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2 Crucial steps to define the DNA of your business and refine your company culture

In this last article in the series, we are going to look at ways to make your culture work for you. In order to do this, you need to first discover what your company’s culture is and, more importantly, whether you actually like it or not. You see, company culture is either something you have awareness of and drive through your behaviour OR it’s something that takes you over like a virus and drives people away by ignoring the behaviour.

You are most likely in one of three categories in your business:

  1. You like how your people work, and they like working for your company. They won’t move easily, even for a better offer. Think Salesforce/Google/Apple.
  2. You like parts of how your people work, but you don’t know if your people like working for your company. Your best and brightest sometimes move because of better offers, or you have to renegotiate contracts a lot. Think McDonalds/Wallmart/banking.
  3. You don’t like how your people work, and there is a lot of office politics and gossip with many people leaving. Your HR is basically a merry-go-round with key people joining and leaving at least every 3 months. Think Uber/South African Airways/The Trump Administration…

If you’re number 1, well done, keep doing what you’re doing! Whether you know what your culture is or not doesn’t really matter as you are living it which is more important than having some words on a plaque somewhere.

If you’re somewhere near number 2 or 3 then keep reading. Disclaimer: you will need to invest a serious amount of time to become like number 1 above.

Here are the 2 crucial steps you need to take to rectify the situation:

Step 1: Uncovering your culture

First you need to create a safe space for this conversation.  Then bring in your top 10% performers and ask them to list (anonymously if trust is a bit tender) 10 great things and 10 mediocre things they experience most days, e.g:

  • If they all speak about how the customer is put first and everyone pushes hard for that – that is something you want to explore.
  • If it’s about excellence and making sure that the product is the best then use that as a start.
  • Another example would be that the business wants its people to grow and develop themselves.

Don’t worry too much if it is not 100% correct, the process is more important at this time. Document these answers where everyone can see them.

Do the same for the mediocre things e.g:

  • There is no recognition, or
  • People are not promoted on merit, or
  • Everyone only looks after their own department.

Again, document where everyone can see them.

Step 2: Creating your culture

Give the above exercise a few weeks to roll around the company. By now you should have a few extra people who want to put their 2 cents’ worth into the pot.

Invite them to a session (with the top performers) where you go through both lists and make changes to it based on real-world feedback.

You also start a new list:

  1. What are 5 great things they would like to see in their business?
  2. What are 5 mediocre things they don’t want to see in their business?

These lists go up publicly for another few weeks.

Then, you watch and you listen. Have behaviours started changing on some of these points? Write those down. Have other behaviours not changed? Make a note of those.

Bring the same group of people back in, as well as any that have actively engaged in the process. Get alignment on the behaviours you saw/did not see. Simplify your lists to these behaviours only.

You now have the beginning of your company’s culture.

I will dust of a clichéd analogy, but there is no better way to describe it. You have now facilitated the planting of a seed. Give it the right conditions to grow and watch for early signs of growth. When that happens, point it out and make everyone aware that it’s growing.

As important is the tough part: Any mediocre behaviour listed above OR any behaviour that hurts the planted seed needs to be dealt with immediately, publicly and with significant intensity. It needs to be a bit uncomfortable. Now everyone knows you are serious about this.

Once spontaneous conversations start on these points, you know that the seed has turned into a little plant. Keep giving it the right environment and protect it from anything or anyone hurting it. Over time it will grow stronger and become a key part of your growth and the ability to attract the best people.

That’s how you grow Company Culture. 



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