Katherine Tatsuda at the July 18, 2018 Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

The culture of complaint was the topic at a recent Greater Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce luncheon. Discussed were tools businesses can use to improve employee performance and customer satisfaction.

What is your organization’s culture and why is it important?  Those were the questions explored by Katherine Tatsuda of Tatsuda’s Leadership Consulting Services. She has been chief operating officer of her family business, Tatsuda’s IGA, since 2011, and used her business as an example.

She says when Walmart came to Ketchikan, her store’s volume fell by 30 percent and went into ‘survival mode.’ Her father was manager then, and Tatsuda says to stay afloat, he made several changes.

“He did what any of us would do as business owners. You cut your labor. You cut your costs. You do as much as you can and you work extra, extra hard. That way you can just survive.”

Tatsuda says when she came in as COO, morale was low and the organizational culture was poor.

“And for me, it was incredibly toxic. Because when I came in, I’m the daughter, nobody knows me, not very many people were happy to have me there.”

She says she took on the challenge of improving her leadership skills.

“So I really dove into, ‘How can I be a better leader so that I can develop these people, so I can make people feel better, so that we’re working as a team instead of being individuals who happen to work inside of the same building.”

Tatsuda quoted from a book by Shane Green defining culture, in part, as ‘…the mindset and attitude employees have about what they do and who they do it for.’ She says a negative culture can result in poor customer interaction, high turnover and under-performing employees.

“The research across industries is clear. When your employees are more engaged, when your company is more productive and profitable, to put it simply, culture really is the most important thing in business today.”

Tatsuda believes the foundation for positive or negative company culture is leadership.  In business, she says most of the time leadership is represented by managers. She says good leaders maximize the talents, strengths and abilities of employees, and focus on the potential of each person instead of performance. Tatsuda says people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers.

“I’ve seen a lot of managers in my time who should not have been responsible for people. They didn’t have the capacity, and in some cases they had no interest. They wanted the title. They wanted that power. They wanted the authority. But they didn’t really want to lead others and get the most of them.”

She says bad managers are bosses, not leaders.  Tatsuda listed qualities of bosses and leaders.

“The boss knows how it’s done, the leader shows how it’s done. The boss uses people, the leader develops people. The boss takes credit, the leader gives credit. The boss commands, the leader asks. The boss says ‘go’ and the leader says ‘let’s go.’ Who would you rather work for?”

Tatsuda says leadership is a learned skill, though not all people are meant to be leaders.

She spoke about ways to intentionally change an organization’s culture. She says leadership is the foundation, but other steps can be taken. These include acknowledging that change is needed.

“Bring your team together and sit down with them and have a difficult conversation and ask them what they think your culture is. Ask them how they feel. What they want. And ask them for their thoughts and their advice for what could be better.”

Tatsuda says everyone is responsible for a business’ culture and change won’t happen overnight. She says it takes consistent and intentional action over time. Her suggestion to overcome a culture of complaint is to focus on the positive, develop your people, and become strong leaders.