Western Grower & Shipper 2018 03MarApr

Strengthening Company Culture… One Mindset at a Time

By Stephanie Thara Metzinger T he clock strikes midnight and disagreements continue to hold strong. The realization that they just missed a crucial deadline is slowly starting to sink in among the management team at agtech startup SWIIM System. Gradually, dissent about how the project should have been carried out dissipates, but one glaring fact remains: the company’s culture has to change. “When we were building our management team during the development stage of the company, we brought together high-caliber professionals who all had different expertise and personalities,” said Kevin France, CEO of SWIIM System. “Though these were all high-quality individuals, they just couldn’t execute to their full potential because they were constantly kicking and fighting each other.” The lack of agreement and collaboration began to foster low morale among the staff at SWIIM. France, in frustration, expressed that his 15-person startup needed a significant culture overhaul during the company’s board meeting in December 2016. A solution soon emerged. “Dave Puglia (WG executive vice president) told me about a training resource that Western Growers offered relating to the Arbinger Institute. He said that the program focused on changing the mindset rather than changing behavior,” said France. At first, France was skeptical, remembering the countless leadership development and management training sessions he had participated in previously. Trainings that involved the equivalent of holding hands, singing 'Kumbaya' and then forgetting all of the lessons learned immediately after leaving the session. France knew something needed to change or his budding company would not prosper. He understood that a healthy workplace culture drives positive business outcomes.

France signed up each of his employees—located in areas throughout California and Colorado—for the two-day workshop, where Karen Timmins, WG senior vice president of human resources and resident Arbinger trainer, traveled to the company’s headquarters in Colorado to share the principles of Arbinger. “The training brings to light what is wrong at the company and how to fix it. It’s especially helpful for organizations with challenging work environments,” said Timmins. France started to notice a change among his staff, especially the leadership team. Many of his team members saw how they

previously treated others as objects rather than people and had a self-focused—or inward—mindset. Lightbulbs started going off for team leaders, and they began to accept and adopt a culture where they held themselves accountable and stopped dehumanizing others. From there, a healthier and more collaborative work environment started to develop within SWIIM. Now, France finds ways to keep the Arbinger approach alive and well throughout the year, including an annual Arbinger-based retreat each year for his team.

8   Western Grower & Shipper | www.wga.com   MARCH | APRIL 2018

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