Building a Winning Culture

Building a Winning Culture

Much of this you already know and do… after all, you’re running a successful business or group. However, it bears reminding that there are 3 keys to building a winning culture – and they’re both simple and hard at the same time. Simple, in the sense that we know the blueprint of winning cultures; hard, in that it takes discipline to maintain a relentless focus on the 3 key elements.

I define culture as “what it feels like to work here”.   That includes 3 key elements:

  1. What we stand for (Values)
  2. How we do things (Process)
  3. How we recognize and reward performance (Excellence)

What do you need to do as the leader of your group? Three things…

  • Values – ensure that you have a set of guiding principles that drives everything you do. There should be a set of values that everything trues back to… a way of behaving, treating one another, treating customers, etc.   Most companies have values or guiding principles, but the trick is to enforce them… to live them. This starts with you and your direct reports – people get fired if they violate or don’t live the values. People get rewarded if they live the values. You should take a look at your present set of values and either send a message of your support for these, or tweak them. By all means, use the values (or create a set) to communicate what you want and recognize people who live the values.
  • Process – ensure that EVERYTHING you do is simple, efficient and productive. There are no silly rules or procedures. There are no complicated processes that bog down productivity. There are no barriers to getting things done, across departments, or for customers. The place runs like a well-oiled machine. The senior team doesn’t tolerate beauracracy – they stamp out inefficiencies and stupid cultural “we’ve always done it this way” processes. They demand that groups collaborate and partner well with each other. Everyone is manically focused on the customer and the products or services; not internal politics, turf battles, etc. Part of this is making sure everyone knows that functional groups (BD, Legal, Finance, HR, Marketing) support the business, not the other way around.
  • Excellence – ensure a high bar for excellence is communicated and lived up to… performance is rigorously measured and rewarded. High performers get compensated, promoted and recognized. Low performers are moved to a different role (for “one more shot”) or let go. Managers are trained in and actually use the performance management system. Both the “what” and the “how” are clearly communicated – we expect high levels of performance and living the values. The company is ALWAYS focused on driving excellence – products work, services are seamless, customers come first, innovation is valued, etc.

Everyone wants to work for a winner, whether it’s a 5-year old company that is disrupting the market or a 100-year old company that has maintained a solid track record of performance. Employees want to be proud of their company, and feel good about coming to work. How does that happen? The company has strong values – they do the right thing. It rewards the right behaviors and performance. It makes great products and provides excellent service. There’s little or no beauracracy. People trust and respect each other…

Bottom line – in addition to all of your other duties, it is YOUR JOB to create a winning culture. It starts with setting expectations, holding people accountable, and communicating to and recognizing employees.