Culture is a critical ingredient to a thriving and vibrant business, but strangely it hasn’t been a major topic until rather recently. The old school approach has more-or-less been whip-cracking bosses who demand performance or else. Thankfully, this ill-advised tactic is going the way of the dinosaur.
Now, with the proliferation of companies who have keyed in on creating dynamic cultures and have attributed those cultures as the No. 1 reason for their success, others are taking steps toward improving theirs.
What is company culture?
“Culture isn’t a set of bean bag chairs or a pingpong table. Culture is an outcome,” says Barry Chandler, principal of Storyforge. “It’s the outcome of how a company and its leaders think, of what they believe. It is the product of their actions, behaviors and mindset.”
In order to change outcomes, you need an understanding of where to begin. Having a crystal clear purpose is an absolute necessity and critical to the foundation of your culture. This must be in place before any progress can be made.
But your team has to buy into it, too. Spend time focusing on why you do something — not just how you’re going to do it. The why is so much more important than the how, and represents the fabric that binds your culture together.
Recognize, mitigate problems
So, if you’re on the path toward intentionally shaping your culture, how do you avoid setbacks? Cultivate an environment of trust and don’t let anyone compromise it.
When you observe trust-breaking behavior within your ranks — back channeling, gossip/rumor spreading, constant negativity, etc. — promptly and immediately nip it in the bud. And I’m not talking about a simple verbal reprimand. These culture killers are malignant, and the people who exhibit them have no place in a healthy company.
Too often we justify the bad behavior of those under our leadership and manage them with our hearts, and not our heads. I’ve been there.
It’s always better to be decisive, direct and swift when mitigating issues, regardless of how the discipline is received. Remember, right is right, and your team is counting on you to keep the environment healthy and positive.
The right people are everything
Culture comes down to people. If you attract the right people you won’t have to deal with many of the issues that kill a company’s culture. But once you’ve attracted them, you must keep them engaged.
Effective engagement means your team has been empowered with the tools and freedom to thrive while feeling connected and valued in the process.
“Less than 30 percent of American workers are engaged,” says Eric Golubitsky, founder and CEO of VIPerks, an Ohio-based employee engagement firm. “If your employees love coming to work, not only will they stay, but they will also work harder and smarter — thus making the experience for your customers better in the process.”
Bottom line: a healthy and vibrant company culture will take your business a long way and make the journey an enjoyable one for all.
Luke Westerman is the Chairman and CEO of Solomon Global Holdings.