The Fudgsicle principle

Have you ever eaten a Fudgsicle? If not, I recommend it. But more importantly, I recommend your management team act like a Fudgsicle – that is to say, be consistent all the way through.

Your management team’s behavior sets the tone for the entire corporation. So, it better be consistent, predictable and true to your core values.

Why is this important? Because rogue managers can create a stressful, even hostile, work environment that can drive your best employees away. Think about it. Even in a down economy, the best employees have the most options. If they feel bullied, they’ll take their talent elsewhere. And you’ll be left with the “C” and” D” performers. Project out one year and think about what that will do to your company’s financial performance.

So, what can you do to ensure that your managers are like Fudgsicles?

Share the vision

The first thing you need to do is make sure your leadership team knows what your core values are. Meet with your management group and share the company’s core values. Make sure your team understands the importance of these values to you as a leader and to the company as a whole. Have an honest discussion about what these values mean to you, to your employee team, and to your clients.

Make sure that you “keep it real” to avoid misunderstandings. Translate abstract core values, such as integrity, into concrete policies and procedures. Explain how you expect your managers to enact these values through their behavior and attitude as well. Help your managers make the connection between how they treat employees and how their employees treat customers. The ultimate goal is for everyone in the company to embrace and embody your core values. Think of it as trickle-down corporate culture. You enact your company’s values through consistent, predictable and fair treatment of your managers. They treat their employees with the same degree of respect and uniformity. Employees “pay it forward” to the customer. Everybody wins.

Get rid of the stinkers

Unfortunately, no matter how clearly you communicate your vision and expectations, stinkers can emerge. You know the type. The manager who thinks he knows better than you. The one who thinks it’s “soft” to tend to the care and feeding of his or her employee team. The person who pays lip service to your values and then becomes Machiavelli when you’re not looking. These people are bad news.

If you have someone like this in your organization, you have to confront the issue head-on. The consequences are too serious to do otherwise. A bully manager will undermine your culture and inflict serious damage on your company. A culture of fear and suspicion will develop. And just as a positive culture permeates out to your customers, a negative one does too. The result can be serious and long-lasting. So ask yourself this: Do you have years to recover from a poisonous work environment?

As difficult as it can be, the best approach is to face the problem and confront the manager. Make it clear that either the behavior goes or they do. You can’t afford to have one manager undermine the work of everyone else on your management team.

Some years ago, I had a client who was the president of a successful manufacturing company. He was smart, nice and had a clear set of core values. Unfortunately, his COO didn’t buy into the values. He was abrasive, uncommunicative and led through fear and intimidation. He was undermining everything the president was working towards from a company culture perspective.

So we had an intervention.

It wasn’t fun or easy. But ultimately, we helped the COO see why his behavior was a problem. Then we worked with him to change his behavior. It was a process, but it was worth the investment. He understood that if he hadn’t been willing to change, he would have had to go.

As leaders, we have to commit to our company’s core values. It’s not enough to talk about them. We have to live them. And we have to make sure that our entire team –managers on down – live them too.

It will make your company a Fudgsicle company. Good all the way through.

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