A healthy culture can drive an organization to success like an unhealthy culture can run an organization into the ground.
The existing culture in your company is the most significant factor in determining your future success. “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” is a famous quote by management consultant Peter Drucker and likely something you’ve heard before. But have you taken the time to think about what it means and how true it is?
Think about the culture in your company:
- What does it feel like to walk into your office? Or join a call of remote team members?
- Think about how it feels to talk with different people or groups in the organization.
- Consider how your teams interact with one another.
- What tone do you experience most with team communications?
- Now, think about how you arrived at that culture. Have you been intentionally guiding behaviors? Or not even thinking about it?
For most owners we talk to, the culture just sort of happens; they don’t think about it. If this is you, rest assured, you’re not alone. And there is a way to fix it!
Define the culture you want to have
Creating a healthy culture starts with your leadership team taking the time to define the key ideas driving the organization’s decisions and behaviors. And then document the details about the organization you want to become. You can’t wait for it to happen on its own. If you’re not intentionally defining and communicating the behaviors and the results you expect, you’re allowing your culture to develop randomly. And random efforts create random results.
Everyone needs to clearly understand the company’s cultural expectations, and leadership needs to actively reinforce those expectations. It’s essential to promote and reward appropriate behaviors and rebuke ones that don’t support cultural expectations. Without this reinforcement, the culture becomes a fractured grouping of behaviors and doesn’t promote consistency across the organization.
Don’t underestimate the power of culture—you cannot leave it to chance. You must be more intentional in building your culture than anything else in your company.
- Your culture must be the filter for everything that comes into your organization. If something new doesn't enhance and reinforce your desired culture, it doesn't belong.
- An existing culture will always defend itself. If you have an unhealthy culture, it will work to beat down anything that looks like positive change. If you have a healthy culture, it will self-police and remove anything and anyone who stands in the way of positive change.
- Culture dictates who is on your team. Either you’ll use your desired culture to determine the people who exist, or your people will determine the culture that exists.
Build a culture of results
As a sales organization, you have two primary goals – keeping the business you have and getting the business you don't. While this is a healthy concept for your business to focus on, it can quickly create an unhealthy culture if not managed with people in mind.
Focusing solely on actions and numbers can create an excessive emphasis on sales vs. service and how they individually contribute to the bottom line. An unhealthy focus can unintentionally create a divided culture, separating the sales team from the service team or pitting them against one another.
A culture of results is all-encompassing and unites the entire team. A culture of results focuses on what is needed most to bring the most significant value to clients.
You get to choose your culture. Of course, choosing it doesn't make it a reality. You must work hard to build and maintain that culture. It's hard work, but it’s the same hard work that makes everything else relatively easy.
Hire the right people and let them do their jobs
While it’s always the leader’s responsibility to set the vision and ensure the company stays on target, you and the team need to create the best path for getting there. When hiring, first and foremost, hire people through your culture’s filter: do they agree with your purpose and values and company personality? If they don’t, move on. If they do, consider how they could contribute to the team.
Look for people who will help you build the culture of results you want to see. Results-driven people love to think and do and see their ideas come to life and get put into action. Select the right people, and they will help make your company better.
Hire competent people you can trust to do their jobs exceptionally well. They should bring complementary expertise to the company's existing skills and knowledge. And you should look upon them with great enthusiasm for their fresh perspective and willingness to jump in and do these new jobs with a fiery passion.
If you read these words and think this doesn’t describe your team at all, consider if you have a group of transaction processors or a team who actively wants to contribute to the organization. One will help you maintain a mediocre business, and one will help you create and grow a thriving company.
A word of caution: when you have enthusiastic contributors and fall into the trap of micromanaging, you will stifle and snuff out their creativity and enthusiasm and run the risk of losing their contributions or losing them altogether. If you feel you must micromanage, you either have the wrong people on your team, or you need to evaluate your perspective and probably get some outside opinions to help you be objective.
Build your people, build your business
“When you take care of your team, they’ll take care of your business,” Richard Branson has famously said. We couldn’t agree more.
We hear business leaders say all the time, "Our people are our greatest asset." Often, this is nothing more than a gratuitous platitude, which is so unfortunate because the spirit of this statement is spot-on.
That said, we’re not big fans of thinking of team members as "assets" or "human capital." For us, those labels dehumanize the individual and limit the potential they bring to your company.
Unlocking that potential is critical to everyone – the organization, other team members, and especially, the individual themselves. When someone commits the next phase of their career to you, that’s a huge responsibility you’ve committed to, and it’s a fundamental obligation to build up your whole team.
Share your appreciation
“I’ve never worked anywhere where there is so much gratitude expressed.” One of our team members said this, and it’s stuck with us as a critical part of our culture.
When you keep things to yourself, you leave other people wondering what’s going on or on your mind. This closed-lipped approach is detrimental to building strong, healthy relationships because what we think is happening is guaranteed to be worse than what is actually happening.
When something is awry, get it out and talk about it. See how you can fix it. Let the team know, engage, and shift the stress from being solely on your shoulders to allowing others to participate in solutions.
When something is going well, share it! Don’t leave people guessing; let them know when they’re doing things right.
People do as the leader does, and if you want a healthy culture, express your gratitude. You’ll see it replicated throughout the organization. If you have leaders on your team who do not appreciate the people who report to them, you will have a turnover problem. Appreciation must be an ingrained part of the organizational behaviors to make the impact you need for an intentional, healthy culture.
Create the culture you want
Too many think of “culture” as simply being pleasant, friendly, and fun. But it should be so much more. A nice culture is nice, but it must also be productive for everyone involved while being a great workplace.
Creating an intentional “culture of results” is all-encompassing, covering results for clients, results for your business, and results for individual team members. It may sound like an ideal too lofty to achieve, but we promise you, it’s attainable. Go into it with intention, deciding what you want it to be, and engage your team in helping further refine it.
Culture is not created by one person saying it is so; it’s the collective behavior of the team. Allow them to participate in defining and owning it, and you’ll find yourself with a new company creating new results.
Photo by gpointstudio