Based on my 7 experiences as an employee for large and small companies, my many experiences as a leader, and my 1 experience as a boss, I have come to realize there are 3 factors that heavily contribute to company culture. I have read many articles and books on leadership and company culture and have learned many, many strategies, approaches, and dos and don’ts for leading people and creating a thriving culture. But it is these 3 that I find the easiest to understand and, more importantly, the 3 easiest to put into practice for both leaders and team members.
Perspective | Communication | Time
First, we must decide that we are going to see the job from other perspectives. We need to realize that each team member is different and that is the power of a company. We then need to recognize that because of those differences in strengths, backgrounds, education, beliefs, etc., that we will all have different PERSPECTIVES. Different perspectives on people, the company, task, project, mission, etc. When we recognize and listen to other perspectives, we are forced to think outside of ourselves. We become focused on the bigger picture, on the goal, and on the true purpose.
In order to understand and respect perspectives, we have to COMMUNICATE. We have to communicate in meetings, at lunch, via email, when it is convenient, and when it is stressful or awkward. We have to take time to ask questions and to LISTEN. We are often thinking of our rebuttal, excuse, or personal perspective – without listening to what is really being communicated.
Recognizing perspectives and communicating take TIME. When the workload is heavy and deadlines are tight, TIME is limited. But when time isn’t taken by the boss, leader, or manager to communicate, listen, and invest in the team … the team won’t invest time in listening, communicating, or recognizing perspectives. And thus, this environment becomes a horrible and unproductive place to work.
All this to say, we all play an influential part in company culture. And though we want leaders to model these behaviors, they won’t and can’t do it perfectly because they are human. So, it is each individual person’s responsibility to model these behaviors. Negative and unproductive company cultures arise when no one takes responsibility and uses the excuse that no one showed them or told them.
I want to remove that excuse by providing Team Members and Leaders with actionable items and encouragement. Let’s dive in…
INTENTIONAL ACTION FOR EMPLOYEES:
First, I want you to take responsibility for the role you play in your company culture. If you are unhappy in your job because of the people and the culture, I want you to think about your contribution to the mood, productivity, attitude, and communication of the culture. Do you feed into the negativity in your conversations with other coworkers? Do you feed the current culture with your apathy and lack of effort? Does your lack of communication and speaking up for yourself affect the way your boss and co-workers respect you and your time?
1. I want you to step back and perform an audit of yourself as a professional at your job. Even if you are about to leave, take time to realize your contribution (positively and negatively). Don’t take those negative items with you into the next job … or else you will just repeat the past.
2. I want you to ask for feedback on how to improve and grow in your next performance review / annual review. And if you don’t get one in your company, ask for one. Change the company culture and begin communicating.
3. Take the StrengthsFinder 2.0 from Gallup assessment to discover your CliftonStrengths. Buy the book from Amazon for $15. Use the code in the back of the book to take the online assessment. Once you get your results, read about your top 5 strengths in the book. It will help you pursue projects, roles, and jobs that utilize your strengths; it will shed light on areas that affect others; and it will help you write your skills on your resume and cover letter.
INTENTIONAL ACTION FOR LEADERS:
Leaders, it starts with us. We won’t get it perfect each time.
But we can show our team members what it looks like to be intentional and to own our weaknesses.
1. Invest Time into Your Employees:
Take the time to learn the strengths of your team members so you know when and where to engage them. Get each team member to take the StrengthsFinder 2.0 from Gallup Assessment to discover your CliftonStrengths. You can purchase the book on Amazon for each team member and then schedule time to meet individually or as a group.
Invest in your people, and they will invest in the company.
When my team discussed our StrengthsFinder results, we realized that Kate and I had one strength in common (Achiever), and that Katrina and I also had one strength in common (Developer). It is not surprising that Kate and Katrina do not have similar strengths as they were hired for different roles and contribute differently to the company and to our clients. I realized through this discussion that they both prefer more intimate interactions with others, while I like both intimate and large groups. Meaning, they would both prefer to meet or teach people in one-on-one or small group settings. Kate is great with meeting many new people and connecting them all together while Katrina is more focused on a couple new people but knowing them deeper. This is so appropriate as Kate is a PR and Social Media professional and Katrina is a photographer and designer. Both are great qualities and can impact our company, if recognized and utilized.
Kate: Achiever, Strategic, Woo, Significance, Discipline
While discussing Kate’s strengths and reading her results, it became clear that her strengths enable her to be forward thinking, keep projects on track, create structure during our creative process, and excel in networking situations.
1. As an Achiever, she is forward thinking and constantly pushing herself to the next level. She makes sure our meetings are productive and leading us somewhere. She and I share this strength and it has enabled us to accomplish a lot in 2 years!
2. As a Strategic professional, she is always thinking through my complex and creative ideas and creating order and structure. This is a talent and not a learned skill; that is very important in any creative business.
3. Because of Woo, Kate is excellent in customer facing situations. She is not overwhelmed by social interactions with clients and enjoys meeting new people. She can be a great connector of people, which is what our company does!
4. Because of Significance, she thrives on working independently but desires acknowledgement for the work she is completing on her own. This is perfect for our remote style working environment.
5. And because of Discipline, precision and structure are important to her. When I noticed this in her, I tasked her with proofing all websites and social media. Because I am a communicator, learner, and developer, I love to create new content fast. I need someone who will come behind me and ensure all is correct and to the standard we have established.
Katrina: Maximizer, Adaptability, Developer, Empathy, Individualization
Katrina was surprised by the combination of her results until we discussed them, and I helped her realize how this unique combination enables her to see client potential and elevate all of our design projects.
1. As a Maximizer, Katrina pursues excellence in all projects. She is focused on refining and making each item beautiful, well-designed, and appropriate for its purpose. Interestingly enough, problem solving can drain her creative energy, but we have Kate who is Strategic and a problem solver!
2. As an Adaptable professional, she is able to respond to the demands of any moment with ease. Because I constantly have new and changing priorities for clients, this strength is extremely appreciated!
3. Because she is a Developer, she sees potential in all things and finds fulfillment in elevating people, brands, and projects.
4. Because of Empathy, she is able to understand clients and their fears, desires, or needs. As a headshot photographer, she utilizes empathy to make the clients feel at ease.
5. And because of Individualization, Katrina has a talent for observing the unique traits of each person or thing. This is a critical talent as we design for brands and businesses of different sizes, styles, and personalities.
If you are a leader and see the importance of this exercise but want help navigating the results or facilitating the conversations, I am available as a career consultant to help you and your team members.
Email me at email@example.com.
2. Set the Tone Early for Potential Employees:
Have all potential employees complete the StrengthsFinder 2.0 from Gallup Assessment and then have them tell you their top strength and their potential weakness in the interview.
Give them this assignment before the interview so they can prepare and not feel pressured to come up with an answer on the spot. You will learn more about their passions, abilities, and maturity by the way they discuss their top strength and weakness and how they see them affecting your company and their position. You will easily determine if they have done their research of the position and company by their answer.
I encourage you to ask questions as they share their answer to better understand them and their thinking. This will give you the information you need to determine if they are a good fit for your current team members, company personality, and position needs.
Company Culture isn’t just “the personality of the company.” It isn’t just the mission of the company. Company Culture is different in every situation and circumstance. Interestingly enough, Kununu asked 25 CEOs how they would define Company Culture – and the responses were all very different and specifically tailored to each individual and business. You should go read through them! Click Here
No matter how you define it, I believe we need to remember that company culture only exists because of people. And in order to keep people fulfilled and working, we need to take time to communicate and listen to their perspectives.
A lot will be learned, and a lot will be accomplished, which is what every company wants!
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