The following is a contributed article written by Sharon Williams for Dynamic Business
A managing director arrives at her desk to a bottle of wine and a ‘thank you’ note from her team. They’re expressing gratitude for a fun afternoon away from the office celebrating the Melbourne Cup as a team. No leave time was recorded – the out-of-office activity was a gesture of goodwill. The managing director understands the importance of developing a culture of team-ship in the office with down time for her team. Critically, the morning after the festivities, the team are in, on time, at their desks raring to go.
It’s a rare scenario in many companies and an ideal one. It is not usual to be offered ‘’time out’’ just to have fun, it is rare for the boss to be “thanked” and it is pretty special when people don’t take advantage.
While not condoning entire workforces clearing out of the office for Melbourne Cup, the story above conveys an important lesson; namely, acknowledgement, trust and reward lead to commitment, respect, and a workplace culture that is likely to maintain productivity and a contented staff.
It doesn’t always work of course and I long gave away the job of ‘’Chief Happiness Officer’’ at my own company. It is simply impossible to keep everyone happy all the time. Business owners are not in business to make people happy.
But we are in business to keep people employed, paid appropriately, acknowledged, content and successful.
When creating a team culture, it is important to explain that business is about being profitable, and if a business isn’t profitable it will die. For the business to work, those in it have to be united to that end, so the priority is that teams need to work for the health of each other AND the business. Creating a great culture is a contributing factor to success.
One of the most important things to find out is what success means to each individual so you can do your best to match individuals to the right program and encouragement. This takes time and requires honesty from both parties. You cannot mentor someone who is not straight with you.
On the whole, experience shows that if you work with people you like, with shared values, for a company or product you believe in, it is very likely you won’t want to let each other down. You will help to make the business, department, and team morale all it can be. You will also be all the more forgiving when each other gets it wrong, needs help or falls sick.
The golden rule is to hire on core values and teach skills. If you do the reverse, you could hire great skills in someone who is toxic or not a good culture fit and watch while the business and those associated with it, suffer. A ‘’bad’’ hire has long lasting consequences and can spread multiple ripples with long lasting consequences. For example, do your team talk about the nice people who left your business or the ‘’problem people’’ they worked with. I rest my case. Bad hires create bad vibes, bad conversations and bad outcomes. Remove them quickly!
Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh says, “Your culture is your brand’’ and he has designed an on-boarding regime which identifies if potential hires match of core values to culture fit over and above technical skills. His book is worth a read.
In my experience, the following mechanisms help build a solid culture with both employees and clients – it is the absolute measure of a company when past staff AND clients return. Here are my ten tips for ensuring a great work culture in your business:
- Create a culture of constructive and regular feedback and hold reviews over and above a yearly appraisal
- Don’t be afraid to let people know when behaviour is unacceptable
- Give clear instructions and delegate carefully to eliminate misunderstandings
- Provide coaching and/or mentoring, even by your own in-house staff
- Create an environment of honesty and integrity
- Understand each other’s motivators – including the boss
- Ensure standards of delivery or service are equitable from each team member and no-one is ‘carried more than necessary’
- Take time to phrase emails so they are not misunderstood or worse, cause offence
- Create clear job descriptions with clear KPI’s to always refer to and watch for fatigue and stress
- Move people out of the business promptly and gracefully when they are not a good fit