How To Lead An Invincible Business Culture with Dave Clare

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Is there a single belief in history that has sent more businesses into bankruptcy than this one? I doubt it!

Having a broken culture or way of thinking within an organisation is a deadly thing. The trouble with culture is, people can usually convince themselves it’s not a problem, until it’s too late.

Corporate juggernauts like Kodak, Blockbuster, Seers, Toys r Us and many others have imploded because of one crucial mistake:

“They were so focused on how they make money and not why they make money.”

This quote gives you a glimpse into the mind of my podcast guest this week, Dave Clare. Dave is an award winning coach, sales leader, trainer and key note speaker. He is also the author of the book, “Simplified – Leadership is simple. You lead people.”

The premise of the book is simple too. Dave believes that there are three fundamental things that people want from leaders.

  1. Something To Believe In (A Purpose)
  2. Someone To Believe In Them (A Leader with Values)
  3. Someone To Believe In (A Leader with Vision)

In speaking to Dave this week, I wanted to unpack everything I could in regards to leading teams and people. Like all good conversations on this topic, our journey started with why.

Mike Drysdale and Dave Clare on Leadership
Host of The Network – Mike Drysdale and Leadership Expert – Dave Clare. Photo: Scott Drysdale

Something To Believe In

Why does anyone start a business, (a good one at least)? To solve problems for customers, right? 

Take Tyler Spooner from Unocart for instance. Part of what makes Tyler a great entrepreneur is that he’s in love with solving a problem, not his solution. This allowed Feedmee to pivot multiple times and eventually rebrand into Unocart. Because that was the path that best served their purpose.

Likewise, serving a purpose is at the centre of everything Dave Clare does. He warns that the biggest trap for entrepreneurs inevitably comes from losing sight of their purpose in favour of profits. When it comes to solving a customer’s problem, he had this to say:

“How you solve it today and what you do to solve it can and will change over the years, but “why” wont change.”

“There’s a tipping point in a business. Particularly as it grows and scales. Where leaders start to worry about organising the business to benefit the shareholders… It’s like shuffling the deck chairs on the titanic, you’re going under and you don’t even realise it.”

The question entrepreneurs should be asking is “How do we deliver more value to our customers? And through that, our shareholders will benefit anyway.” 

A step that Dave mentions in his book that I found fascinating is this: To deliver more value to customers you should first deliver more value to your employees. He elaborated on this in our chat:

“Your first customers as a founder are your employees. So how can you add more value to their lives? Because if you treat them like customers and they fall in love with why your business exists, then they’re going to become brand advocates for your business.”

“It’s like a magnet. Magnets can repel or attract. That’s why I always say culture is the ultimate filter for talent, because it acts like a magnet. We can magnetise people to us as well as repel people we don’t want away.”

How do you add value to your employees?

Dave Clare Simplified Quote
Dave’s goal is to create and inspire 90 million purpose driven leaders. Photo: Scott Drysdale

Dave says it’s a process of investing in their future success. Great leaders focus on nurturing their teams to become the best versions of themselves now and in the future.

“You find out what’s really meaningful to them and what success means in their lives. Then show them how they can get some of that, if not all of that, by doing amazing work in your organisation.

There’s a flow on effect to empowering your employees to be the best versions of themselves. They start asking: “How can we make our customers the best versions of themselves? So they can have the best life that they want, while they’re customers of ours and beyond.”

Dave really stresses that point. That it should always be (in both employee and customer relations) “while in our care and beyond.

His response to the old fear: ‘What if I train somebody up and they leave?’ is always the same. “Well, what if you don’t train them up and they stay… If you don’t want the best for that person in the long run, it means that you just want to take advantage of them.”

Dave defines using the word “beyond” in that context as a choice that every leader has to make. “Do you really care about people or do you just care about someone because they’re an employee?”

There are some workplaces where there’s an attitude that employees are there to work and not think. In a culture of uncertainty, where innovation is not a luxury, but a necessity, Dave espouses a different approach.

“You know what I would rather pay you to think and if you could do some work while you’re here that would be awesome.”

Someone To Believe In Them

If a leader truly wants their team to know that they believe in them, it comes down to two things: 

Trust and responsibility…

Dave Clare Graphics
Trust is earned by making choices aligned with the team’s core values. Photo: Scott Drysdale

Dave’s philosophy says that in order to allow your team to earn that trust, you need a shared set of core values. These values form the unique way of thinking that becomes the culture of your organisation. They also become the filter through which all decisions in the organisation are made.

However, these values cannot simply be placards on a wall. We’ve all heard of companies that have said they believe in one thing and had their actions say another. Just ask a former Enron employee or more recently someone working for Volkswagen.

Every action a company takes that is in conflict with its values erodes that company’s culture and potentially sets it up for disaster. In an age of glass-box-brands, even the day-to-day operations of a company can be placed under the microscope. Just ask Uber.

However, there is a flip side. With a unified team, that respect one another and live the values of the company, that transparency becomes an asset. Shining a light on employees who’ve been given trust and responsibility and wield it mindfully builds your brand organically.

That’s why Dave believes a company’s values should be a part of every conversation. 

“Even in my organisation one of our core values is simplicity. Which means ‘freedom from complexity’. So when we look at anything we do for our clients, or our processes, or strategic partners we may work with, or anything like that, we go: Hang on… Is there complexity here, yes or no? How can we simplify this? And it might end up that this is as simple as it’s going to be and that’s great. But we’ve at least challenged it in line with the unique thinking of our organisation.”

Apply The Lessons Yourself

If you’re looking to synthesise Dave’s message into a single concept, it’s right there in the title… Keep it simple. Focus on the few core principles most likely to propel your business forward.

“It comes down to having a purpose, values and vision in your organisation. Not just as marketing placards, but as tools you actually use to engage, empower and inspire your people. If you just did those three things really well, that would be the 20% of activities that create 80% of you results.”

Ask yourself:

  • What is the purpose of your business, movement or project? (10 words or less.)
  • How does each team member make a valuable contribution to that purpose?
  • What values guide the decision making framework of your organisation?
  • What would the world look like if your organisation achieved its ultimate success?

Use these tools to create a culture where your employees answer to something (your purpose) instead of someone (a manager). Remember, if you invest in their future success, they will buy into and invest in yours.

To listen to my entire in depth conversation with Dave Clare, check out The Network with Mike Drysdale on your podcast app.

To learn more about Dave Clare and all the ways he inspires purpose driven leadership:

Until next time, think big, appreciate the little things and add a little magic to the world around you!

Photography by Scott Drysdale

Mike Drysdale

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