Gallup research indicates that 70% of engagement can be traced back to an employee’s manager. This just goes to show that at the heart of any thriving culture is thriving leadership. And Lippert is no exception. With products ranging from RV and boat components to school bus windows and dormitory twin mattresses, Lippert has established itself as a leading manufacturer of components across multiple industries with a global team of 15,000 and 5B revenue in 2022. But what sets Lippert apart isn’t merely their prowess in creating products that “fuel fun,” as Director of Leadership Development, Kim Lisiak Fraleigh, so aptly put it. What sets them apart is their culture. It’s through leadership development that they foster their culture. Lippert’s leadership development is:
- heavily supported and advocated for by their CEO.
- a separate team from HR that reports directly to the CEO.
- intertwined with personal growth to make lives better in every facet—not just work.
Here’s how Lisiak Fraleigh and the leadership development team set out to nurture and strengthen a thriving culture.
In 2012, Lippert Had ‘A Cultural Awakening’ from the CEO Down
It’s so noticeable when leadership is on board and the CEO of the company is on board. Because of this, everything fell into place for [Lippert’s] cultural shift. —Kim Lisiak Fraleigh, Director of Leadership Development at Lippert
In 2012, Jason Lippert, the current CEO of Lippert, had an awakening moment that triggered a massive shift in Lippert’s culture. Lisiak Fraleigh said, “Jason realized that it’s not what we’re doing, it’s how we’re doing it that needs to change. I’ll be honest, we were at 130% year-over-year turnover at that point. We were losing more people than we were keeping. Since the beginning of our cultural journey, we’re now averaging 28% turnover year over year. We’ve decreased that number by over 100%.”
Of course, it wasn’t just one thing or the CEO alone who shifted the culture. Yet, it started at the top as Jason Lippert hired a Leadership Development Coach to help mold the culture, and then, began a listening initiative to learn directly from people at Lippert. “For the last ten or so years,” Lisiak Fraleigh said, “Jason has held at least one listening session every single week in a different part of our business. He’ll go to the plant or do a virtual listening session, and he sits there and listens and asks, ‘What’s going well? Where could we be better?’”
At first, Jason Lippert made several essential shifts to show he was listening. For example, he made capital investments to update bathrooms, break rooms, air quality, and parking lots. “And then he continued with critical flagship messaging,” Lisiak Fraleigh said, “inspired by Bob Chapman’s Everybody Matters, our Everyone Matters initiative was launched.”
The result, Lippert began to make sure everyone who worked there “had a moment of mattering and feeling connected to the people around them.”
Competencies, Qualities, and Values Anchor Lippert’s Culture
Developed from the inside out and now foundational to their culture are their Core Values, Leader Qualities, and Leader Competencies. Their Core Values guide their organizational identity, Leader Qualities steer leader behaviors, and Leader Competencies serve as a roadmap for leader growth and advancement.
“We have five core values and five leader qualities at Lippert,” Lisiak Fraleigh said. “We have training for each Core Value and Leader Quality in our Learning Management System. If someone’s joining our organization, it’s a great way for them to learn the currency of Lippert. We get into things like the brain science and behavioral development related to each value and quality.”
In addition to their core values and leader qualities, they also have 12 Leader Competencies which align to their Leadership Development Model broken into three groups: Lead self, lead team, and lead business.
Lisiak Fraleigh and the 27-team member strong Culture & Leadership team then roll out training and development based on these competencies, values, and qualities. She described their application, saying, “We believe leadership is influence. If you’re a team member with no direct reports, for example, you still reflect on the Leadership Development Model. Ask yourself, how can I lead myself better, how can I influence the team, and how can I influence the business? We also have a reflection sheet that helps people process what might be an appropriate goal based on these competencies, their position, and the moment in time.”
A Culture of Well-Being: Lippert’s Leadership Action Plan Intertwines Personal and Professional Development
One fundamental way that leadership development fosters such a unique culture at Lippert is through their Leadership Action Plan.
The action plan is unique because it includes both personal and professional development goals in equal measure.
“Our mission at Lippert is to make lives better by developing meaningful relationships with our coworkers, customers, and communities, and our Leadership Action Plan is grounded in that mission,” Lisiak Fraleigh said. “The Leadership Action Plan is two-sided. On the front side is personal development, and on the back is professional development.”
She continued, saying, “One of the ways to accomplish our mission is for each person at Lippert to really understand your why, what energizes you and what goals you have. Whether you want to buy an RV and work on the road, or play live music in a large venue, we want to celebrate your goals and help you achieve them. We know if you’re alive in the other areas of your life, you’ll also be alive and engaged here at work.”
Tactically speaking, the personal side of the Leadership Action Plan has three boxes, which help you to reflect on your well-being. Questions like:
- What do I need to fill up my cup outside of work?
- If I could be generous with my time and finances, in what way would I give back?
“In fact,” Lisiak Fraleigh added, “our Directors/GM-level and above own and host a service event throughout our organization.” Lippert Cares, an effort led by Lippert’s Corporate and Community Impact, team has integrated serving the community into the culture of the company. Demonstrating that business can be a force for good in the world has been critical to Lippert’s Cultural mission. In fact, over 125,000 hours of community service are logged annually by Lippert’s team members.
If you flip the Leadership Action Plan Card, there are three boxes focused on the professional development side, which are broken down under their core leadership competencies: lead self, lead team, and lead the business.
A Shift ‘From Goal-Tracking To Goal-Sharing’ Yields Big Results for Culture:
One of Lisiak Fraleigh’s biggest cultural unlocks is simple: When measuring the success of these action plans, they are shifting from a focus on completion of action plans to encouraging team members to share the impact.
She said, “Though the goals people set are quite personal, people still want to share their wins. We share personal life events like debt paid off, car and home purchases. We have had 6,307 goals reported as achieved already this year! These things outside of work that take up a lot of mental energy and space are important to celebrate.” Sharing these personal goals and achievements creates a more open and fluid work-life culture. It creates a momentum of growth and development. Lisiak Fraleigh said, “I think personal goal sharing has probably been the single biggest culture shift that we’ve accomplished as a Culture and Leadership development team. It’s changed the game.”
Lippert Wrote a Cultural Playbook to Ease the Transition of Each Acquisition
Lippert has grown immensely through acquisitions. To support that growth, they built a Cultural Playbook for working with newly acquired companies starting on day one. The playbook helps smooth the transition for these newest team members. The playbook gives people the “Xs and Os” on how to make sense of the change, engage with Lippert’s culture, and align their current culture with Lippert’s.
Lisiak Fraleigh’s Advice for Cultural Impact: ‘Listen First, and Listen Longer.’
Asked what her top piece of advice for other leadership development professionals stepping into her role, Lisiak Fraleigh said, “Listen first and listen longer.”
“I would start with the C-suite and executive group and work your way down,” Lisiak Fraleigh said. “Simultaneously, I would start from the bottom up and just listen. And from an execution perspective, I would host what we call at Lippert a ‘well, better, learn.’ What’s going well from a cultural perspective? What could be better from a cultural perspective? What have we learned that works and hasn’t worked here? After 90 days of listening, I would start to build out a plan of execution.”
Kevin Kruse is the Founder + CEO of LEADx, scaling and sustaining leadership behaviors with behavioral nudges, micro-learning, and live cohort based workshops. Kevin is also a New York Times bestselling author of Great Leaders Have No Rules, 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management, and Employee Engagement 2.0.