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TruGreen: Intentional Leadership


In early 2021, TruGreen CEO John Cowles had a clear vision of earnings and growth possibilities for the private equity–backed company he was leading.

On one level, he had the company culture needed to compete and win: confidence as the industry leader, strong drive to achieve, and financial focus balanced with a desire to provide best-in-class customer service and a positive work experience for associates.

However, to be successful, the company’s executive leadership team needed to integrate plans more fully across their respective areas of the business, leverage technology, and fully empower associates.

“We are being intentional about creating customer loyalty through a balance of productivity, quality, and doubling down on our investment in people,” said Cowles. “Working horizontally across teams cultivates engaged, aligned, and empowered associates with a passion for our customers.”

‘The key to success in business is money and people. No matter how well you handle money, if you get the people part wrong, you will lose.’ ~Robert Hogan

Using Personality Assessments for Leadership and Team Development

Prior to engaging Princeton HR Insight LLC, TruGreen conducted a Voice of the Associates survey. The survey highlighted “an opportunity to create greater connectivity with and across our associates, letting them know how important they are to TruGreen,” said Rebecca Schoepfer, TruGreen CHRO.

Step 1: Cowles and his direct reports used Hogan personality assessment data and individual coaching sessions. The team wanted to explore how their leadership tendencies enable and inhibit success so they could better understand the environment they create for others. Their goal was to ensure close alignment between how they view themselves (identity) and how others see them (reputation).

What they found was that the executive leadership team values staying up to date with trends and technology, is strategic and focused on the long term, and is willing to take chances to accomplish goals. These characteristics often serve them well. However, at times, their comfort with change risks overwhelming the organization.

Step 2: The leadership team then focused on how they could work most effectively as a team, especially during times of stress. They had a series of personal, candid discussions with clear action plans and development goals.

“We now use Hogan as a framework and shared language to give and receive feedback, which has made us more effective,” said Schoepfer.

Step 3: The leadership team expanded the program by providing Hogan personality assessments and group coaching to the company’s top 200-plus associates. The associates were asked to complete development plans linking their career goals and trajectories with their values, day-to-day leadership strengths, and tendencies under stress. Creating these plans using Hogan personality data has led to more robust development discussions between associates and their managers.

Step 4: TruGreen’s associate development effort culminated in an annual leadership meeting in February 2022. During the meeting, associates had a chance to see trends in personality data across the company, and they participated in breakout groups to discuss ideas to improve based on the data.

Employees rated the program highly and felt it led to practical plans for improvement. For example, TruGreen introduced a weekly video series highlighting associate development opportunities, adjusted work schedules, and provided new equipment. Follow-up communications ensured associates could see meaningful improvements being made.

Ongoing: TruGreen’s executive leadership team continues to embed Hogan personality data in discussions and communications, such as in their Tip of the Week.

Leadership and Team Development Outcomes

Today, TruGreen has data to better support team effectiveness, differentially invest in programs that will matter most to associates, and accelerate aspects of culture that will have the biggest impact on business strategy. They have a shared language to help give and receive meaningful feedback, targeted development plans, and open discussions to better navigate stressful situations.

“We want associates to be intentional about their development and know that TruGreen invests in their growth and impact,” said Schoepfer. “We want to reinforce a culture where associates are able to see our values in action.”

About TruGreen

TruGreen is the nation’s largest lawn care company, serving more than 2.3 million residential and commercial customers across the United States with lawn, tree, and shrub care. TruGreen believes more life should be lived outside and is committed to providing a beautiful lawn to serve as the foundation for outside experiences and lifelong memories. The company has ranked in the top 10 on the CareerBliss list of the 50 Happiest Companies.

Special thanks to Rebecca Feder, MBA, SPHR, ICF, principal of Princeton HR Insight LLC, who is a member of the Hogan Coaching Network.