I love to travel. One of the places I want to visit is Germany. I have a bucket list item that is very much a guy thing to do. I want to rent a Porsche, take it to the track in Nuremberg to see what it can REALLY do. Then I want to open it up on the Autobahn and return it with the hood still hot enough to fry an egg on it for at least 30 minutes after the engine is shut off. If you’re a woman, you may be shaking your head in disbelief. If you’re a guy, take a second and let your heart rate go down…along with your testosterone level.

While I may have just been blacklisted by Enterprise, this view of rental cars is quite common. People do things with and in rental cars they wouldn’t even consider doing in their own car. Why is that? I think the most glaring reason is a lack of ownership. How common is the statement, “So. That’s why I bought the insurance.”?

There is no real lasting negative impact on our lives when things go wrong with a rental car. We call the number on the receipt, another car magically shows up and we get to go on about our business. At most it becomes a monumental inconvenience. The rental company gets to deal with all the headaches. This begs the question: Are you renting out your culture?

How do things work in your organization? Are your employees in a position to be rental car customers in relation to your culture? Imagine how your organization could be affected if this were true. Many times, usually during the on boarding process, people are given their contract and told all of the responsibilities they have. They are told to initial and sign in specific places so there is documented proof they were told. Sound like your last rental car experience? Sure does!

Here are a 3 tips to make sure your culture isn’t treated like a rental.

  • Make things personal – Don’t misread this, but if people feel they are affected personally by things going poorly, then they will be much more hesitant to act like they’re renting a car. Beyond the explanation of things in the beginning, leadership needs to have conversations to see what’s important to individuals. Find ways to connect the organizational culture with something that is personal and important to each person. This can’t be an initiative or canned approach. You actually have to get to know your people. Yeah…leadership.
  • Don’t make it a transaction – When people are a part of a transaction, there is a separation and distancing that takes place in our minds. We don’t conduct transactions at home or with close friends because we value those relationships. The second an interaction takes on the vibe of a transaction, the rental car dynamic will rule the day. Make interactions meaningful and personal. The “It’s just business” mantra should and can only go so far.
  • Put people’s name on it – Let folks know that they have a voice and some skin in the game. Something going well is a great career move. Not because they are a glory hog, but because they are a part of a successful team. Allow that sense of ownership to develop in how they do their work. I have yet to meet an employee who wants to be known for being someone who does a poor job and has no initiative.
What would you add to this list?
  • Hi William,
    My first reaction to your post was actually: “No, no, no. One should treat any property like their own. The lack of that is what’s wrong with this world today, William!” 😉 I will explain why I was thinking that, but first let me say that I appreciate the post and the important message in it.

    The present fast-lane mentality that allows for things to be easily disposed off is indeed shifting to the way we engage into relationships. As easy as we add people to our Facebook or Twitter account, we simply unfollow them if it pleases us. And it’s not so much the technology to blame for. This was already a trend way before social media etc. People in general seem to behave more and more individualistic to the point of egocentric. That rental car mentality is just one of many, and least harmful I’d say, symptoms. But then again, maybe one of the easiest to change as well ;). Food for thought…
    Thx again, Steve

  • Good points Steve. While influenced heavily by national culture, there seems to be a definite shift in how we view relationships. Thanks for your contribution!