As a former Navy SEAL, I have unique insight into what it takes to develop a distinct organizational culture. While I did not play a key role in developing the culture of the SEAL community, which was forged over years of combat and the refinement of the most rigorous selection process in the world, I did contribute to it as a part of the team.
As an entrepreneur, I know we often forgo cultivating culture in favor of goal-setting, building the business, and driving profitability. We have customers to please and shareholders to answer to.
Don't let culture fall by the wayside.
Yet building and protecting a great company culture that embodies the mission, vision and values is in fact a revenue-generating activity. Having a great culture means that the team is aligned and understands what it takes to achieve mission success. It means that you hire only talent that fits perfectly into that culture. You only partner with customers and clients that share the same values. And most importantly, your team is inspired and enjoys being a part of something special.
But what if the multitude of other responsibilities has distracted you from one of the most important aspects of building a successful organization? What if you have lost sight of the original vision for the company and have failed to communicate what that vision is to the team? You've probably already seen the effects of low morale ripple through your company, including in production and employee engagement.
It's time for radical and immediate change. Your team craves it and your company is desperate for it. Here's how to make it happen.
1. Take action now.
Not later. Gather your senior leaders and develop a plan. The execution of that plan must be swift and it is critical that you communicate this to the entire organization. By the time you realize that things in the company need to be fixed, your team has probably been talking about it for months. They have probably even been telling you exactly what needs to be improved. The key is that you listen and take action. Otherwise those team members that have been telling you what's broken will go somewhere else, where their voice is heard.
2. Audit your team.
In Marshall Goldsmith's book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, he talks about the systems, processes, and people that took your company to one stage will probably not be the same that will get you to the next level. Audit your existing team and identify who stays, who needs more training and development, and most importantly, who needs to go. Once you have your list, take action quickly and immediately communicate to the team that remains why certain decisions were made.
3. Look at your customers.
Another mistake we make when trying to grow our businesses as quickly as possible is partnering with the wrong customers. If your customers don't share similar values, chances are the relationship will not last long, which ultimately will cost you money. This also goes for vendors and strategic partners. If they don't share your overall vision, cut them loose. Naturally, this is easier said than done. Most business owners don't like to fire clients, but the ones that need to go are decreasing your value, not adding to it.
4. Redefine your loyalties.
Where loyalties fall will depend on the organization and its mission. As a leader, you first need to ask yourself what your own priorities are, then define them for the company. Consider family, your team members, customers, shareholders, your community, and the world around you, and decide what’s important to you. Once this is done, your team has to understand what you expect from them, and what they should expect from you.
5. Get back on track.
Are you still heading in the direction you initial defined or have you deviated from the mission plan? What has this done to the culture you originally envisioned? If you have strayed, you first need to understand why. There may be a good reason. The overall vision can sometimes change and you need to adapt the plan accordingly. As long as you keep a close eye on this, make the appropriate changes, and communicate openly and consistently with the team, you can continue moving forward aggressively.
6. Communicate clearly with your team.
I have mentioned communication a few times already, so clearly I believe in its importance. When a SEAL wants to be informed on what's going on, we say "pass the word." And we say it a lot! If it's time for change, communicate the message clearly to your team members. Define, or redefine, what winning looks like, what their individual roles in mission success will be, and why the immediate change will have only positive impacts on the company moving forward.
Take the time to focus on building and protecting your culture, fix the things that are broken, and make sure you are still on the same path you originally set out on. Don't forget: Your culture is key to your growth.