Mission: To strengthen and inspire leaders of the social sector and their partners in business and government.
What is it that makes one organization a showcase for the best that a business can be while another becomes an exemplar of everything that can go wrong? It's my belief that the difference can be attributed to an organization's leadership. Leaders set the stage for the development of a company's culture, and leaders provide living, breathing examples for employees to follow in their everyday actions.
In the first few pages of his 1989 classic on leadership, Moments of Truth, Jan Carlzon, former president of Scandinavian Airlines Systems, described the four tenets of his personal leadership philosophy:
"Everyone needs to know and feel that he is needed."
"Everyone wants to be treated as an individual."
"Giving someone the freedom to take responsibility releases resources that would otherwise remain concealed."
"An individual without information cannot take responsibility; an individual who is given information cannot help but take responsibility."
Innovate and Inspire
Part of our leadership culture is tapping into people's passion and spirit, and giving them something that they can really believe in. If you can tap into their hearts and their spirit and their passion, they can do much more than if it's just a job. One component of our monthly company meetings is touching their hearts and emotions (but we don't "say" that to them). To succeed, we need people to do more than just show up and do their jobs -- we need every ounce of their inspiration, their creativity, and their energy.
We tell people all the time that it's okay to fail -- that's how you make progress, and that's how you learn. So long as you've learned something, then you really haven't failed at all. If you're going to be an innovative company, you have to be willing to take risks -- you always have to be on the edge. The difference between achieving your goals and not achieving them is all between your ears. If you think you can, you can do anything you set your mind to.
Create a Special Work Environment
A few years after founding our company -- originally housed in a small office and warehouse facility in Southern California, we began our search in earnest for a place that would be at least as inspiring as the company we visited outside Boston. We were certain that investing in the "intangible" of a special work environment -- a beautiful, natural setting that would attract the very best people and inspire them -- would pay very tangible dividends to the company. We found that and more when we purchased six hundred acres of forest, meadows, and mountains not far from Colorado Springs with inspirational views of Pikes Peak and the surrounding national forest.
Our corporate R&D headquarters -- constructed of wood, glass, and stone, with fireplaces and informal open spaces and furniture -- more closely resembles a mountain lodge (albeit a high-tech mountain lodge) than it does a place of business. To enter the main lobby with its huge stone fireplace and leather sofas, you must first walk across a covered wooden bridge. A number of other buildings scattered about our corporate campus provide unique venues for team meetings, training, entertainment, retreats, and even guest lodging. These facilities include the Little Star Lodge, an 8,000-square-foot log lodge, the Cabin, a secluded one-room log cabin on Trout Creek popular for retreats and family weekend camping, and the Ranch House, where we conduct meetings and house our consultants and interns. Three ponds, hiking trails, a pool, and tennis courts provide plenty of on-site recreational opportunities for our team members.
Each group has been given wide-ranging authority to determine its own structure and leadership process. This latitude allows team members great flexibility in finding the approach to doing business that works best for them. Some team members naturally migrate into leadership roles, while others prefer to play less visible -- but no less important -- roles within their groups. Some groups employ fixed leadership positions while others rotate leadership positions among all the members of the group. We have found that there is no "one right answer" that can be applied to all of our teams -- each group has to determine for itself the best approach to take.
Goal setting is done on an annual basis, and the process involves every employee in the company -- not just managers or a small group of selected leaders. To solicit the involvement of everyone, we have created a cross-company partnership theme for our goal-setting process, and we invite and encourage all team members to provide their ideas and input that impact every area of the company. Once goals are agreed to, they are followed up in monthly team meetings and planning sessions, and tracked with symbolic Matchbox cars on a "race track" toward our combined cross-company goals.
Reaching Our Full Potential Together
Communication is at the heart of everything we do. Rather than filtering information out to team members only when we feel they have a need to know it, we make a point of relaying the latest news, financial information, project and product results -- whether good or bad -- to everyone in the organization as soon as it's available. By sharing information widely, we are able to reach our full potential together -- there are no haves and have-nots, no in group and no out group.
Looking to the Future
Over the past decade, Sturman Industries has grown from a dream into a vibrant company with 175 team members. We have contracts with many of the largest vehicle manufacturers in the world -- companies that are interested in our efficient digital valve and system control technology to revolutionize engine efficiency. This is just the beginning of what we can contribute to the business world, and to society as a whole. Each one of us has a firm commitment to achieving our corporate mission: to improve the world through our innovative products and corporate culture.
Print citation:Sturman, Carol "Dare to Dream" Leader to Leader. 23 (Winter 2002): 35-39.
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