To achieve your vision for your business, you need to a great team of people and you need to build a healthy culture in which they can thrive. This can be the difference between success or failure, stagnation or growth.
There are several things that will help you build a healthy culture in your business. You need your team to embody your values and share your vision, so the first step is to hire, fire, review and reward around your core values: attract the people who have the same values as you and repel those who do not.
Next you need to make sure all your staff fit in, feel involved and valued and share the company vision.
When I founded my first business, Retail Profile Europe (now Pop Retail), we started small. Despite this, we consistently doubled the size of our business without growing the size of our team.
Every quarter, we took the entire team, from the maintenance guys up to the MD, out of the business for a one-day quarterly meeting. Some companies call this a state of the company meeting, or town hall meeting.
During the meeting, we would examine our numbers, review our budget vs actual numbers and discuss any variances that were off. This gave us a clear picture of where we were so we could plan for the next 90 days and the growth of the business. Everyone understood the company’s financial position, knew where we were headed and how we were going to get there.
Without realizing it, I was practising one of the key tools of the Entrepreneurial Operating System, a framework for managing your business, which I now help my clients implement.
That tool is to set up a “meeting pulse” – regular, structured team meetings, weekly and quarterly.
During our weekly meetings, we make sure all our numbers are on track, everybody is on the same page and to prioritise the most important issues to discuss and solve.
At the quarterly meetings, you bring all your people together and show them where you’ve been, where you are today and where you’re going in the next 90 days.
Now I run my current business Bold Clarity on EOS, and make sure that the vision and values of the business are understood and shared by the entire team.
The next step to creating a healthy culture is to build trust and strong bonds between team members, so they work well together and to show your employees that you care about them, and are invested in their future.
One way to do this is through team building exercises. An essential part of our quarterly meetings at Retail Profile Europe was to eat together and share activities. We did everything from rounders to boating on the Serpentine to barbequing to profiling each person in the company – and once we even went camping.
Sharing these activities meant we bonded, knew and understood each other, and were able to work together better as a team.
Encourage your staff to set up groups such as choirs or book clubs or to organise charity fundraising events, and to continue their education.
Some ideas include having Ted Talk Tuesdays, using online learning and educational apps such as Coursera or Blinklist, and sending staff on workshops, seminars and conferences.
Giving employee feedback
One of our most important jobs as leaders and managers is to keep our employees motivated and on track.
Often the number one complaint from employees is that they have been left to get on with their job and don’t know how well they are performing. They want to know the standard they’re expected to meet, to do a good job and be recognised and rewarded when they do.
Giving feedback both good and bad, helps to create a culture in which everyone knows their role, knows what is expected of them, is supported and supportive.
The most effective way to give employee feedback is to praise in public and criticise in private. Praising in public shows your employees that you care and support the work they’re doing.
If your employees are doing a great job, let them know – both one-to-one and in front of their peers. This creates a standard for the department, as everyone knows what a good job looks like.
When giving employee feedback, be as specific as possible. Don’t just say John is doing a great job today, describe what he’s done in detail, the outcome and the positive impact on the business.
On the other hand, if you need to criticise your employee’s performance, do this in private, so you don’t embarrass them in front of their colleagues, and can take a more personal and constructive approach.
The important thing is to make sure your employees understand where they went wrong, where they’re not reaching the required level, and learn how to improve.
The best approach is to make it about the task, not the person. Tell them your expectation, explain where the performance didn’t meet the standard, and give three specific, detailed examples. Stay calm and controlled, with a good tone of voice, give guidance on what is expected and a timetable for improvement.
Promoting an open and honest culture
Most successful businesses have an open and honest culture, which includes “healthy conflict”. where the team trusts each other and feels comfortable telling their leaders and colleagues the truth, with no negative consequences for sharing an alternative opinion or a view.
A lack of openness and honesty gets to the heart of disfunction in companies – and one of the root causes is avoidance of conflict.
I have seen and experienced diversity of culture while implementing EOS in over 50 businesses. I have seen some companies where a culture has developed – and even flourished – of personality clashes or toxic politics. That is not the ‘healthy conflict’.
Other companies have a “terrorist” or ‘’maverick’’ character in their midst, who performs well but doesn’t match the company values, damaging the morale and the culture of the company. While we sometimes we try to justify that their performance makes up for the cultural impact, ultimately it does more damage than good.
What businesses need is the ability to identify, discuss and resolve issues in an open and honest environment, where teams are able to have healthy discussions, in which they challenge assumptions, have productive debates, are free to share what they think and say what needs to be said when it needs to be said.
Teams which do this are far more likely to come up with the best solution to the issues which are preventing progress and move forward aligned and unified.
Businesses which foster an open and honest culture, where the team really listen to each other and understand each other’s perspectives, are incredibly powerful.
In America there is a saying that “a fish stinks from the head down” – the culture of a business is ultimately the leaders’ responsibility – you set the tone.
Each company has a different personality according to the founders, the structure and the core values. What is important is for leaders to foster a healthy culture where your team share your values and your vision, where they trust each other, perform to the best of their ability and to execute your vision.
Julia Langkraehr is the founder of Bold Clarity and is a Certified Implementer of the Entrepreneurial Operating System