The Secret Weapon of Business

Top SecretBuilding a Strong Culture.

Do you ever wonder how some businesses are amazing places to work with growing profits and incredible people while other business environments are rivaled by Dante’s ninth circle of hell?  How does this happen?  Is it happenstance or intentional?

Having worked with heaps of businesses in both camps, here are my recommendations for making your business thrive in 2013.

What You See is What You Get

Culture is often chalked up to some voodoo black box phenomena that just occurs in businesses.  It’s seen as unformulated, intangible and hard to define.  I am here to tell you – that’s a bunch of malarkey.

Every business has a definable culture and it influences the way employees think, feel and behave every single day.  Some businesses let their culture organically evolve.  Other companies pay little attention and have low regard for its importance.

Some companies proactively develop, clearly define and manage their cultures. They use it to hire, train and retain top quality staff. Their culture acts as a unifying force in those organizations and for their clients.

Can you guess which companies are more successful and profitable?

What You Can Do

Step 1:  The first step in building a great culture is to examine yours.  Take a hard, unbiased look at your business.  What behaviors do you want in your business?  What activities create and reinforce those wanted behaviors?  What behaviors do you need to kick to the curb?  Where do those behaviors originate?

Often times, bad behaviors originate at the top.  Staff members see people in positions of power make choices and behaving a certain way.  Then, staff members believe they need to emulate that behavior to succeed.  Voila – a culture is built.  This is one of the key factors that can blur the ethical line.  If management is doing it, it must be ok, right?!?  (Do the names – Lehman Brothers or Enron ring a bell?)

Step 2:  The next step is to determine the culture you want to create.  What values do you want?  (Aim for three – no one can remember 14 company values.)  What behaviors and activities would exemplify those values?

Then, document a plan.  Share it.  Share it again.  Share it again.  And again.  While this may feel like over communication, adults need to see, hear or experience new information five to seven times to commit it to memory.

Step 3:  Ask and really listen to feedback.  Some of the BEST suggestions I’ve seen have come from front line staff.  (Think Undercover Boss)  Schedule conversations with people from all levels of your business, be open and really listen.  What you learn might surprise you.  Modify your plan as needed.

Step 4:  Execute the plan.

Step 5:  Monitoring – do quarterly check ins with staff.  Is the plan working?  Are you seeing the elements of the culture you wanted to create?  What could you be doing differently?

Culture is one of the most powerful and underestimated aspects of business.  Invest the time, energy and patience to do it right.  Your employees will thank you with high performance and retention and your shareholders will be delighted with higher profits.

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What are elements of great business cultures?

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