People don't love working at Disney because the company is super rich (so is Walmart), or because they have great benefits (so does the United States Postal Service), or because they have a mouse on their logo (so do mousetrap companies). People love working for Disney because of a thousand little things that add up to one magical whole.
But actually building--or sustaining--a winning culture like Disney can be tough because it feels like we just don't have the time for it. We've got people to manage, products to develop, clients to meet and reports to dissect. Don't worry, cultures aren't built overnight (and really can't be); rather, they grow piece by piece by paying attention to small and simple details.
These small and simple details don't have to take a ton of your time, either. Below are 10 ideas you can implement in 10 minutes a day (or less) that will improve your company culture. In order to make culture growth a habit, I challenge you to try at least one of the below ideas each day for the next month and watch the positive results come in:
1. Sincerely say thank you. Four out of five employees who feel appreciated stay with their companies. If you want your people to feel appreciated, a little thank you goes a long way. But it must be thoughtful and personalized. The next time you want to thank an employee for a job well done, take a few minutes to tell them why you're grateful they work with you, and point out something specific about them you admire. Don't make a spectacle of it (some employees would hate that); just express sincere appreciation and make sure they know you mean it.
2. Embody one core value a day. At the beginning of the day, take a minute to consider your company's core values, and then pick one to focus on for the entire day. Use the rest of your 10 minutes to compose an email explaining to your employees which value you'd like to focus on. (For example, one of our core values is to assume the best. If I chose that one, for the entire day I would make a concerted effort to assume the absolute best of everybody I interacted with.) This is a great way to internalize your values and remind yourself (and everyone else) why they're important to the success of your team. (And if you don't have core values, use this time to schedule a meeting and create them!)
3. Minute to win it. You could play an actual "Minute to Win It" game, or you could take 10 minutes for a quick team-building exercise (an impromptu soccer shootout?). Regardless, a little exercise (physical or mental) will improve your team's mood and ability to handle whatever they're dealing with. And if you do this on a regular basis, it will help prevent built-up anxiety (and maybe even laziness).
4. Say sorry. Few things can endear you to your people quite like saying sorry; humility is a trait people love to see in their leaders. Always be conscious and aware of your actions, and the effects they may have on your employees. Don't dwell on your mistakes, but do take inventory of your relationships at the office, and when the need arises, make all necessary amends. Whether you're apologizing for something you did wrong or merely showing a little empathy, "I'm sorry" can simply be interpreted as "I care." So say it. Besides, the two minutes it takes to say sorry will save you countless hours in the future of dealing with disgruntled employees and angry coworkers.
5. Oops email. On a related note, our company has what we call the "Oops email." Whenever somebody makes a significant mistake, we send out an email to our coworkers to explain what happened and what can be done in the future to avoid the mistake. We give each other the benefit of the doubt and understand it wasn't intentional, but we do take the opportunity to learn the necessary lessons. This way, everyone feels comfortable sharing what they've learned, rather than blaming or burying the error. If you don't have a similar policy, take 10 minutes to set one up with your team.
6. Get treats. Never underestimate the value of an afternoon sugar pick-me-up. When you're out and about, take a couple minutes to surprise the office with ice cream bars, cannolis, or something equally sweet and simple. An unexpected treat is a quick and cost-efficient way to brighten moods throughout the office and remind your people that you like them. Remember, the power of free sweets knows no age limit.
7. Take it out of the office. We're cheating a little on this one, since most activities outside of the office will take much longer than 10 minutes. However, we're talking about non-work hours here, so it counts. Simply put, strong companies build strong social ties. Since it can often be hard to interact socially during work hours, don't be afraid to get together on your personal time. You don't have to make it mandatory, though. Just, you know, be friends with people. At our company there are a few of us who play ultimate frisbee together during lunches, while others play board games in a conference room. A few more of us get together for evening bike rides in the mountains. Whatever you're into, shared hobbies and activities build strong social bonds that help unify work teams. It only takes a minute to go ask a coworker if they're available.
8. Read. You probably come across multiple worthwhile business articles every day while perusing the Internet, but if you're like most people, you just don't have time to read them. You may skim a few here and there, but that's about it. As you're looking to improve your company culture, create a "company culture" folder on your computer. Then, when you come across culture-related content (like this article!) save them in the folder. Later on, when you have a few minutes to spare, refer to the folder and read an article or two. And don't forget books. Our product team has even had a "book club" where they all read the same book and come together at lunch to discuss the chapters they were assigned. One of our core company values ("Grow from good to great") came directly from Jim Collins' book by the same name.
9. Have real conversations. Unless your company is minuscule, there are probably a few people you don't know as well as you would like to. Take a few minutes to get to know them. It might be good to start by calling a remote worker to just "check in." Or you could pull aside somebody you know is struggling and have a candid chat. Don't try to fix them or remind them that they have a job to do; just be there for them, and let them know you care.
10. Brainstorm. Set aside a few minutes frequently and actively try to come up with ideas that will improve your company culture. It will work best if you keep regular notes on areas of your company culture that you feel need improvement. You can include other trusted advisors or just go it alone, but the point is you must vigilantly think about your culture. You may not have any good ideas at first, but if you do this regularly enough, you will eventually come up with some really solid ideas. It's only a matter of time.
As you put a concerted effort into improving your company culture during the next month, look for the positive cultural growth that will come. You'll be surprised by the results of your simple efforts. And after the month is over, keep it going! No matter how busy your schedule gets, always take whatever time you have--whether it be 10 minutes or an hour--to focus on your culture. Who knows--your company might just become the second happiest place on earth.