Our clients hear us spout the words “Healthy cultures never happen by accident” on almost a daily basis and for good reason! Your success as a business depends on your culture.
Your culture is the driving force created by your values, for the things we value determine how we behave. Everyone who encounters your business; your customers, suppliers, stakeholders, partners etc, will experience your culture and make their buying decisions accordingly. Culture is rarely tangible, it’s often an awareness or impression that is created during and after an interaction with your business.
Stick with me, I’ll elaborate…
Have you ever walked into a shop and been ignored by the Sales Assistant? How did it make you feel? If you are anything like us your blood will boil as you put your 17 pairs of hoop earrings on the nearest shelf and dramatically flounce out! The problem here is this: the way employees act reveals what they value as a business. The experience at this shop leaves me feeling this business values an easy life over customer care, they certainly don’t value being helpful or making a sale…. so I’m off to Primark where I can buy twice the number of hoop earrings for the same price!
This simple example emphasises the importance of prioritising conversations about culture. As a business, if you value the right things and these values are consistently communicated and applied you will intentionally create a culture that represents how you would like to be perceived as a business – your DNA, or as we like to call it, “Magic dust”. Your magic dust is the warm and fuzzy feeling that is created when people do business with you; it motivates them to keep coming back and it’s the reason they recommend you to others.
So, how do we make magic dust?
First off, your culture is a combination of what you create and what you tolerate; embedding a culture takes time, planning, and ongoing, deliberate conscious effort, especially for business leaders. But there are some simple steps we take as part of our development work in this area:
Figure out what your actions say you value already? You’ll need lots of people to join this conversation so you can get a range of perspectives. Values aren’t aspirational, they describe who you are when you are at your natural best (we nicked that off Simon Sinek). If your current actions suggest that you are not operating at your natural best, something needs to change!
Once you have agreed on your values, write them down and give them short, life-giving statements. i.e.
“We act with integrity (Value): We’re committed to doing what’s right for our customers and each other. We are transparent, truthful and have no tolerance for politics, egos or hidden agendas” (Life giving statement).
These statements should provoke emotion that moves your people to action.
Business leaders must own and embody the values and, in doing so, model the desired behaviours for everyone else in the business. This way the culture you desire becomes not only something you DO, but an expression of who you ARE. Essentially, we are asking you to live your values every day; hire to them, fire to them, align behavioural expectations and performance conversations to them. All your people functions, documentation and performance conversations should align to your values.
Make space for conversations to help your team to align their own personal values to your business values, for this is a key step in engaging the right employees for your business and retaining them. It is also a good way to start potentially challenging conversations with employees who don’t share your values.
Make sure the process is iterative. Revisit your values together, keep reflecting and building on them to make sure they remain a true representation of what’s at the heart of your Business.
So, in summary, this is why us Peas bang on about culture so much and why we vigourously and enthusiastically advise our clients to live by and offer leadership which embodies their business values. We urge them to do this as though their business depends on it, because it actually does!