Don’t settle for an average company culture

This is a topic I am incredibly passionate about, and you should be, too.

Everyone knows intuitively that if you have a great culture, great things happen. But most companies don’t have any culture, or at least it’s average. Or worse, it’s toxic. And it comes from the owners, managers, or average leaders who aren’t taking the time to focus on it.

What is company culture?

Company culture is the shared values, attitudes, behaviours, and standards that make up a work environment.

A great culture creates a vibe, energy, a sense of satisfaction, improved profit results, higher employee engagement, high-performing teams, and improved client experiences. These are the facts!

It is an invisible magic that gets everyone in the groove and all moving in the same direction, collaborating, celebrating as a team, or working together in the quest to be better constantly.

What it’s not is warm fluffy shit that doesn’t focus on results.

Every company’s culture is unique to them, and along with the company values, it defines how things are done.

Defining the desired culture for an organisation is the first step on the journey towards building a strong and inspiring legacy. While understanding the culture you want may seem easy, it is the “why” and “how” that truly matter and will guide the company and its people towards achieving their future goals.

Company culture is your brand image that the world sees. It’s the unique way the company lives out its purpose. It drives increased performance when employees and teams are aligned with the company culture and sense of purpose.

When employees are aligned and moving in the same direction toward the same goal, they grow momentum. It allows everyone to deliver customer experiences in their own way. Allowing employees to express themselves makes them feel good and increases their engagement with the organisation.

A strong culture gets everyone, from shareholders to board members, customers, employees, and all other stakeholders, talking the same way about the organisation. That’s the alignment thing again.

During tough times, or when difficult decisions need to be made, the company culture is the beacon everyone heads towards.

I often reference the importance of having people connected and feeling a sense of belonging to an organisation to improve performance. For those doubters, here is a statistical set of facts to support my stance.

Connection (description of connection)

I have noticed that many leaders believe their company’s culture is great simply because they have fun. However, a fun culture alone does not guarantee success. When things go wrong, the fun factor disappears.

To ensure success, a company’s culture should be performance-driven and measured using appropriate metrics. By monitoring the culture and important metrics, companies can understand how culture affects performance.

If a previously successful company experiences a drop in performance, it is crucial to examine the culture at that time. Has it changed in a way that negatively impacts performance? Fun is a by-product of success, and celebrating those successes is important. However, over time, the novelty of monthly social events can wear off.

Everything comes from the top down.

The truth is it can take years to create a great culture. You don’t just wiggle your nose, and presto – you have a great culture.

It must be designed, nurtured, and progressed by committed leaders. The great question is, do the leaders know how to improve company culture and consistently work to be better every quarter?

The answer is no. Most do not know what to do.

I recently had the pleasure of conducting a planning workshop with a company, and the shareholders/leaders said they had gone through this process before. The facilitator told them what to do, but they did not know how to do it. I can relate to that. When I was in the corporate world, we had a high-flying consulting company come in, and in essence, their report said we needed to do Total Quality Management (TQM). Everyone sat there and said to themselves. OK, how do we deliver TQM? End of the story and wasted money.

Great leaders are developed, and they learn the skills of how to drive workplace culture, inspire and motivate people, get everyone to focus on results, celebrate achievements and teach other leaders to do the same.

Remember the adage – “It takes years to build your brand but five minutes to destroy it.”

If you do not have outstanding leadership and a clear direction that drives culture, then you are likely not going to achieve what you want to achieve.

At its worst, a bad culture will see you lose customers because they don’t trust you, employees will walk away, and the only way you will attract top talent is through what you pay them.

What negatively impacts culture?

Confusion. A lack of clear direction sends conflicting messages to employees and customers. For example, if the marketing message does not match what and how the company delivers, or maybe you have a rogue manager who takes a siloed approach. Or the worst and most common, the leader’s behaviour does not match what is expected of the employee’s behaviour.

When misalignment occurs, trying to change the work culture is doomed. Any new initiative may change the culture a tiny bit, but a toxic culture will soon extinguish that.

Developing your culture

It starts with your company’s purpose. And that tells the world WHY the company exist. It’s the company’s true north where everyone takes direction from.

