Hold people accountable. The word “accountability” is hard and often uncomfortable one for many managers and executives, but I believe holding people accountable will be the difference between success and failure. Everyone should know their numbers and be accountable for their department. The first step is by setting the global company KPIs and then trickling down those metrics to each department, so everyone is rowing the same way. It’s not enough to say you want to have retention or grow your sales or hire great talent. You have to make sure you have measurable ways to accomplish what you say you’re going to do, and you must hold people accountable for doing those things.
As a part of my series about how leaders can create a “fantastic work culture”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lora Kellogg, CFE. Lora is president & CEO of Curious Jane, an industry leader in franchise marketing. A frequent contributor on franchise trends in such publications as Forbes, Entrepreneur, Franchise Times, Franchising USA and Brand Quarterly, she recently was named by Entrepreneur as one of “16 Businesswomen Who Can Be Counted on to Provide Their Own Seat at The Table.” With a natural curiosity about how to elevate franchise brands in a rapidly changing market, Lora and her team make it a quest to help franchises grow and entrepreneurs succeed. She has strong relationships with both franchisors and franchisees, offering expertise and insights to clients. She is on the Forbes Agency Council and is an active member of IFA (International Franchise Association).
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My dad, Charlie, was in sales and was a strong leader. He genuinely loved people, and I grew up watching my dad help and inspire a lot of people. He was a big inspiration for me going into marketing.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Several years ago, as I was coming in to work about 7 am, I noticed a trail of police cars going toward our building. I went running into our building knowing something was wrong and behind our building, someone had committed suicide. It was a remote place and he left his driver’s license on the dash of his car, was dressed in a suit and took his own life by the dumpster behind our office. No one knew him. He probably chose that location because it was private. It really shook everyone in our agency. It is a constant reminder to us that you never know what people are going through and to treat everyone with kindness.
Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I recently joined the on the Board of Directors for a new nonprofit called GiveVisuals, which will offer professional video stories at no cost to emerging charities. Emerging nonprofits typically have limited resources and don’t have access to high-quality film production to raise awareness, advocates, and resources to enhance their work. There are tens of thousands of emerging charities around the globe working to fight poverty, disease, and isolation, but too often the work done by these agencies remains secret because the passion to serve others overshadows the need to tell the world about their work. GiveVisuals will tell their stories.
Ok, let’s jump to the main part of our interview. According to this study cited in Forbes, more than half of the US workforce is unhappy. Why do you think that number is so high?
I think people genuinely desire to have joy in their work, but they trip up by making it all about themselves. The more we focus on helping other people, inspiring other people, helping others advance, the more we, in turn, will become successful and find happiness. I remember talking with an employee and hearing her say our company was not “watering” her enough. She wanted to be told more often what a great job she was doing. Her whole conversation was about herself, and I remember thinking, “It’s not about you. It’s about your team. It’s about advancing the company. It’s about serving versus leading both with our customers and our team. That’s when you really start to grow.
Based on your experience or research, how do you think an unhappy workforce will impact a) company productivity b) company profitability c) and employee health and wellbeing?
It’s unrealistic to think unhappy people will be productive, creative or motivated. We put a priority on keeping people happy and healthy, and it has paid dividends at our agency.
Can you share 5 things that managers and executives should be doing to improve their company work culture? Can you give a personal story or example for each?
1. Have a strong vision, a clear mission, and relevant core values. Everyone needs to know what the company stands for and why it exists. Because we work with franchises, our mission is to “Help Franchises Grow and Entrepreneurs Succeed.”™ When we adopted this mission, I told our employees that if they ever wanted to be entrepreneurs themselves, I would fully support them and help them in any way I could. We’ve had several great employees take me up on that. One was working with one of our franchise clients, Office Pride, and she liked their culture and values so much, she decided to leave our agency and start her own franchise. To lose employees because they buy into your vision so much is a true testament that we’re doing something right.
At our agency, our core values — Expect Excellence. Carry the Ball. Commit to Growth. — aren’t just platitudes on a wall. They infuse every aspect of our work life. We consider them during the hiring process so that we are bringing in people who are like-minded, and we use them in end-of-year evaluations. Our core values affect how we treat each other and our customers.
2) Be in growth mode all the time. We believe in growth so much that we made it one of our core values, “Commit to Growth.” Obviously, that means we want to grow the company to make a profit, but it also means we want employees to grow, so they have a chance to move up. People want to work in growing companies. It’s been so fun to see many of our people who have been here really grow their careers, their knowledge, and their salaries.
We also make a point of investing in our employees’ growth. Last year, we sent the entire team to a two-day leadership conference, because of everyone here a leader. When your team knows they have opportunities and that you believe in them, they will move mountains for your brand.
