Over the last few years one of my most popular blog topics has been about business culture, and justifiably so. High growth companies and business leaders know the right culture can make all the difference. Unfortunately, much of what grabs the headlines revolves around the more sensationalistic cultural components. Egg freezing, no holiday limit and paying for the university tuition of employees’ children are just a few innovations that have drawn mainstream media attention.
While there’s nothing wrong, per se, with any of the above mentioned benefits, they can steer leadership teams to focus on the wrong drivers of culture. The “wow” factor quickly wears off and elaborate benefits packages can get taken for granted by even the most conscientious employees.
The companies who have great cultures that endure are the ones that don’t necessarily ignore the bells and whistles of culture. On the other hand, they understand the most significant component: the right people. Here are three traits that cultural keepers must possess:
Never underestimate the power of surrounding yourself and your team with friendly positive personalities. If your entire team were naturally friendly and happy, imagine how much more pleasant your work environment would be. All of sudden, people actually look forward to Mondays and employee retention soars. Friendliness is infinitely more transmissible and merits greater attention than indifference. With the right people, a “friendly” culture can quickly develop. This translates to how customers are treated, which impacts new sales, repeat business, customer service and beyond.
Like most characteristics you desire for your business, this one starts from the top. When was the last time you went the extra mile for an employee? I’m not necessarily talking about big gestures such as massive bonuses or unexpected gifts. Did you wish someone happy birthday, take them to lunch to celebrate closing a good deal or better yet, offer them a helping hand when they were overwhelmed? Going the extra mile for an employee is a simple way to set the tone for the entire organisation.
Many businesses are obsessed with attracting star players. They believe strongly in the pareto principle or the 80/20 rule and given that, do whatever they need to accommodate the top performers, sometimes at the sacrifice of teamwork. Great organisations value excellent performers, but by putting the team before the individual, they actually attract and develop more of them than their competitors do. As Jim Collins wrote in “Good to Great,” Level 5 leaders are ambitious first and foremost for the company, not themselves.