Many business leaders struggle with creating and nurturing the team culture they need for success — but you don’t have to.
In my experience, the right team culture is critical to every business’s success, so every business leader wants to know how to create it. In reality, I’m convinced that none of us can create culture directly, but instead, we can create an environment where the desired culture emerges. You do this by driving values and letting values shape behavior, until, eventually, the behavior defines the culture.
I believe you must start by being a role model for strong personal values and purpose, as well as having empathy for others, sustainable energy, and self-awareness. The next step is to effectively and continuously communicate through multiple channels, including walking the talk, email, and really listening to feedback. Be sure to encompass all your constituents, especially customers.
The behaviors that you need to inspire for the right culture to flourish can be summarized by the following principles:
1. Create and maintain a sense of energy and purpose.
Many leaders do this today by supporting and promoting a higher-level purpose beyond profits, such as helping the disadvantaged, sustaining the environment, or embodying Conscious Capitalism. Remember that actions speak louder than words, and your evident leadership role is the key here.
Whole Foods, for example, has built their business with a commitment to natural and organic foods, and has a culture of loyal employees and customers, resulting in 500 stores worldwide. As a result, they were acquired by Amazon for $13.5 billion.
2. Team members must feel motivated and enabled.
That means they must believe in what you are trying to do and feel they have the right tools, training, and reward system to do the job that needs to be done. Your role is to provide this enablement through listening to their needs and offering personal coaching and mentoring as required.
Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, attributes much of his success to building a motivated and enabled team. He is always open to the ideas of his team — even if he doesn’t agree that an idea will work, he’ll say so, but often support and fund it anyway.
3. Always maintain the very best talent for your team.
I find that many business leaders are “too busy” to focus on talent, so they hire available family members or the first candidate without regard to talent, experience, or dedication. Of course, even the best talent needs communication, training, and support to create the culture you need.
In my experience, a level of disagreement among highly talented team members is a sign of healthy team culture. It allows a business to survive and win in this age of multiple disruptive trends. Sometimes the last thing you need are people who always say “yes.”
4. Foster collaboration rather than competition.
With the financial constraints on every business today, it is easy to convince marketing and development that they are competing for resources, rather than working together to offer the best solutions for customers. Even within teams, the culture must be collaborative rather than win-lose.
5. Relationships are key to happiness and productivity.
This must start with you really getting to know your team members, as well as partners and customers, and letting them get to know you. You can then facilitate relationships between team members, as well as with people who can help. Everyone and your business will benefit from this culture.
6. Celebrate every success and include the whole team.
In addition to individual rewards and bonuses, take the time and effort to include all teams in a public recognition of even small successes, including failures that resulted in learning. This fosters a positive team culture and communicates company values that are important for everyone.
7. Commit to delivering a positive customer experience.
You can’t build a positive team culture, while taking obvious shortcuts on your solution quality or customer service. Stick with what you know best, and show your team how to do it better than anyone else. Your team culture will coalesce to support your direction and drive business success.
Today, your team and company culture are more important than ever in driving strategy and value, not the other way around. With the internet and social media, your culture is no longer just an internal thing — it extends broadly to customers, investors, and vendors.
You are the key to all of these constituents working together to win, especially in an increasingly competitive world.