Company culture exists whether you acknowledge it or not. Fostering a focused culture in your small business will set it apart from the rest. Use this process to start identifying the culture you want—after all, you must know what you want before you can get it!
“I’m not sure what happens—I tell my employees what I want, but they just do their own thing.” I can’t begin to tell you how often I hear this statement. Your company culture is a crucial part of what makes your small business what it is. Simply put, it can make or break you.
Have you ever informed your team that you are changing to a new procedure or embarking on a new strategy, and yet ultimately nothing changed in your company? That is your culture at work. If a strategy is not aligned with a company’s culture, 9 times out of 10 times, the culture will trump the strategy. In other words, your employees or managers may nod their head in agreement, and then they will just do their own thing. As a business owner, you don’t have the luxury of ignoring your culture and “hoping” it will change.
To an outsider, it may seem that company culture just “happens.” In some ways that’s true. It’s the product of the owner, the employees, and the industry; however you have the ability to create and foster the culture you envision. Culture consists of the undercurrents of your organization: it is subtle, powerful, and even dangerous. A healthy culture drives growth; a dismal culture begins a company’s decline.
Identifying the culture you want is the first step. An easy way to start the ideas flowing is to introduce this process with your managers:
- On a big white board or large pieces of paper, draw three circles and label each circle (see diagram below). Labels: Performance, Relationships, and Customer/Clients
- Give every person a pad of 3×3 post it notes.
- Take one circle at a time, and have everyone write down values they believe are important in a culture to produce optimum results in this area (write one value or phrase per sticky). Hint: Forget about what people currently do, and focus on the ideal. You must know what you want before you can get it!
- After everyone has written on several sticky notes, post them in the circle. Discard any repeats.
- Continue through the same process for the next two areas.
Here is a brief description of each area:
Work Performance: These are the values that make for a strong work performance. Examples may include: innovation, hard-work, dedication, life-balance, discipline, fun, ingenuity, creativity, discipline, punctual, focused, driven, conscientious, transparent, etc.
Relationships: These are the values that make for strong relationships. Examples may include sincerity, honesty, integrity, open, respect, enthusiasm, warmth, transparent, etc.
Customer/ Client: These are the values or factors that will foster strong working relationships with your clients or customers. Examples may include: on-time delivery, eco-friendly materials, transparency, competitive pricing, friendly service, integrity, innovative, etc.
Chances are you will have repeats in all three areas: this is a strong indicator that this may be one of your values. Culture takes time to identify and it is important to include all levels of your organization at different stages. After you have finished this process, have all of your managers repeat the same process with their team. This process will start to get everyone thinking about the type of culture you want to develop. In the next blog, Connect your Company Culture with Your Vision, you’ll learn how to align your company’s values with your vision