This time of year, as we give to others and are especially thankful for the important things in our personal lives is an excellent time to remind ourselves what is most important in our other life: The culture where we work. Culture isn’t life or death for a business, it’s more important! Any leadership team that doesn’t understand this fundamental principle is just plain stupid!
There are many ways to build an effective culture but it takes incredible commitment, perseverance and time. There’s nothing more pathetic than seeing companies espouse their ‘wonderful’ cultures yet when you talk to the people working there, they certainly don’t feel the same way. Inspirational cultures cannot be mandated; they are earned through sustainable leadership behaviors.
Here are four pillars for building a strong culture:
There is no culture without trust and it starts with the leadership’s genuine trust in their people. Once people feel that confidence and trust, the stage is set for them, in turn, to trust and believe in the leadership of the company.
People will only respect you as much as you respect them. That doesn’t necessarily mean there can’t be strong disagreements; in these situations, both sides must be heard with their point of view given honest consideration. The greatest opportunity for demonstrating respect is when leaders allow members of the team to pursue ideas they may not agree with, and then support the efforts to make it work! It’s deplorable when so called managers don’t give people the freedom to make their own decisions.
Any company that feels the people are there only for the sake of business is guaranteed to fail. People are the most valuable investment for any venture where retaining their long-term loyalty only happens if the company demonstrates a genuine commitment to the well-being of the people and their families.
Nothing in business should ever take precedence over human decency and responding to people’s needs. That doesn’t mean favoritism; rather helping and supporting individual team members through any unexpected personal challenges. The hallmark of any great company is when the entire team knows they have open communication and direct access to leadership and in turn leadership has full visibility to the needs of the people!
Cultures are earned—not bequeathed—they must be based on these fundamental principles. There is no such thing as culture in a business that uses fear, intimidation and mean-spirited tactics. In these situations, the leadership is neither respected nor trusted; unless there is genuine commitment to making drastic changes, the business is guaranteed to fail sooner or later. The choice is completely within the control of every business leader.