In a previous post, I’ve outlined Why Culture is Important. Now, let’s talk about how to create one.
First, please understand that I’m only concerned with company’s that take the long view. If you’re building or buying a company to “flip it” this series of articles is not for you. If, on the other hand, you are interested and dedicated to build something of value that you can be proud of while profiting from, keep reading.
Build Your Culture Around Your Employees
Only Hire People Who Fit Your Culture and Strengthen Your Team
Culture is extremely important but so is team building. While every team wants an outstanding player, not every outstanding player wants to be a team player. These people won’t fit into your culture and often become toxic and distracting. Management should then make the decision to fire that person and openly acknowledge its support for the team.
This will demonstrate to your other employees that you appreciate them and are serious about your company’s culture and values.
Whereas the Process of Building and Maintaining a Culture Will Vary for Each Company, There Are Some Basic Principles That Can Be Used to Guide Most Entrepreneurs
If you adhere to the following principles successfully, you just may create a lasting culture that can live and even thrive long after you cease to be the company’s leader. When that happens, you can take pride knowing you created a great and lasting company culture:
Begin by asking yourself, Why does your company exist? What is its mission? To make sure your response resonates with your audience, you must be authentic. As a bonus, it should also be inspirational. A company with a strong purpose will be admired and respected and one that people will feel naturally attracted to, whether they be employees, affiliates, suppliers or customers. Why? Because it appeals to their better nature.
A Company’s Culture In Many Ways Is Similar to a Country’s Culture
To be efficient, a country should have a common language, similar values, support for its administrative system and a belief in the principles upon which it was founded. Of course, no business or country will be totally harmonious but the more there is deviation from its core, the more inefficient and less productive it becomes.
When people don’t understand each other, respect each other and willfully want to help and cooperate with each other, resources get squandered, political controls replace practical decisions, waste dominates abundance and the bonds that would normally hold the entity together become frayed until chaos becomes predominant and fighting (or bankruptcy) emerge as the inevitable result.
Companies must be able to clearly define their principles and core values and they must also be able to measure changes in adherence to those principles and core values. If employees do not know what is expected of them or have doubts that management knows they are meeting or exceeding those expectations, morale will suffer, turnover will increase, productivity will suffer and costs will rise and profits will fall. If action is not taken to remedy the situation, the enterprise is doomed to mediocrity and eventually failure
Respect Must Be Earned to be Effective
There are two types of leaders. The first type earns the respect of his subordinates regardless of his position in the hierarchy and the other demands respect because of his title.
True leaders will be the embodiment of the company’s culture. They will eat, sleep and breathe it, they will help instill it in others. They will be the company’s personification of its values and by being genuine, they will instinctively have the passion to inspire others to adopt the company’s culture and also be ambassadors to promote it to others.
Identify, cultivate and reward those employees who willingly and happily become your cultural ambassadors.
These people are your company’s biggest promoters and possibly its greatest force to attract the best new hires. They can be found throughout every department in the company. They’re easy to identify because they have the best attitudes. They are proud to be part of your team and they are anxious to spread the word to others… and they do so naturally, authentically and believably.
However, as your company grows, their voice may get diminished. Don’t let this happen. A little attention, some recognition and a modest reward will save you magnitudes of time, money and effort in showing the outside world what a great company you have to work for and internally, their cheerful and helpful presence will help diffuse minor frictions between other employees further improving the work environment and therefore leading to even greater productivity.
Always Be Honest and When Possible, Transparent
All employees want to be part of the inner circle. In most cases, that’s not possible or even desirable, especially when it comes to personal information such as salaries or performance reviews of other employees. However, it is almost never acceptable to deliberately lie, mislead or withhold information from your employees.
If you are guilty of deceit, you will lose trust, your culture will be destroyed and the process of rebuilding will take longer and be much more expensive.
Bad news doesn’t just travel fast, it has magical slippery powers that make it impossible to contain. Therefore, if your company is suffering a setback of any sort, it’s always better for your employees to get accurate, if not favorable, news from you than if they receive it through the rumor mill where it is most certainly likely to get distorted and magnified. Employees, even in a bad situation, will tend to support a leader they can trust but they will lose all affinity for the organization once they feel abused by management and since managers are legally not permitted to beat their employees there is no greater form of abuse than lying to them.
When Companies and Their Leaders Lose Their Integrity They Usually Have a Hard Time Regaining Their Employees’ Trust
During trying times, people may seek quick fixes but unfortunately, designing, building, evolving and, when necessary, transforming a company’s culture takes time, commitment and focused effort.
It’s Not Uncommon for Entrepreneurs to Let Their Business Overshadow Their Employees
This is a huge mistake that many entrepreneurs make, especially those that have a unique or outstanding product or service.
Until the day comes when all businesses are run by robots, your employees’ competency, character and charisma will have a huge impact on your firm’s success… and of the three, character trumps the other two. Competency can be learned, charisma is a bonus but character is innate.
There’s another “C” you should be very cognizant of and that’s compromise. If you are willing to compromise and wind up selecting employees that are “acceptable” but not necessarily the best you can hire, that is a sure-fire way to sabotage your own culture and your company’s long-term potential.
Now let’s assume you’ve done your due diligence and hired the right people. The next step is to show you appreciate and respect them and then make sure you give them the proper tools and incentives to succeed.
Compensation and benefits are only a starting point but the most important thing you must do is to provide meaningful projects that challenge them to do their best and when they do, it should provide a clear path to greater opportunity, rewards and recognition.