The Secret Weapon of Businesses
Five Steps to Creating a Your Culture
Curious, I approached one of the employees and asked how she managed to stay calm during the Black Friday madness. Her response caught me off guard, "I really like working here." It was the last thing I anticipated. Yet, to my surprise, every team member in that store seemed to echo the sentiment, exuding a calm demeanor, unruffled by the surrounding mayhem.
Why did that store radiate a warm ambiance while others felt as inviting as a teenager denied wifi? More importantly, what can you learn from it to make your business thrive in 2024?
What You See is What You Get
Many mystify culture as an elusive, intangible force, a black box that "just happens." Let's dispel that myth: culture is not some undefinable voodoo; it's a tangible, influential force that shapes how employees think, feel, and act every day.
Every business possesses a distinct culture, whether by design or default. Some allow it to evolve organically, while others underestimate its significance. The most successful companies, however, proactively develop, clearly define, and manage their cultures. They leverage it to attract, train, and retain top-quality staff, creating a unifying force that extends to their internal teams and clients.
Can you guess which companies outshine others in success and profitability? Consider the store from my anecdote—hint: it had a robust culture.
Companies with strong cultures experience a staggering 4X increase in revenue growth. Those featured on Fortune's 100 Best Companies to Work For list consistently achieve higher average annual returns, reaching cumulative returns as remarkable as 495%.
Now, let's explore what you can do to cultivate a great culture within your business.
What You Can Do
Step 1: Examine Your Current Culture
Culture isn't words on a wall; it's about actions and behaviors. Take an unbiased look at your business. Identify existing behaviors—both spoken and unspoken—and consider the ones you want moving forward. What activities reinforce these desired behaviors, and which eliminate those you wish to eradicate? Uncover the origins of these behaviors.
Often, destructive behaviors originate at the top. Leadership makes choices and behaves in specific ways. Then, staff members believe they need to emulate similar behaviors to succeed. Voila - a culture is built and it blurs ethical lines. If management is doing it, it must be ok. (Do Lehman Brothers, Enron, Arthur Anderson, Uber, or Theranos ring a bell?) Never underestimate the power of culture.
Step 2: Define Your Desired Culture
Determine the culture you want to create. Choose a few core values (aim for three – no one can remember fourteen company values) and outline behaviors and activities that exemplify them. Document a comprehensive plan and share it.
Then, share it again. Share it again. And again. While this may feel like over-communication, adults must see, hear, or experience new information five to seven times to commit it to memory.
Step 3: Seek and Embrace Feedback
Ask and actively listen to feedback from all levels of your business. Some of the BEST suggestions I've had came from front-line staff. (Remember the TV show Undercover Boss?) What you learn might surprise you. Schedule conversations, be open to insights, and modify your plan accordingly.
Step 4: Execute Your Plan
Put your plan into action.
Step 5: Regular Monitoring and Adjustment
Conduct quarterly check-ins with staff to assess the effectiveness of the plan. Are you seeing the elements of the culture you wanted to create? What could you be doing differently to enhance the impact?
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 reciprocate with high performance and loyalty, and your shareholders will be delighted with higher profits.
Do you ever wonder how some businesses are amazing places to work with booming profits and incredible people while other companies' environments rival Dante's ninth circle of hell?
How does this happen? Is it happenstance or intentional?
Before I unravel the mystery, let me share a quick story. While most people were succumbing to their tryptophan-induced comas or dreaming of that perfect retort to Aunt Karen's snarky remarks during Thanksgiving dinner, my family kicked off our holiday season with some good old-fashioned Black Friday shopping.
A distinctive feel enveloped us the moment we crossed the threshold of each store. As a self-proclaimed nerd, I reveled in observing the diverse environments and staff interactions. What struck me was that the warmest environment and most responsive staff members were in the busiest store.