The purpose is usually made up of words that connect with people and spark an emotional commitment that excites and motivates.

A company’s culture, along with its values, goes beyond purpose and helps people find ways to “live it”. Culture sends the brand message to the world on how you want to be known.

But be warned, you best deliver if you send out compelling marketing material that presents this beautiful image. This is where a great culture can be a powerful tool to motivate employees and key stakeholders who are involved in the delivery of excellent customer experiences to move from ordinary to extraordinary.

The key drivers of a company’s culture.

Gallup cites 5 key drivers.

One: Leadership & Communication

Again, the way leaders define, display, and communicate the company’s purpose and those other vital influences will determine how employees will demonstrate those values, especially to customers.

The phrase “your actions speak so loudly I cannot hear what you say” is so accurate.

I have heard leaders tell employees to be innovative, creative, customer-centric, team players, and collaborative with other teams. The leaders spout out all this great stuff but do not create an environment where individuals can thrive and deliver. Often, it’s the opposite and the culture is siloed, or people just come in, do their job at a minimum (if you are lucky) and then bugger off home.

These leaders are not even that good. Companies need GREAT leaders, and great leaders are made through their own personal development. Read more about great leaders here.

Two: Values & Rituals

Here’s how to move the values from just being on the walls and demonstrated in the halls…
It’s important to publicly recognise those who embody a company’s values and link their behaviour to those values.

For example, here at Gilligan Sheppard, our purpose is Enriching Lives and one of the company values is the Determination to Excel Together.

An administration staff member greeted a visiting client with a warm and sincere welcome at the front desk, which made the client’s face light up. The client was offered a refreshment, and the partner promptly attended the meeting. When the client left, the admin person made a point to smile and say goodbye. It was clear that the admin person had made the client’s day.

Upon witnessing this, I decided to take action and express my appreciation to the admin person. I approached her and shared how I noticed and appreciated her actions towards the visiting client. I explained how her positive attitude and behaviour align with the company culture and help us excel. I thanked her for making my day as well. The smile on her face made me feel I may have made her day, too.

Leaders need to be on high alert for these events to recognise others in this way.
Making this a behaviour further embeds the values into people’s minds and into the culture itself.
These conversations can be made one-on-one or in a wider forum. It’s not cheesy but authentic.

Three: Human Capital

Companies must ensure that the talent they choose is the right fit. Often, they hire people because of the applicants’ technical skills but fail to recognise a culture saboteur. Toxic people can kill a culture if they don’t conform to the company’s ways of doing things.

It is a leader’s obligation to protect their team, and a toxic person must not exist within the team, or performance and even well-being will suffer.

“If you can’t change the person, change the person.”

On-track and off-track behaviours need to be clearly established and communicated. This is a great way to identify good behaviours and have tough conversations with those who display off-track behaviours. It’s easier to tell someone that their behaviour was off track with an example rather than just calling them a dickhead.

Constantly reinforcing positive behaviours and how they relate to a value or the company purpose will, over time, see it entrenched into the culture of your company.

Four: Work Teams & Structures

It’s important to have a structured approach when it comes to communication within a company. Instead of relying on past practices, design new processes and structures that align with the company’s purpose and culture. This approach equips leaders with the tools to inspire and motivate their employees – the company’s most valuable asset.

Developing high-performing teams is crucial, but many people don’t know what that entails. When teams work in sync, collaborate effectively with others, and constantly strive to improve, they become high-performing. These teams bring numerous benefits to the company, and it’s needless to mention them here.

Five: Performance

Recognition has a powerful influence on human behaviour. The dopamine hit is massive, and people want more of it. Setting, achieving, and recognising wins re-enforces the culture of performance.
We don’t want goals that are misaligned to the organisation’s purpose, values, and culture. Although that is obvious, many companies do just that. As I mentioned earlier, when this happens it causes confusion (negatively impacting company culture).

Next steps

I could go on and on about this topic, but the sun is setting. If you want to discuss my standard approach to culture transformation or how I may be of help, please get in touch, and we will catch up. But be warned, I am passionate about this, so get ready to be energised.

If you don’t know where to begin, want to talk through something, or have a specific question but are not sure who to address it to, fill in the form, and we’ll get back to you within two working days.

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