Building a successful company culture
Brian Reaves, CEO of Factris
We all want success in business, and few people here would disagree that company culture has an enormous impact on the performance of a team. There are many ways to cultivate a thriving environment, but after having been involved in building many businesses around the world, I found there are some common points worth highlighting.
Successful execution of your plans by making clear statements of intent and delivering as a team is a great way to boost morale and increase the passion and dedication of the team. The saying, “success breeds success” is very true; however, there are many elements to consider along the path to building your successful business.
One of the most important things to remember is we are all human beings with the associated strengths, weakness, and quirks. We simply are not perfect, and while we can strive for improvement to an ideal which differs from person to person, the fact is we must accept people as they are and cannot put them in some kind box. This having been said, there are many more things that we have in common that bring people together; for example, we all like to laugh and have fun, we like to feel a part of a group, we love being recognized and thanked for the good things we do, we like to feel respected by our colleagues and friends, and we like the feeling of being trusted and trustworthy.
At Factris we are reinforcing the common threads and giving people the feeling they are part of something more while building bridges between everyone in the organization.
One of the most under-rated activities is partying with your colleagues and not just the management team together, but everyone. I have seen it on many occasions that teams partying together stick together and work more efficiently with the development of informal communications.
I have heard many people say we can not afford to have a Christmas party or drinks after work, but in the end, the expenses need to be budgeted and the money spent. Having people in your office with a positive vibe is essential , especially for those tough days that will inevitably come.
Talk with your team and not at your team. As a manager, you are a listener first and the facilitator of information sharing second, providing an example to the rest of the people in your company.
Regular communications about the hiring and leaving of people, how the company is performing, sharing the vision of where the company is headed is important but not as important as sitting down and listening every once in a while - either one on one or in a small group. Share the good news and the bad, especially the bad. People find out faster about the bad news anyway, so a good manager needs to get ahead of the information flow to put the facts out there before the rumors swallow you whole.
Being as transparent as possible builds trust amongst the team members who feel more included as part of the company “tribe” if they know the company trajectory and see the steps being taken to achieve the desired results. I find secrets tend to increase suspicion in a vacuum of information, allowing the darker side of human imagination to roam free.
Everyone in a company has a role to perform no matter what the title, but a title does not make you more or less of a person. It is crucial to kill off the concept of hierarchy at a human level. “We” is the most important part of the company. Together we need to focus on building and growing a great business, and it takes everyone pulling and pushing. This concept is often realised by sharing information, being transparent and trusting your team with company knowledge.
It is often quite interesting to hear buzz words like “empowerment” or “enablement” related to equality, but the more I see how these concepts are often distorted, the less interested I am in them. For example, empowerment is often used by managers to empower their teams, which often in just a code for “solve my problems,” often with little or no support. Equality, in my sense, means we are all here in our roles to do the best job we can to support each other. As a manager in a company, your role is creating a successful environment for everyone to achieve our common goals as a team with everyone pulling their own weight, not to have others doing your job for you. Being a manager often means working harder than anyone else to create a successful environment.
As the last word on equality, remember to respect your teammates for who we are, people. Respect is contagious and can go a long way if cultivated. In the end, we all put our jeans on one leg at a time.
Diversity is a beautiful thing and often a tough thing to achieve, especially in a technology-driven industry. In a European context, what I mean by diversity is balancing out an organization with men and women, different cultures and ages. I have found over the years that a balance of men and women, especially in senior management, creates harmony in teams, as in life. A team with all men or all women loses the perspective of the other which often gives insight that would otherwise be missing in solving problems or generating new ideas. I have often felt the testosterone of an all-male argument in a room where it was most important to be right than to take the correct decision.
Age is another important aspect that I have noticed in many companies where there are distinct age differences at the various levels of management. Senior management needs a mix of knowledge and drive that can often best be achieved by mixing seniority of experience with the can-do attitude of the younger generations. This is often hard to do as the older find it harder to respect the younger and vice versa, but if you give it a chance and spend a lot of social time together, you can find a healthy balance.
Lastly, there is something to be said for cultural diversity. When hiring an engineering, designer, developer or any other role, bring in a mix of views from people not of the same country or background. The different experiences can be a real strength in making whatever you do, better.
If you are not partying, sharing information, treating everyone fairly, in a diverse company and you are a mid-sized company, then more than likely you have politics coming into play. The amount of shareholder value I have seen destroyed by people playing games to further themselves at the expense of the company is staggering. What I have described above are ways to bring out the best in your company, but there are other things you need to do. As a manager, figure out who is doing real work and capable of doing more I will describe as “how can we” types and who is not performing and a drag on the company whom I will describe as “why should I” types. While hiring is important to weed out the two different groups, the “how can we” people are the doers, builders and you find that people are always gravitating to them and you need to nurture and promote these people within the business constantly . While the “why should I” people are generally not fit to do their part in the company and often get their place in the business through seniority, contacts, being good socializers and not by achieving and working their way up the ladder. Needless to say, the level of politics within the business is determined by the proportion of two types of people in the business. I often say that if you have a lot of politics in a business, it means people have too much time on their hands!