Podcast: Ginger Hardage on Building an Unstoppable Company Culture

We’ve all encountered a workplace zombie at some point or another: those people who are physically present in the workplace, but their lights aren’t on. You can find them typing away at their desks, but they aren’t engaged in their work.

In this episode of The Leadercast Podcast, we spoke with Ginger Hardage, former senior vice president of culture and communications at Southwest Airlines responsible for building and sustaining the organization's legendary culture. Last year, Ginger founded her own company, Unstoppable Cultures, to help organizations create and sustain great cultures. In this podcast, Ginger discusses the power of purpose and explains how to build a culture of greatness within organization and rid it of workplace zombies.

The Power of Purpose

The secret to cultivating a consistent, long-lasting culture of greatness for your organization is to get your team focused on the same purpose.

“If organizations lack clear purpose or they keep changing it, employees will become confused with their own purpose and, in turn, they’ll end up confusing their customers,” explains Ginger. TWEET

Maintaining a strong culture united by a common purpose isn’t easy. It starts with the leadership.

Hiring Tough

Establishing a culture of greatness stems largely from the people you hire. Ginger advises leaders to never settle when it comes to hiring. If a person seems like they aren’t a fit for the culture, don’t invite them into it. “Hire tough so you can manage easy,” she explains. TWEET

Ginger shares two tips to toughen the hiring process:

1. Involve peers in the hiring process. No one knows the company and the roles within it better than those who are already doing the job. Ginger said that at Southwest, some of the more stellar employees were given the chance to apply to be involved in the hiring process. Who better than those who are engaged in their role, constantly striving to achieve their own purpose and the company’s every single day?

2. Hire in alignment with your organization’s values. Instead of asking candidates questions about hypothetical examples to guess how they’d potentially respond to a situation, ask very specific questions about their history. Don’t ask, “What would you do?” Ask, “What did you do?”

What Makes a Culture Great?

There are several misconceptions leaders fall prey to when trying to create great cultures. Ginger says one of the biggest is the idea that culture can be built through a one-and-done activity or event. Sending your staff out for a team-building activity or treating everyone to an annual Christmas party and stopping there does not make a great culture.

“Culture isn’t a faucet you can turn on and off,” she says. TWEET

Establishing a culture of greatness requires intentional, long-term efforts in recruitment, hiring, training, delivery, customer feedback, etc. To build a culture of greatness, it has to be continually reinforced.

Listen to the episode to hear more misconceptions, and to learn how to turn any situation—a change in leadership, mergers or acquisitions, or a shift in vision—into an opportunity to build a culture of greatness.

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This post is based on an episode of The Leadercast Podcast with Ginger Hardage, former senior vice president of culture and communications at Southwest Airlines and founder of Unstoppable Cultures. Join her at The Unstoppable Cultures Fellowship, taking place Nov. 12-15 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. (Listeners will receive 10% OFF when they mention Leadercast at registration.)

Connect with Ginger on Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn. To hear this episode, and many more like it, please subscribe to The Leadercast Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play or Stitcher.

*Photo credit: Houston Hobby/Stephen M. Keller

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