How to Build a Culture That Wins!

What makes a company special? What sets company’s apart? Tech wars, Car Wars, Bank Wars, Phone Company Wars?

What makes one company successful over another?

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Technology isn’t enough. Good marketing only gets you so far. Nokia made a great reliable product that was indestructible, but disappeared. Motorola nor Blackberry won the phone wars, even though they had great products with a large customer base.

Ultimately, it comes down to culture. A company’s culture is the only unique identifier. Your products, strategy and pricing can always be duplicated. The only truly unique identifiers are the values, attitudes and daily focus of your team that makes your business different from your competition. It’s the personality of your business that sets it apart.

In practicality, culture can mean many things depending on who you talk to; it can be a “brand,” motto, values, uniforms or behaviors. It comes down to a set of attitudes, beliefs, behaviors and customs. It is much more than just what you say; it is about what you do and the atmosphere that surrounds you.

Every organization, from small businesses to large corporations, has a culture. In a business with an unhealthy culture, employees act as individuals, performing their duties to meet their own needs, or doing what it takes to make it through the day. This type of organization is usually reactive and the culture was created through accident and not planned. Like other areas of the business, the companies culture isn’t managed.

A healthy corporate culture values each employee in the organization regardless of his job duties, which results in employees working as a team to successfully accomplish the day. A healthy company culture brings everyone together in a work environment that helps both the business and the team members accomplish both their goals. A strong company culture leads to organizational values that improve performance by motivating employees and coordinating activities toward a central vision.

Culture Begins with You

The Culture of your business begins with you, and continues based on the contributions of your staff. Your culture is an extension of you. How you treat your employees is how they will treat each other and your customers. This starts from the first day that they enter your business and grows and develops over time. What do you do to teach someone what you are about and what you wish to convey to the customer? What methods do you use to train an employee on expectations and how do you reinforce or correct errors or omissions in performance? This is all part of your culture.

Here are four quick tips to get you started.

  1. Hire people who fit the culture you want to have and develop a process to introduce them to your culture and how you envision your business operating. What is your ideal work environment? Find people who fit your culture and who will thrive in it.
  2. Your culture and your mission should work together. If people are passionate about what you stand for and what you want to accomplish, they will be dedicated to accomplishing the goals that will accomplish your mission. If your team only works for a paycheck or to get something done so they can go home, then you will never activate the passion in your team that your business needs to reach its full potential.
  3. Let everyone contribute to your mission. While you the “owner”  are responsible for your business, you also have to allow others to contribute with ideas, decisions, and direction. Encourage regular feedback about what they like best about the culture, what they dislike, and what new ideas or changes they have for improvement. Hopefully you hired them for their skills and capabilities. Take advantage of everything they have to offer.
  4. Reinforce your culture on a regular basis. Posters, company get-togethers, pizza on Friday for lunch. I’ve seen company cheers and group exercises or games that starts off every morning. Is it high fives, or a “Go Team?” Is it a pizza party for reaching a sales goal, or does everyone get a “100 Grand” Candy Bar for a job well done?

Culture is Built Intentionally

As the business owners, you must be intentional in your actions, especially in regards to interactions with employees. Your personality and attitudes will transfer to them. The written word is not your culture, your actions and your leadership is your culture. You may know exactly what you want to do and how you want to do it, but you have to be intentional about communicating your message and not let frustration or weariness dictate your actions. Be the managers and leaders you were innately born to be. In doing this you can maintain the atmosphere that you desire.

As your business grows, you will need to add effective managers to your team. You may already have several levels of management in your organization. They are an integral part of instituting and protecting your company culture.

Develop Leaders to Build Company Culture

There is a book I would recommend you read, Developing the Leaders Around You by John Maxwell. In my opinion, the best way to lead and influence is to focus on making others better, and in so doing, you better yourself. On page 99 in this book, the author begins to list the Five Step Process of Training People.

  1. I Model – I show them how I want it done
  2. I Mentor – I work with them to help them know how and why
  3. I Monitor – I help them do it on their own and get them to explain it to me
  4. I Motivate – I encourage and help them improve
  5. I Multiply – I get them to teach it to someone else

Only after this process does John Maxwell say to give them the “Big Three.”

  1. Responsibility
  2. Authority
  3. Accountability

I think it is easy for many of us to make people responsible and hold them accountable, but is much harder to take them through the five steps. If you can focus on the five steps and make sure that you have done the first five before transferring responsibility and accountability, you will see your management and leadership skills continue to grow, and the culture of your business change. It will take daily intentional action to accomplish this, but it will be worth it to both you and your business.

Managers Make Culture Work

As you grow, strong managers will be one of the most critical components of Employee Success — after all, employees leave managers, not companies. You are looking for a combination of characteristics in the manager you select: an experienced, mature person who is also very dynamic, forceful, and able to do the job for you. Set clear expectations and review consistently.

Every day, you should do something that reinforces the culture that you are trying to develop. At times, we are the biggest roadblock to the culture we want to create. If you hate going into the office, then stay home for a day and look in the mirror. Congratulations, you created the culture you hate going into every day. Change starts with you. Be intentional and create the place you want to own and that your ideal employees want to work in and make succeed.

Remember, culture can’t be copied. It can only be created.