Failure can lurk in the shadows at even the most successful companies.
As just one example, a little over a decade ago Starbucks faced a financial crisis, brought on in part by overexpansion and by competition from fast-food restaurants. The company brought back former CEO Howard Schultz to turn things around and eventually the foundering ship was righted. But this episode in the Starbucks saga serves as a reminder that success requires constant vigilance and is never truly complete.
“Success is not a straight line on a graph,” says Joe Ferreira (www.joeferreira.com), the ForbesBooks author of Uncomfortable Inclusion: How to Build a Culture of High Performance in Life and Work.
“Successes often come at the expense of mistakes or even flat-out failures. Often, it’s two steps forward, one step back.”
The good news is that success is achievable, even from the bleakest and most dysfunc- tional starting points, says Ferreira, who is CEO and president of the Nevada Donor Network, a once struggling organization he helped turn around after he arrived in 2012.
“The common denominator in an organization’s successes and failures is culture,” he says. “Unfortunately, the important role culture plays in achieving desired goals sometimes gets overlooked.”
Ferreira says a few ways to make sure culture gets its due include:
- Leaders’ emphasis on culture can’t be fleeting. To make a meaningful difference, there must be loyalty to culture by a company’s leaders for a significant amount of time. “Turnarounds often happen in organizations, but their efficacy might dwindle as time goes on because leaders move on or lose focus,” Ferreira says. “For sustainable changes, you must put in the time to make the maximum difference and ensure consistency of culture and operations even after a leader departs.” He says the reason he feels the results at Nevada Donor Network are sustainable is because people in the organization embrace its culture and carry its message forward to those who join later. “If a leader wants to leave a legacy beyond his or her tenure,” Ferreira says, “longevity of service and loyalty are essential.”
- Accountability must be part of culture, but not as the ‘blame game.’ Accountability is important in a business or organization’s success, but failures need to be addressed in a way that doesn’t elicit paralyzing emotions, such as fear, shame, and anger, Ferreira says. “What you want is an open dialogue about why something happened rather than blaming someone for a mistake,” he says. “That refocuses everyone’s energy on resolving the process that enabled the error, not pointing fingers at the person involved.”
- Culture should drive hiring decisions. Ferreira says early in his tenure at Nevada Donor Network he came to regret how he originally approached hiring. “After our first year of success, we had a much larger pool of potential employees, and I went fishing with a vengeance,” he says. “We were moving quickly and needed to hire a lot more people. I had my ego and experience whispering in my ear that I knew best about whom to hire. Of course, I was wrong.” Ferreira says he put too much stock in job candidates’ resumes and credentials, and not enough in their personalities. “This was a major error, because no matter how competent a person is, if they don’t fit in with an organization culturally, they won’t work out,” he says. “I had to exit every single original new hire I made early on.”
“Errors happen when you grow quickly, which is one reason success can be punctuated with a lot of opportunities for failure,” Ferreira says. “Part of your culture should be to talk about those errors openly. Do a root-cause analysis, figure out why it happened, and implement measures immediately to prevent it from happening again. And then eventually refine the process and procedures so that you can avoid similar errors altogether.”
About Joe Ferreira
Joe Ferreira (www.joe ferreira.com), the ForbesBooks author of Uncomfortable Inclusion: How to Build a Culture of High Performance in Life and Work, is CEO and president of the Nevada Donor Network. Ferreira speaks and consults worldwide about establishing and improving organ donation and transplantation systems he’s helped pioneer in the United States. He served as the director of clinical operations at the Life Alliance Organ Recovery Agency in Miami, and is the recipient of the Kruger Award for Outstanding Professional Transplant Services. He holds a bachelor of science in microbiology and immunology and an MBA with a specialization in healthcare administration and policy, both from the University of Miami.