Culture Comes From Core Values and Great Leadership
In tough economic times it is tempting to write-off concepts such as ‘value’ and ‘culture’ as ‘added extras’. What you need to do doing is securing sales and guaranteeing profits, not wasting time on internal ‘feel good’ messages. Right?
Business research evidence irrefutably proves that a strong work culture leads to superior performance, higher employee retention and a cohesive organisation. So in fact, tough times are when it is most important to focus on the core values and culture at your work place.
I have coached many businesses over the years and owned many myself. I understand that every company on a growth curve, every company that’s gaining sales and market share in multiples takes the time to set this very important foundation for predictable and profitable long term success.
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A strong culture starts with leadership
A team is only as strong as its coach. A school culture depends on the integrity of its principal. Happy, secure children have parents who set strong boundaries and lead by example. And your business is the same.
You are the person that your staff members look to – consciously and unconsciously – for leadership. And not just in terms of their position descriptions and job tasks. But in terms of how to treat others, communicate internally and externally, and make decisions. It can be said that the sole purpose of leadership is to create culture.
Set the Rules of the Game (ROTG) – and stick to them
The one constant of life and business is change. Of course some aims and objectives will require tweaking over time. However, if you start from a place of clear and consistent rules, then your employees will have solid foundations from which to cope with change. Here are the 3 keys to good ROTG:
- Have a few clear rules (not too many)
- Repeat yourself a lot (so the rules are clear)
- Make sure you act in ways that are consistent with the rules
ROTG are especially important during tough economic times. The temptation for staff is to panic, change what they are doing and work in a reactive way. This will not help your business. The clearer your ROTG are, the more confident and secure your staff will feel. Which means they will stay calm, continue to be productive and even find areas of innovation to see your business through.
Rules also make leading a lot easier
Equally important, nurturing a strong culture driven a by a handful of core values will make leading people and teams much easier. It reduces the need for stacks of policies and procedures (and when they need to be prepared the groundwork has already been done). Core values give everyone a foundation from which to make tough decisions. This is particularly important in times of economic doubt or financial stress. These values also generally bring simplicity and clarity to many of the ‘people’ systems within organisations.
People perform better when they know what is expected of them
As you move forward discovering and bringing alive your core values, remember this is no different than teaching your three year old right from wrong. Young or old, people need to know what is expected of them and what the targets are that they’re supposed to be hitting.
Your employees need to understand how they can conduct themselves to please you and your customers. They appreciate a reminder when they have missed the mark and understand with clarity where they can improve. And they want to know the rules aren’t a moving target or prone to selective enforcement (be consistent!).
Your core values will do all of that for you, if you take the time to find out what they are and how you can make best use of them.
Once you’ve set the rules, give people the liberty to speak about them
The greatest core value in a business is ‘freedom of speech’. This is the opportunity to engage in open and honest communication without the fear of persecution. One way that I have coached many businesses in this area is to establish weekly ‘WIFLE’ (What I Feel Like Expressing) sessions in which team members have uninterrupted time to speak their thoughts without fear of recrimination. This is a very powerful safety release valve that works very well.
The right core values and culture will help you achieve extraordinary results. The people you work with can be more effective if you create an environment where each helps each other create synergy. Not only does this create a positive (and productive) working environment, it is essential for you as a leader. Without the people who can run your business you’ll trap yourself in the business forever.
Foster these attributes of a great work culture:
- High Performance Challenge -- When was the last time you put a challenge to the team?
- A Bias for Excellence -- Eliminate exceptions. People are habitual, so create a culture of excellence.
- A Bias for Solutions -- Become solution focused.
- A Bias for Urgency -- Don’t leave to tomorrow what you can do today.
- A Bias for ‘Self Monitor’ assessment -- People are self-correcting. If provided this landscape, attitude determines altitude.
- A Bias for Accountability -- A commitment we make to ourselves should be as sacred as the commitment we make to others.
- A Bias for Transparency -- What you see is what you get. Integrity, trust, honesty.
- Do the right thing -- If you need to question if something is right, then it’s not right.
Create the foundations of a great team
- People need to be appreciated.
- Staff members need to know that they’re making a difference and that their contribution is very noticeable and relevant. Try and catch them doing something great. The problem many businesses have is disinterested employees, as we don’t know how to encourage and grow them.
- Our people and the team is #1 and they will look after everything. Call it Tight ‘Rules of the Game’. Good is great and bad is fixable once.
- The foundation is made of people. It is embedded in the business culture, and it starts with the leader.
Implement strong core values, create a powerful culture and enjoy seeing both your people and your business rise up during challenging times.
Improve Your Business' Workplace Culture
These keys improving workplace culture take time. A dedicated small business coach and attending business coaching programs are some of the most practical and efficient ways to learn how to make a great business culture.
At Board of Directors 12 business coaching programs, we teach how every small business can achieve big business success!
Stefan Kazakis on 7 April 2018
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