How often does one hear a president of a company open an event for his leadership team with the words: “Mom and Dad, I want to thank you for all you do”. Not only were his Mom and Dad in the audience, they were interacting with everyone throughout the entire meeting, from start to finish. The Founder (aka “Dad”) joined both his sons on stage to answer questions from attendees, holding nothing back. More than 300 people hung on his every word; laughing and at times moved to tears, as Dad told stories about the early days, his reasons for starting the company, as well has his vision for future success. As I witnessed the smiles and animated conversations that ensued during coffee breaks, lunch and the reception afterwards, it was clear that this was no ordinary company. What made it so special? In a word: Culture.
The ability to sustain an extraordinary workplace culture while growing at an unprecedented rate is a scenario that many organizations would like to have. At the same time, preserving the unique attributes that make an enterprise successful can present its own set of challenges. The solution to maintaining an outstanding culture lies in consistently applying the following principles:
1. Hands-On Leadership
Without question, employees at all levels respond more positively to leaders who demonstrate that they truly care about their work, families, personal and financial well-being. During the aforementioned meeting, it was clear that the executive leadership group were fully committed and available to their team. They personalized every communication by showing a genuine interest in each employee. In short, the owners do not operate from an “ivory tower”. They remain engaged and immersed in the day-to-day operations of the business. “Hands-On” is not to be confused with interfering or micromanaging. Rather, it is about remaining accessible while demonstrating complete trust in your workforce to perform at their best and deliver outstanding results for your clients.
2. Meaningfully articulated values
Developing a successful organizational culture necessitates defining core values. Indeed, everything revolves around them. Furthermore, such values are a demonstration of a company’s beliefs and guiding principles. In the absence of a clearly defined philosophy, your business is akin to a rudderless ship, unable to navigate through calm or choppy seas. Core values provide the “anchor” and reflect the character of your organization. By articulating these principles and ensuring that your leaders “walk the talk”, employees and customers alike can be more confident in their dealings with your brand. Ultimately, what your business believes in creates your reputation in the marketplace. When values are exhibited and upheld both internally and externally, your workforce and clients know exactly what you stand for.
3. Total Transparency
Nothing is more attractive than leaders who demonstrate authenticity and transparency regarding their business activities. Providing all employees with a clear picture of your operations, projects, financial health, future goals etc. is an all-inclusive approach; forming an integral part of a culture that openly celebrates successes and is unafraid of communicating failures. Conversely, working in an atmosphere where the realities of overall business performance are hidden, or worse, presented falsely, will invariably lead to higher levels of disengagement and distrust, eroding your workplace culture and status with your clientele.
Being part of an extraordinary workplace culture creates an exhilarating experience for teams of all descriptions. The highest priorities for any enterprise ought to be building an atmosphere of trust, open communication and vibrant relationships. When leaders fully engage in the process of consciously connecting with their workforce, live their values and disclose the “big picture”, achieving a sought-after culture and rewarding workplace experience can indeed be realized.