As a business coach, I often get the opportunity to coach not only the CEO but also some of their key employees. This strategy is very effective for a number of reasons, and it often allows a clients business to create better results in less time.
One of our new clients came to us struggling with its company culture. The CEO had a vision for the business, and a clear idea of what she thought was the company culture. Upon talking with her key staff, it became very clear that there was a disconnect between the intended company culture and the actual culture.
So I sat down with Rene (name changed), the CEO, and discussed ways that she could build the company culture by example.
This list included things like:
Send out a company-wide email retelling the story of a victory that reinforces a key cultural element. Every week our coaching clients (and their employees) fill out a "Big Rock Report" where they lay out their most valuable tasks for the upcoming week, share position and company wide victories as well as discuss potential problems or issues that have come up during the week. I encouraged Rene to share the victories company wide that exemplified her intended company culture.
Highlight an example of a great team member behavior at a meeting. During our coaching sessions, Rene was always quick to share team member behaviors that she appreciated. So I challenged her by asking if she was passing along this praise to her staff. This simple act had a powerful impact on the way that her team behaved.
Look for and share company-wide small occurrences in the company that symbolize deeper values you want the company to absorb. In your own business, you will see small occurrences every day that you want to replicate across the board. This could be a customer interaction that exemplified your company culture or a well lead meeting that had a clear agenda and focus. Whatever it is that you want to see more of, point it out and share it with your team.
Intentionally make the hard decision that shocks your team into realizing how seriously you believe in your values. A good company culture is built over time, through a series of small actions. As a leader, it is your job to protect that culture and ensure that it continues to grow and develop - and sometimes that means making hard decisions.
Role model the behavior you want them to internalize - be consistent with it. This is hands down one of the most common things we see when coaching a team. Rene, for example, was struggling with team members showing up late (or not at all) for team meetings and huddles. When we spoke with a few of her key employees, it became clear that Rene herself was often late to their own team meetings, which subconsciously gave her staff the green light to do the same. Once she made it a priority to role model promptness, her staff followed suit.
Ask a team member how they would make a decision they are dealing with if she were doing it "the company way". This last tip will help you see your company culture from an outside perspective. When faced with a decision, ask your staff members how it should be handled in accordance with your company culture. If the answer surprises you, help steer them in the right direction and work on steps 1-5 to help strengthen that area further.
My final piece of advice for Rene:
Keep going! Building a company culture is a marathon not a quick sprint. It is a summation of a thousand small actions and it is up to her to steer the course.