Under the Hood: Fire Up and Fine-Tune Your Employee Culture

March 04, 2015


Stan Slap's words grace an entire wall of our conference room, and we're really excited about his new book Under the Hood.

Jack Covert, our esteemed and fearless leader for three decades, and the founder of our company, recently retired, was such a fan of Stan Slap's first book that he had me blow up a quote from the book and put it on our conference room wall.

That conference room has henceforth been known as "Conference Room B", even though we do not have a "Conference Room A," because of the title of that book: Bury My Heart at Conference Room B.

Slap is now back with a second book, and let us assure you there is no sophomore slump in the effort. Slap takes us out of the conference room for a look Under the Hood. The book is due out next Tuesday, and we'll have a lot of good stuff for you around the book after its release, but I asked the good people of Portfolio for an excerpt to give our audience a preview, and they were kind enough to oblige. So without further ado, let's take a look at...


This isn't another book about how to successfully manage employees; it's a unique book about how to successfully manage an employee culture, which is a whole different thing.

Yet an employee culture is the same thing whether you have two employees, 200, or 20,000, or whether your employee culture is located in Manhattan, Mumbai, or Machu Picchu. And the best ways to gain its ultimate commitment are the same, whether you are a senior manager with responsibility for the entire company or you are a line manager with responsibility for a single team.

If you have a wonderful employee culture, this book will help you scale it. If you have a troubled employee culture, this book will help you fix it. If you have an employee culture under pressure, this book will help you ease it. If you have a new employee culture, this book will help you shape it. And if you are investing in a company, this book will help you protect your greatest purchasable asset.

There is often frustration among managers about why an employee culture acts the way it does: Why can't it just dependably support what's important to the business? But it's not up to an employee culture to understand the business logic; it's up to the business to understand an employee culture's logic. This book will explain exactly why your own employee culture may choose to resist supporting a strategy or performance goal and explain practically and tactically what to do about it. Not just to gain your employee culture's support. To gain your employee culture's maximum, dependable, adrenalized support.

Along with frustration, there is a belief among some managers that there's a genetic limit to an employee culture's willingness to give sustained commitment and loyalty. There's not, of course, but this book is going to blow the cap right off any limitation. You'll learn how to get whatever you want from your employee culture, whether it's greater commitment to the company and its goals, increased accountability, increased innovation, rapid acceptance of change, improved speed and accuracy of execution, or representation of your company's best intentions to your customers. Whatever plan you have for increased performance, I can assure you it will be far better protected and promoted by your people.

I can assure you because for years I have been applying these same proprietary methods in many of the world's most successful, demanding organizations in information technology, financial services, entertainment, mobile, manufacturing, and retail—creating large, sustained metrics impact for companies that don't include "Patience" on their list of corporate values.


As a kid I was notorious in my family for certain behaviors. One of them was being very hard to bluff: Parents: "Eat your vegetables; there are people starving in China." Me: "Name one." Another was an obsessive curiosity about how and why things work. How did it come to be? Where is the power? How can it go faster, do more, or do something new? How do you fire it up, fine-tune or fix it? What is under the hood?

I carried this obsession into adulthood and into business. It causes the results my company gets for our clients today. That's because I found the ultimate answer to how and why things work. An employee culture is the power that drives the enterprise engine. Fire it up and it will take you wherever you want to go; fine-tune or fix it and it will take you there faster. You want maximum business performance? Look under the hood and you'll find your employee culture.

Under the hood there is both power and mystery. To harness the rumbling power of your employee culture you've got to solve the mystery of what that culture actually is, how it operates, and how to move it forward. These are the keys that this book is going to put right in your hands and that's a real good thing. A company that will achieve long-term progressive success without them? Name one.


My company is renowned for achieving maximum commitment in manager, employee, and customer cultures. That's what we do; the reason I do it is because I believe that, short of homicide, the worst thing one human being can do to another is to make them feel small: You're not. You can't. You won't ever be. This is a killing of the soul, of hope, and of potential. Domination and disregard drive me absolutely nuts, whether it's committed by individuals or by organizations.

The world works, and it is affected by work. A person made to feel small on the job doesn't stay on the job. These same people are parents, partners, neighbors, and voters: The toxic impact is incalculable. Nothing—no motive, no circumstance, and no position of authority—grants the right to cause it.

The passion that fuels my work is that nobody should be diminished by business—working in it or buying from it. This may be a noble sentiment, but it's too unproductive to interest the typical profitable enterprise, so I long ago translated it into a series of high-impact ROI methods that most definitely do.

When an employee culture is repositioned as a newly precious, workable asset, a company will naturally protect it, same as with any asset. An employee culture can't be protected without protecting the humanity it represents and without managers reclaiming their own humanity where it may have disappeared in the labyrinth of their job descriptions.

If we lose humanity in business, we're all doomed. If we save it—company by company and manager by manager—we will have saved ourselves.

In case you fear this icy hand of altruism will grip your own company by the throat and choke the life out of revenue, not to worry: We're talking here about making the business case for humanity. In any environment where meaning is determined by metrics, the point of view and processes in this book are going to cause measurable, sustainable results.


James Bond is strapped to the table as a laser beam relentlessly moves to cut him in half. As it's about to reorganize critical parts of his anatomy, Bond frantically offers, "If you kill me, they'll just send another agent to take my place." Goldfinger gives him the villainous eye roll. "I don't think so, Mr. Bond."

"Can you afford to take that chance?" Bond counters, and the laser is shut off.

If you're a senior manager and all the last major strategies or critical performance goals in your company worked just like they were supposed to, maybe you don't need to leverage the true motivations of your employee culture. But they probably didn't, and considering that your company's success in a hypercompetitive market—as well as your own success and legacy—could depend on the next one, can you afford to take that chance?

If you're a manager at any level, you're going to constantly be given a strategic handoff to drive over the line—your part of a financial goal or organizational change. Considering that your job success involves achieving results through others and that those others work for you, an unerringly accurate understanding of an employee culture is the most important information you can possibly have. You could gamble on achieving results without it. But can you afford to take that chance?


Stan Slap has revolutionized performance for some of the world's most demanding organizations. His international consulting company, slap, specializes in achieving ferocious commitment in manager, employee and customer cultures––the three groups that decide the success of any business. His client list ranges from Hewlett Packard and Microsoft to HSBC and Viacom. When he's home, he lives in San Francisco.

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