first thing that you said too, of there’s gotta be something in an organization that is providing some kind of client service or client product and saying instead of the closed date, as the “yay”, sales person run off, its the client is happy and using the service date or the launch date or something. ‘Cause I imagine if there’s other people in the company who are responsible for that target, now it brings everybody closer. Now there’s an accounts management team who is responsible for launching an account, now they are on the same page.

Phil Jones: The example I use best is, if you’re in the business of selling wedding dresses. Now if you’re in the business of selling wedding dresses, the most important day is not the day you sell the dress, and there are six, seven, eight, nine, checkpoints that happen after the day that you agree to be able to sell the dress that are way more important than the day you sell it, with the most important day being how does that product perform on the day itself. So if you understand the finish line is “how does that dress perform on the day”, doesn’t matter how good they felt about it in the dressing room. Doesn’t matter how good you did the alterations, it doesn’t matter whether everybody loved it, if the bride doesn’t love it on the day and it doesn’t do the job that was asked on the day of the wedding, guess what? You failed.

Mike Ganino: I love that.

Phil Jones: So I think that’s a simple example that every organization should look towards is to think like they are selling wedding dresses. And see how that might play out differently.
Another question is one that I ask everybody on “Words with Friends”, and in Season 2 its a new question, so everybody asks what the question is and the question I have for you today is if there was a single word, an adjective used to describe you, that you overheard from strangers talking about you, what would that word be in your idealistic opinion?

Mike Ganino: Yeah, I will say the-I think “pragmatic”. I hear “pragmatic” a lot. The two things that come up a lot when I ask people “Hey, why’d you refer me to those people?” I’m always curious. “What did you say, what were the words you used?” And “energy” is one of them and the other is “pragmatic”. That these ideas-even culture, culture can be so fluffy, and I try to make it super practical, like what can you actually do, its not just about a feeling or a vibe and put up enough plants in the office and it’ll get there. I try to give really specific, clear advice so people can go take action so they don’t feel lost. So I would say “pragmatic”. That gets me excited.

Phil Jones: I like that. That’s a cool word and one I didn’t really understand what it meant up until right now, so that’s cool. Final question is, Mike, what are you all about, where can we find out more about you, where do people come if they want to learn more about all the things that make you awesome?

Mike Ganino: Yeah cool, I’m easy to find. I’m Mike Ganino everywhere. I am typically The Mike Ganino if you type that in that you will find so Mike Ganino on all the social places and MikeGanino.com is where you can find all the other details. And you know when you go there what you’re gonna find is super simple pragmatic ideas around how to change the way we show up and work together so we can get all the stuff we want. Like what you said is ultimately productivity, whether that’s for our careers, ourselves, or our businesses, we want to be more productive and have higher levels of performance, and I believe that comes through the way we communicate so we can have the cultures that inspire us to do great stuff.

Phil Jones: Awesome, awesome. Mike, thanks for chatting “culture” with me today and thank you for being the most pragmatic guest that we have had on “Words with Friends”.

Mike Ganino: Thanks, buddy.

Season 1

Season 2

Your host:
Phil M Jones

Phil M Jones has made it his life’s work to demystify the sales process, reframe what it means to “sell,” and help his audiences to learn new skills that empower confdence, overcome fears and instantaneously impact their results.