Creating a positive organizational culture might be the single most important factor to your business success. As Peter Drucker famously said a few years ago, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” But what is culture in an organization, and how do we as business leaders create it?
In a nutshell, business culture consists of the values and behaviors which permeate an organization and establish the framework for expectations, relationships, activities and attitudes within which work happens. When organizational culture exists in a positive sense, it is electric. It is felt in optimistic attitudes, forward momentum, and employees who are engaged. Alternatively, consider a company with is a negative organizational culture. A negative company culture will foster low morale and dissatisfied employees who will eventually leave. Studies show that the cost to a company when this happens is between $3,200 and $200,000 per employee! In other words, the quality of your company culture will directly impact your bottom line. To say it simply, companies with great culture get more done, make more money and have more fun. So, focusing on nurturing your company’s culture is worth the time, money and effort you as a leader put into it.
But where do you focus to build a positive culture and how do you create it?
Here at Business Builder Leadership Coaching, we utilize a proprietary assessment tool that allows companies to measure their organizational culture in nine specific areas. While the assessment tool is extremely useful, by simply knowing these nine areas, you as a business leader can foster powerful change in your company as you focus on each area and take positive steps to improve it.
What are these nine areas? Let me share them with you.
Nothing can drive your company culture down like having no systems, or systems that do not work. Dysfunctional systems will leave you with frustrated employees, angry customers, and sluggish forward momentum. By developing and utilizing strong functional systems throughout your company in your finance, marketing, team development, and operations, you will set your company up for greater success.
Key Questions: What are my systems? Are they clear to everyone? How functional are they? Where can I improve my systems?
Have you ever had a boss who did not train you, did not trust you to do your job, or who did not give you the tools you needed to succeed? Each one of these things are poison pills which kill organizational culture. They undermine morale by creating a team that simply has no way to win individually or collectively. Turning this around will require you to make sure employees are clear about their role, given proper training and support, and entrusted to do the job. Do this and you will find they will perform better, and your company will become a more enjoyable place to work.
Key Questions: Do I train my employees adequately? Do they understand their job and role in the company? Will I give them the trust and freedom to do their job without micromanaging or second-guessing?
Putting people in isolated environments and asking them to work with little social interaction means your team will not feel much like a team. Without collaboration your workforce will not develop ownership of your vision, will lose a sense of corporate identity, and will become demotivated very quickly. Change this by engaging them in dreaming, planning and then giving them work to do together toward the fulfillment of the dream. You will notice the change as they move from feeling like “I have to come to work,” to “I want to come to work!”
Key Questions: Have I created teams in my workplace? Are employees brought into the process of dreaming and strategizing related to our mission? What opportunities are there for collaboration in our work environment?
To often our company’s mission and values are words on a paper rather than the essential ethos of the organization. By spending time teaching on your mission and values within your company, as well as highlighting stories of how your mission and values are lived out, you will go a long way toward helping your company turn these words into reality.
Key Questions: Do my employees know our mission and values by heart? How are our mission and values highlighted in our stories of success? How are they reinforced by policies and procedures?
When communication stops, or gets siloed, there might be lots of activity in your business, but rest assured little of significance will be getting done and frustrations will be building. By internationalizing efforts to facilitate communication that involves all people impacted by what is being discussed, companies can put out fires before they start. This will also help employees avoid the frustrations that come from having to redo work that could have been done correctly the first time, if only someone had looped them in on the key communication they needed on the front end.
Key Questions: What is the communication strategy within our company? How can we make sure each person is included in conversations that impact them and their work? How can we systematize communication to make it more effective?
When innovation stops, stagnation will set in and discouragement will soon follow. Everyone wants to be a part of something significant and excellent. It fuels a sense of purpose and pride that we all need to feel fulfilled in life. So, make innovation a priority for your people. Do it for your company as well. It will keep your competitors from passing you on the road to success.
Key Questions: What strategies are we using to think outside our current box for customer-focused solutions? How might we motivate our employees to help us develop dynamic products and services to keep us on the cutting-edge?
Positive Work Environment
When everything is work, work, work, the work stops being enjoyable very quickly. Studies show it also hinders production. By injecting fun, celebrations, and healthy work-life balance into the work environment, you can cultivate a workplace atmosphere where everyone on the team feels valued while still being mission-focused. Good pay and other incentives which reward hard work go a long way here as well.
Key Questions: What am I doing to make sure that my employees’ hard work is recognized? How am I celebrating important life milestones in my employees’ lives? What am I doing to foster healthy work-life balance?
Have you ever been a part of a company where decisions were made based on family dynamics, emotional manipulation, or internal politics? It is not fun! Positive work cultures can only happen when we know what results we are looking for, we measure those results, and we make our decisions relative to them. When everyone on the team sees that results matter in terms of decisions, promotions, celebrations and yes, even consequences, they will get on board quickly. The company, and everyone in it, will be happier and healthier when backroom politics are not in play and there is a clear foundation for success.
Key Questions: Does everyone know what results matter to our company? Do we measure those results? Do we communicate about our results honestly? Are decisions, rewards, and promotions given relative to those results?
No company will exist for long without strong, dynamic, and healthy leadership. Effective leadership is the crucial element, setting the stage upon which an organization’s culture is built for better or worse. Having the right leader in place who will both model the desired culture, as well as put into place the crucial pieces of that culture, cannot be overstated.
Key Questions: How might I become a stronger, more visionary leader? Do I as a leader embody the character and ethical values I want to see in my company? What actions might I take to more effectively foster a positive company culture?
So, there they are. Nine key areas of an organization’s culture. By picking one or two that you want to work on, you can take those initial steps toward transforming the culture within your company.
Before you do, however, there is one more key thing you need to know. If you look at each of these nine areas, you will notice that what is important is not the last word, it is the adjective which modifies that word. In other words, in working on your company’s culture, what is primarily important is not if you have systems, but how functional your systems are. Likewise, it is not enough to have a workforce. To build a positive company culture, you must focus on having an empowered workforce. This is the key in each one of the nine areas which collectively comprise a company’s business culture.
So where is your company today? What might you do to take steps toward building that dynamic culture which will fuel your company’s success? Do not hesitate to take the steps you need to take to move forward. Your team is watching, waiting and hoping. Your company’s future can be brighter because of your actions. You can do it. Step into your moment and go for it!
Tim Snell is the founder and President of Business Builder Leadership Coaching based in Joplin Missouri. If you are interested in having an organizational 360 culture assessment done, or have other business coaching needs, you may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You will also find more information on his website at https://www.bbleadercoach.com.