“Like a Family…”

I recently interviewed Brian McCoy, CEO of McCoy’s Building Supply.  I plan to include the story of his company in a forthcoming book called The Art of Inspiration … Stories of Leaders who Forge Cultures that People LoveAs a part of my story gathering at McCoy, Brian offered to let me meet Daniel, their store manager, at a nearby location in Rosenberg, Texas.  During my time at the store I met several employees and one of the constant refrains from them was “it’s like a family working here”.  

When I hear people ( employees ) say that I think they make that family analogy with an almost evangelistic demeanor.   I don’t mean churchy.  I mean they say “we’re family” with an attitude of “this is a great place to work and you would love working here ”!  I can think of at least three necessary family qualities relevant in business that would yield a “McCoy” response:

  • love for leadership and each other ( i.e., loving parent, child and siblings ).
  • clear performance and growth expectations and frequent feedback ( family chores … “good job” )
  • clear ideals ( character, purpose )

Combined, those qualities when present, satisfy the human needs for belonging, ownership and meaning.  Those are the elements that yield a family-like culture in business.

Ironically, I met Brian as a response to sharing with him my ( 2014 published ) book Peerless: Defy convention, Lead from the Heart, Watch What Happens.  The McCoy story was reminiscent of the Peerless chapter on George Martinez who retired in 2004 as Chairman and President of Sterling Bancshares in Houston.  How did he maintain a TRUE North course beginning as a startup bank with $3 million in assets and build it into Sterling and $3 billion? 

His 40 year career was forged by similar leadership qualities found in a strong family.  There were moments in Martinez career where his actions ( not programs ) amplified his values, which reminded me of the expressions “people do not hear as much what you say as they see what you do”.   In Peerless, there were three events or actions that revealed why I think Sterling exhibited family attributes:

  • love of leadership: employees valued foremost when Martinez personally closed a customer’s account ( who had been demanding and abusive to a “mere” teller ).
  • clear expectations: executives and managers were rewarded not for departmental excellence but for excellence overall; newly hired bonus-eligible executives were brought in only if the Senior Council agreed that person would make the “pie” bigger.
  • clear ideals: Sterling did not send credit cards to graduating seniors – the prospect of those starting out with growing account balances did not appeal to Martinez as win-win.

Recipe: sustained high performance comes only as a result of caring, communicative and performance-oriented leadership.  People “love” working “there”!

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