3) Be authentic and real. We invest a lot of time talking about communication and family. I shared with my team two years ago that over the holidays I had some routine tests done and found myself in an MRI machine on Christmas Eve. I was scared. It was a wake-up call to me that I needed to really focus more on my health. I told them they would see me leave every Tuesday and Thursday at 4 pm so I could go work out with a trainer. I told them they would see me park my car as far away from the building as possible to get more steps in, and if I didn’t have a big bottle of water in my hand, to please bring me one. It was something that was really private to me, but I shared with my entire staff because I wanted them to know I’m real and what I was going through. When you’re real and authentic with those you work with, it allows them to know they can also be human with you when they’re going through something.
I read somewhere that the CEO of Pepsi says leaders should “leave loudly.” If you need to head out for an appointment or something with your kids, it’s OK to announce where you’re going “loudly” so that others feel they can also do the same. I love that because it sets the stage for people to be real. So, I leave loudly to work out, go get my kids or meet a friend for lunch, and I want them to do the same.
4. 10X Increase your communication tenfold. We talk a lot about communication. First, we don’t allow cell phones in meetings, so that when we come in to a meeting, we actually talk to each other and chitchat for a few minutes asking about each other’s families and what we did over the weekend. We talk a lot about listening and asking questions both to our customers and to each other. We also have a rule to not complain without offering a solution. I talked to my staff in one of our staff meetings about really listening and encouraging one another. You never know what someone is going through and if we’re going to be a company that has depth, we need to be really strong communicators. We had a client who was being a bit challenging, and our staff was worn out trying to help them and offer our opinions and ideas on how they needed to do things. I reminded the staff that communication goes both ways. We can’t always be the leader; somethings we have to be the supporter. Communication is a give-and-take.
5. Hold people accountable. The word “accountability” is hard and often uncomfortable one for many managers and executives, but I believe holding people accountable will be the difference between success and failure. Everyone should know their numbers and be accountable for their department. The first step is by setting the global company KPIs and then trickling down those metrics to each department, so everyone is rowing the same way. It’s not enough to say you want to have retention or grow your sales or hire great talent. You have to make sure you have measurable ways to accomplish what you say you’re going to do, and you must hold people accountable for doing those things.
It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but it seems like we have to “change the culture regarding work culture”. What can we do as a society to make a broader change in the US workforce’s work culture?
We need to remember that people may love their jobs, but they need lives outside of work, too. We expect our team to work hard, but we also encourage people to stay healthy, to relax and to have fun. On Fridays, a yoga instructor starts our day with exercise to help keep us fit, and we give employees the week between Christmas and New Year’s off with pay (in addition to their earned PTO). Finally, we recognize that there’s always something to celebrate, and at least once every month, we find a reason to bring in breakfast or lunch. Not only do these little celebrations keep the team happy and motivated but also sharing photos of those types of events helps in recruiting because other people want to be part of what we have.
How would you describe your leadership or management style? Can you give us a few examples?
I am a visionary, but I let my team implement that vision in their own way. I am naturally a transparent and direct person, so I share information very freely with the whole staff in the belief that letting people see the big picture gives them ownership of the agency as we move forward together.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My junior year of college I had the privilege to intern for Tom Morris at the corporate office of a hardware chain called Scotty’s in Florida. Tom was the former head of marketing for Sears for the U.S. and Canada. He took me under his wing and let me go to every meeting with him, and I’m confident I learned more from him that summer than I did in all four years of college. He hired me my senior year and three years later, he fired the advertising director and put me over the entire Advertising Department. I remember the day vividly, because it was April 1 (April Fool’s Day) and I was 23, and he announced to everyone that I was the new marketing manager advertising director and I was over the entire department. I was scared to death and I honestly wasn’t prepared to lead that big of a department, but he believed in me and helped me every step of the way. I figured things out quickly and over the next 10 years became the first female vice president in the company’s 75-year history. When my son turned 2, I went to Tom to see if I could work part-time because I wanted to start my own marketing company, and he let me. Fifteen years later, my agency is bigger and better than ever. I owe much of the success of my agency and my professional growth today to how he mentored and groomed me. We are still great friends, and I still go to him for advice and guidance.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? I think my biggest contribution to the world is to be an encourager and mentor to others. I believe in having real authentic connections with the people I work with and with our customers. I hope in some way people see love, grace and faith kindness in me, in the way I run my business and in the way I treat people.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” — Mahatma Gandhi
This really reflects my commitment to mentor and encourage others. I appreciate my mentors so much and I believe everyone needs that sort of guidance and encouragement to reach their full potential.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Find two or three people you can mentor. The more we can give back to others and help other people succeed, the better the world will be. Investing in others’ success with no ulterior motive is what the business world needs more of.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you continued success!