Creating a Collaborative Culture at Atmos Energy
Atmos Energy attributes its financial success to its strong culture – success that includes 30 years of consecutive increases in annual cash dividends.
It’s not good enough to be smart and know your job at Atmos Energy, one of the largest natural gas-only distributors in the U.S. If you can’t build solid working relationships, you simply won’t be successful at Atmos Energy.
The Dallas-based organization’s senior executives consciously cultivate a culture of collaboration in word and deed. And many of the company’s leaders are homegrown – in fact, one division president started as a meter reader while on summer break from college.
Atmos Energy serves roughly three million customers in more than 1400 communities, stretching from the Blue Ridge Mountains in the East to the Rockies in the West. Three strong CEO’s, Charles Vaughan, Robert (Bob) Best and Kim Cocklin, mindfully built a culture that sets Atmos Energy apart from its competitors. The company even has a name for their culture: AtmoSpirit.
How Interaction Associates Helped
Atmos Energy engaged Interaction Associates (IA) in 2013 to help them deepen and reinforce their culture with methods grounded in IA’s conscious leadership and collaboration expertise. According to Kyle Klabenes, Director of Employee Development, the energy giant viewed IA as a natural fit with AtmoSpirit to partner in service of four key goals:
- Reinforce the importance of culture as part of Atmos Energy strategy.
- Reinforce the role of the leader shaping culture.
- Provide Atmos Energy leaders with more skill practice in diagnosing their team and continually to develop them.
- Provide a practical, sustainable model that was easy to implement.
The 2013 corporate annual report profiled the three CEOs in a section on how they consciously cultivated the company’s culture. “There’s more to success than just the bottom line and the latest quarterly financials,” said former CEO Charles Vaughan. “Kim, Bob and I share a common commitment to Atmos Energy’s employees. That dedication to the employees has built a stronger base than anything else this company could ever have done.” Vaughan added.
Atmos Energy attributes its financial success to its strong culture – success that includes 30 years of consecutive increases in annual cash dividends. Bob Best, Chairman and former President and CEO, cites the importance of creating a culture distinguished by an engaged workforce. “To cultivate a great culture means a lot of things,” he says. “It means picking the right people, promoting the right people and treating everyone fairly. What employees believe drives everything. Their attitude and spirit drive customer service, which is our reputation, safety practices, community service and financial performance. Culture drives everything.”
Atmos Energy invests in this maintaining this culture. Bob Best reflects, “It’s always intrigued me that companies spend millions of dollars on what I would call ‘technical training.’ Yet, they don’t spend much on what I call spiritual training to develop the individual in his or her career. When we embarked on our AtmoSpirit training, I felt strongly that culture isn’t just something for the rank and file. It’s for everyone – and our company’s leaders are required to participate as much, if not more, than everyone else. “
Current CEO Kim Cocklin concurs. “We have a culture that is worth belonging to. … If you get the right results the right way with the right people – because it’s the right thing to do, then you’re going to be successful, and the numbers usually take care of themselves.“
Atmos Energy’s culture is such a differentiator that it acts as its own recruiting strategy. A recent job applicant said that he’d noticed the company’s employees around town. He said they always seemed happy and like good, respectful, positive people. The impression was so consistent, the applicant said it compelled him to apply to begin a career at Atmos Energy.