Culture Change at Paychex

Directed at the sales team, the initiative focused on Modeling-the-Way, Crucial Conversations, and Performance Management.

By Margery Weinstein

In September 2010, Paychex appointed a new CEO, Marty Mucci, and its Core Sales team experienced several senior manager changes. Due to the changes in leadership, it was decided to reset expectations with the sales managers to build the necessary skills to take the Core Sales team to the next level. A 3.5-day learning event was planned to accomplish those goals, and was delivered over a six-week period. The learning was delivered in six cities across the country to allow the teams to participate in the learning as intact management teams. Paychex invested more than $250,000 to deliver the learning.

This culture-change initiative brought the Core Sales Leadership team (190 managers) together to focus on three areas: Modeling-the-Way (CEO-defined expectations and values), Crucial Conversations (interpersonal communication), and Performance Management (setting expectations, inspecting, and responding).

  • Modeling-the-Way was delivered by the CEO and the senior VPs. They reviewed the company mission, values, and goals. They acknowledged the significant changes to the Core Sales organization and reset the expectations. CEO Mucci spoke to the company values and the importance of those values to achieving the company’s desired results. The senior managers reviewed the updated expectations of the management team, as well as the sales representatives.
  • Crucial Conversations training taught Paychex leaders how to achieve spirited dialogue at all levels in the organization, make the highest-quality decisions, and then act on decisions with unity and commitment. The participants completed individual and group exercises, brainstormed areas for development with an accountability partner, and identified conversations that needed to take place to achieve the results the managers sought.
  • Performance Management revolved around setting clear expectations, developing different ways to inspect the expectations, and responding depending on what is discovered during the expectation. Paychex reviewed the concepts of Situational Leadership II and discussed how to effectively diagnose where individuals are on the development continuum and what is needed by the manager to assist individuals in their skill development. Each manager built a detailed development plan for one of his or her sales representatives, identifying where the sales representative was developmentally, what steps both the manager and sales representative needed to take, and a timeframe for the completion of each action step.

After the completion of the training initiative, the University of Paychex gathered feedback using an anonymous survey. Below are some highlights of the results from the 126 respondents. A scale of 1-5 was used, with 5 representing Strongly Agree.




My skill or knowledge increased as a result of attending this training.


This training was a worthwhile investment in my career at Paychex.


The instructor was prepared, knowedgeable, and responsive to my questions.


Attending this training will have a significant, positive effect on my ability to utilize Crucial Conversations in one-on-ones and in day-to-day use.


Attending this training will have a significant, positive effect on my ability to utilize Situational Leadership in one-on-ones and in day-to-day use.


Attending this training will have a significant, positive effect on my ability to further develop 1-2 leadership skills in myself.


Attending this training will have a significant, positive effect on my ability to utilize the Performance Management process.




Paychex continues to reinforce the learning through team meetings, conference calls, and by updating the development plans for all sales representatives.

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