She only has a small team. It’s all about quality, not quantity.
And it wasn’t until someone new recently joined the team, someone with a very different attitude to everyone else, that she realised with surprise, quite how important company culture is.
“Is it too late?” She wondered.
“Had she hired the wrong person?” She asked.
How could she exit them without losing face, time, resources or even customers? Did she want to minimise the impact on the business? This new person was really affecting the team and it was rippling out to clients.
So many questions. But there was no more prolonging the pain. A decision needed to be made. An action was required.
Often we take company culture for granted. It’s one of those fluffy words that sound nice to talk about, tick a few boxes on here randomly through the year, perhaps actually not even bother worrying or thinking about. It takes care of itself.
Until it doesn’t anymore.
Suddenly then Culture really matters.
It absolutely does and here’s why.
Culture sets the tone for the day to day. It is how problems are solved. How pressure is handled.
It’s how new clients are on-boarded, served and treated, not just for a one-off purchase or experience, but for the length of their interaction with a business.
And in most cases – the longer the better.
Culture is what happens when the going gets tough.
When it’s all hands on deck and everyone needs to pitch in.
It’s what helps everyone know and feel they’re in the right place at the right time.
What culture isn’t, is a few words painted on a wall, that are the complete opposite of what’s actually lived and breathed each day.
Those water cooler or closed door conversations that are a complete mismatch to what gets said broadly.
It’s not an occasional focus or a quarterly agenda item at a team building meeting.
The behaviours and actions of individuals daily, add up to create the team culture, which in turn creates the business culture.
Here are the 5 common mistakes often made in companies that kill culture:
1) Not talking about what’s working and what’s not
It’s said feedback is the breakfast of champions. However, often business leaders won’t ask for feedback because they’re afraid of hearing the responses. Or they hear it, yet make up every excuse to justify why it is so. Rather than learning, growing and improving from it. It’s really important to have an open conversation and discuss what’s working really well and what’s not. Then work on repairing, fixing and improving those issues. More often than not fixes are easier than we think. And money whilst sometimes the solution to the problem. Rarely, is. There are always other simple solutions. Often the basics are overlooked.
2) Not setting clear standards and expectations upfront
Frequently during the hiring process, clear standards and expectations are miscommunicated to potential employees. Often, because it’s clearly said, what’s wanted, but rarely said what we don’t want. Call them the Non-Negotiables. What must be brought to work every day. These aren’t a lunch bag or a smile. These can be everything from a can-do attitude to respect for the team and so much more. Sometimes you need to cover off both what’s wanted and not wanted to ensure, it’s REALLY really clear to a new team member. They hear things with their own perspective. So give them the best possible change to understand, early on, no surprises. Making sure you deliver these standards and expectations from a top-down approach is really useful too, not only what the expectation or standard to be upheld is, give the reason why it is imperative and such a priority for the business, as well as the examples of how they are met or achieved on a day to day basis.
3) Not creating an environment for honest open communication
This is a biggie when it’s stated oh yes “we have an open door policy”, yet in actual fact, the boss is so busy, it’s impossible to make a meeting or worse still the meetings get made, but you have to keep cancelling or postponing those meetings. Make time to use a variety of platforms that make the best use of time and technology for helping you and the team talk effectively and efficiently. Hours and hours of a meeting is a culture killer too when week after week people spend hours listening to each other go round in circles, without decisions being made or outcomes reached.
4) Lowering the goal posts to meet targets
You’d probably be surprised to hear how this is done to save face and make individuals or departments look better rather than pushing, striving or taking bigger risks. It becomes about the needs of individuals instead of the business or ultimately the customer. Eg. when working with a client once and during the team workshop, I asked about a particular goal set, it seems very conservative. Several team members said, “Oh no, we keep that pretty low that way we look better when we achieve it”.
Don’t you think that’s setting the bar at ordinary, rather than striving for extraordinary? The culture will reflect that mindset into all areas of the business.
5) Creating brick walls that can’t be broken down
Brick walls are often put in place when there is a middle layer of management in place. When either new leaders come in, or new team members and they ask why something is like it is”. Because it always has been. Is commonly the answer. Or the answer maybe blaming someone or something else, a justification or defensive response rather than acceptance of responsibility and an openness for feedback at the very least and possible improvement or change the best case scenario.
So how do your business and team do with culture?
What improvements do you know could be made?
Reach out and share, some of the subtle and/or not so subtle tweaks you make to culture crucial in the business.
Genevieve “Culture is Crucial” Matthews
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