Why Culture is the Foundation of a Winning Team
One of the biggest challenges I come across in growing companies is the business owner’s ability to attract, retain and develop a successful team. In fact, for some smaller businesses this prevents any growth at all. I regularly hear comments like “I employed people once but it was a nightmare, what with all the regulations and tax implications and the need to supervise and train them, so I got rid of them and am happier on my own.”
The fact is, you will not grow your business without a team to support you, so let’s start by getting those limiting beliefs out of the way. Yes there are regulations and tax implications, but so there are for driving a car and that does not stop us from doing that. And yes, you have to train and supervise your staff initially, but if you make a good job of it, your staff can take on the training and supervision of new staff in time.
Business people that use these issues as an excuse not to recruit people are doing so purely because the only other option they have is to say that they are bad at building a team and have no desire to learn how to do it properly.
If you look at it from another angle, if your desire is to build a commercial, profitable, business that works without YOU is strong enough, then no amount of regulation or inconvenience will stop you. If however you are stuck in your comfort zone of doing OK and have no real passion to grow, then just stop blaming outside factors and admit to yourself and others that this is the case and make the most of where you are. For the rest of you who want to grow and don’t live in Blame, Excuses and Denial, the steps to grow a successful team are very simple, if not exactly easy.
Human behaviour has been studied for many years and in essence has hardly changed in thousands of years. Humans are social animals and we get on best with people like ourselves. Over time, different cultures emerge that are formed when the core beliefs of groups of people become aligned. The power of these cultures can lead to great or bad things, depending on the morals and values of the leader.
The fact is that humans seek this form of belonging all the time, in fact it is one of the biological drives for us to nuture our children, rather than leaving them to their own devices as many other animals do. If you want final proof of this fact, just look at one of the most serious punishments for a human-being - solitary confinement. Being on your own for a prolonged period of time can lead to mental health issues and is the most common cause for suicide – the feeling that “nobody cares”.
So how does knowing this help us build a great team? Well, like most things in life, once we know the cause and effect we can use it to our advantage. We know that people who come together form a cultural purpose that binds them together and influences what they do and achieve. So in our business all we need to do is to create a culture that will do the same.
The first step is to realise that every human culture generally starts with one person or a small group of people and a leader, someone who has the vision of what could be, like Martin Luther King who famously said “I have a dream…”
Whether you like it or not, you are the leader of your business and everybody who currently or will in the future work for you will look to you to be that leader. There is no magic formula, but we all have it in us to be a great leader. Once you step up to become the leader of the business, you need to set the direction of where you are going as a business – your vision of the future.
The final step is to define what your culture is going to be. Think of this as your “rules of the game”. They will stem from your own personal values (core beliefs) and we generally find that they can be condensed into a dozen or so statements. Once you have defined the culture you then need to make sure that everybody understands it and lives by it.
This is where the work is needed. Changing culture does not happen overnight. Everything and everyone in the organisation needs to be aligned with the culture and anybody who isn’t needs to be reminded that they have agreed to it and ultimately be asked to leave if they do not wish to join in.
The big thing to remember is that even if you do not set your own culture, it will set itself. Groups of people will default to the most dominant set of beliefs and if they are not yours, then you are in for trouble. Tony Hsieh in his book “Delivering Happiness” wrote about how he fell out of love with his first business because it had formed a culture of its own, which he despised. In the end he could not bear to go into work and he had to sell the business to get away from it.
So now you can see that building a great team starts with you the leader. As the old saying goes, “you get the people you deserve.” If you want a better team, start with the person at the top, and if you want to see ActionCOACH’s 14 points of culture for some inspiration, then go to http://www.actioncoach.com/14-points-culture. You never know - you might be inspired enough to take ACTION!