The insightful Simon Sinek says about company culture
“customers won’t love a company until the employees love it first”.
It can be easy for you as a business owner or CEO to assume the passion you have for the organisation you’ve built and the purpose you stand for is powerful enough and infectious enough to spread to those you’ve hired to help achieve it. But rarely is that true. Your staff need to feel as though they belong, that you have their back.
One of the first questions I ask in relation to your company culture – and one of the first questions you should ask yourself if you think your revenue can improve is not whether you are building a personal, happy, success-driven and rewarding business culture, but how are you building it, how are you representing a culture that attracts, retains and rewards highly talented people?
All the greats do it. Andrew Mason, the founder of Groupon, famously said
“hire great people and give them the freedom to be awesome”.
Richard Branson lives by the mantra that if you “treat your staff like the smart and capable adults they are – and give them the choice to make informed decisions – you will cultivate an environment in which everyone can flourish”.
Are you creating that environment? You should, because when the culture rocks, so do your returns.
Here’s how to start.
1. Ask yourself the ‘how’ for your company culture
“We have a great company culture” are generally the first words to come out of the boss’s mouth when I ask the question. But when you ask yourself the “how” – “How am I delivering an outstanding company culture?” – it forces you to list the ways you are actually creating a place where people want to achieve for you, themselves and for the team.
If you pose the same questions to staff, in my extensive experience, the answer is vastly different. In fact, I’ll give you verbatim one of the answers collectively delivered by a sales team I worked with a few years ago. It went like this:
“Culture? What culture? We don’t have a culture here. Coming in on time and leaving on time, that is our culture.”
This is a shame because that company had great products and a passionate CEO, but he as the leader of those people was failing to transfer that passion to his staff. It wasn’t until we addressed the “how” that it dawned on him he needed to take some simple measures to turn it around. So what did he do?
2. Build your people, build your company
I used to work for an American company that had one of the strongest, most addictive and smile-inducing company cultures I’ve ever seen. I travelled to many of our offices around the world and whether I went to Milan, Buenos Aires, Yokohama, Shanghai or Johannesburg, I would always see the same visuals on the walls expressing our culture in a simple yet powerful way. The people in key positions would talk about our values and refer to them in every big (and many small) decisions they’d make. We would use the same kind of language and, crucially, we celebrated as one, the achievements and the victories.
And people who did not appreciate and contribute to the culture or supported the values, did not stick around long.
That seed was planted from the second each and every staff member started on their first day, with the welcome by the most senior leader onsite and during the comprehensive induction program.
If your company is lagging, it’s never too late to bring your culture to the fore.
To return to my earlier example, those company values were just the start. It was the passion of the leadership team and the consistent rituals that cemented the culture in the organisation.
All people in the organisation challenged each other. Not only from top to bottom but also senior managers were asked questions by junior staff. Those questions were welcomed and answered, and sometimes led to new perspectives that would help to make even better decisions.
People were heard and felt valued. Everybody counted and the team spirit was great.
3. You are the culture your business needs
Whatever the most senior person does in the company, that is copied in some way by the rest of the company. So ensure you live by it.
If you tell people that the culture of your company is great, but you don’t celebrate the achievements with them – in person yourself – nobody will celebrate their successes. If a company succeeds and no one is there to celebrate it, did it ever really happen? And worse, if no one ever celebrates it, will your company continue to repeat those achievements? In my experience – absolutely not!
Lead your culture by example, trust and train your people to embrace the culture and values by which you operate, and reward their efforts and successes. You will see smiles on your staff’s faces and profit added to your bottom line.
And that’s a culture anyone would like to be a part of.
Want to know more about company culture?
Are you unsure on how to build a company culture that attracts, retains and rewards highly talented people? Get in touch with ECG today, we can help.