Posted: April 23, 2019
Culture permeates every aspect of a company, from whom and how you hire, to how you structure work, to how decisions are made, wins are celebrated, setbacks overcome, and changes navigated. Because of this, culture is the first of our four cornerstones and is vital to a successful business.
“Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.” – Simon Sinek, Wait but Why.
VALUES FEED COMPANY CULTURE
If your culture is the heartbeat of your company, then your values and purpose are the arteries that deliver life-giving blood through the business.
We often ask a Senior Team, “What is your culture?” Every business has a culture, although they may or may not be able to articulate it. The important first step is to figure out the culture you have, and then use your values to align the company with the culture you want.
Ask yourself what needs to happen in order to create the positive company culture you want in the future? When it comes to aligning culture to your strategic plan, you need to be asking the tough questions, challenging the current culture without offending others, and parking your ego.
POSITIVE COMPANY CULTURE INCORPORATES EXTREME CUSTOMER FOCUS
In our framework, positive company culture also encompasses the way your company engages with and celebrates customers. Your company probably has a mission statement and a set of core values to back that statement up. But few companies base those core values on customer feedback and engagement. The best businesses seek to own the voice of the customer because as strategist and bestselling author John Spence states, “Whoever owns the voice of the customer, owns the market place”. When working on changing company culture to align with strategy and values, we prioritize customer feedback and research and build engagement and value from there.
By encouraging employees to align their behaviour and decisions to those customer-focused values, and rewarding those who “live the brand”, you create a culture focused on attracting and retaining customers.
THE NEW GENERATION OF LEADERS
People create and sustain your culture. Therefore, your culture is an alignment of your hopes, values, and dreams with theirs. The new generation of leaders understand the power of people. To them, leadership is about bringing together talented people to collaborate and innovate. “Command and control” leadership doesn’t work in this environment – it can feel oppressive.
However, a collaborative culture can be pushed too far. If things become too free-form and every decision needs to be made by committee, then progress grinds to a halt.
As a leader, you need to strike a balance between making good, clear decisions, and involving everybody to create that collaborative culture.
ENGAGE TALENTED PEOPLE
An excellent article about culture on Kissmetrics talks about the limits of employee freedom. What some people want is to just go to work, take orders, do the job, and wait for the clock to hit 5PM.
But this is not what the best employees want. “They want to have a voice and a meaningful impact on the company and its direction. They know that anyone can win a debate with the most senior person at a company. They also know they can create tools for the company without the need for management approval.”
Part of the puzzle is hiring to fit your culture – ensuring you seek out talented people who share the company values and customer focus. It’s also about ensuring those employees have opportunity to take ownership, to innovate, to question, and to chase an idea. When employees feel safe and free in their work environment, they achieve the greatest results. When you engage your people they display greater commitment, involvement, and enthusiasm. When your people are highly engaged, they give you their discretionary effort – they go the extra mile for the business. Higher engagement means you get greater productivity, improved customer satisfaction and increased profitability.
CULTURE SETS YOU APART
We often say to clients, “People can steal your products and services, but the WAY you deliver those products and services – no one can take that.”
That’s your culture. When talented people come together in an environment where they feel supported, they can achieve remarkable things. By keeping culture firmly at the heart of strategic execution, we believe that your company will achieve more than you ever imagined.
Additionally, ‘A players’ (those that live a business’s core values and go the extra mile to get results) could get a job anywhere. These type of people choose where they want to work and the decision they make is significantly based on your culture. They are attracted to great workplaces. Basically they want their job to have meaning, the ability to achieve mastery, to be respected for their skills. They want to be empowered and have a level of autonomy, get feedback, and enjoy the people they work with.
The competition want to hire A Players too – how can you create winning culture that sets you apart and attracts A Players? If you want to learn more about how to improve culture at your company, download our free guide to the Four Cornerstones of Strategic Execution.