Being a leader is tough. Every day there's a new challenge to take care of. Having a day where everything runs smoothly is a rarity. And while we can prepare ourselves to handle adversity, we are unable to know when and where problems will arise.
When a leader is faced with an obstacle, it is the culture of the team that pushes the organization through the tough times. Culture is the foundation of a company. If a startup were a human, the culture would be the heart. While we cannot plan for everything, building a strong culture will prepare us for even the worst turmoil.
Because culture is not quantitative, it can be tough to know how strong your company culture is. With that said, there are small things that we as leaders can do to encourage our teammates to build the culture we need to succeed. Here are three easy ways to start.
1. Greet Each Other Like Family
Every morning our team has a daily standup at 10am sharp. We all meet in one room, talk for a little bit and then get to work on listing everything we're getting done for the day. The part I love about this morning ritual is not the actual meeting but the way we all greet each other before. Everyone smiles, most give high fives and some even hug. An outsider would think we were all related. This not only gets the team excited, but it also makes everyone feel like they can let their guard down.
It's such a small gesture to greet your teammates like they're family, but it goes such a long way. When you let your guard down, your employees will feel safe and relaxed. And when people feel safe within your organization, they produce their best work.
2. Make Time For Water Cooler Talk
If you walk by our office, there's a good chance you'll see a group of us laughing about something other than work. As the leader, I try to encourage these moments as much as possible. It's a mistake to think that people work best when they sit in silence. Humans are designed to be social creatures. It's how our ancestors survived and thrived. To try and build a company culture that prevents these interactions is counter-productive. More importantly, it's against our nature.
Next time you see members of your team talking about things other than work, don't see this as a waste of time. Instead, see this as essential for building unity among your members.
3. Protect Your Team Over Everything Else
When the leader makes personal sacrifices for the team, the team in turn makes sacrifices for the organization. Being selfless is contagious. This is why personal acts of sacrifice inspire us and encourage us to do the same.
To build a company culture that focuses on the whole rather than the parts, start to act like you're the guardian of your employees. Make sure you eat last, do the things no one wants to do, and dive into trouble headfirst. When your team sees this, they will buy into the mission. Once your entire organization buys, it allows you to develop a culture that your competition would die for.