Happy customers, brand advocates, raving fans. Whatever you call them, we all want people outside our companies (preferably those who patronize our services and pay our bills) to be our mouthpieces and readily proclaim how much they love our business. But as much as these external cheerleaders matter - and they matter greatly - our internal supporters matter just as much.
In fact, I'd argue creating external fans and brand advocates, starts first with inspiring fans inside your business. It's only when your entire team is bought into your greater vision and believes in your purpose, will the excitement spill over and be felt by the other stakeholders in your organization --your customers, partners, vendors, investors, etc.
How do you create raving fans within your four walls? It involves establishing (and living daily) a set of core values, celebrating victories small and large, and creating an environment of transparency and trust.
Make your values abundantly clear
There's more talk about the importance of core values in business today than there ever has been before. And it's because banding an entire team together around a set of principles central to your organization helps ensure everyone is moving in unity to fulfilling the vision and serving the deeper purpose.
Rather than a multitude of people working disparately on their own tasks, core values motivate a movement of people who strengthen one another while advancing a singular vision. But for core values to make an impact, they need to be clearly defined and woven into the fabric of the business --used as a litmus test for making decisions and guiding strategy.
Craig DeMarco, partner at Upward Projects, says his leadership team always works to reinforce their five core values among their team. "One of our values is 'Come One, Come All,' and we exemplify this all year long, but in particular with our annual turkey bowl flag football competition and our holiday party after Christmas that's in a battle-of-the-bands format," Craig said. "These fun and competitive events go a long way in team building and strengthening the bonds of our staff outside of the office."
Plant reminders of success
Another key to building a motivated team focused on serving your organization's deeper purpose, is to never let your employees forget all of the spectacular things you've together. Don't wait for annual end-of-year party or company retreat to celebrate victories --recognize small and large wins throughout the year.
And don't let your team forget about all they've accomplished. Plant reminders throughout the office with a trophy shelf or celebration wall. Another idea is to encourage your team to brag about one another during your meetings.
"We meet with our team every other month for an entire day and invite each person to share some good news or successes," said Jason Pistillo, CEO of the University of Advancing Technology. "We especially ask for our staff to point out awards or highlights that their peers have earned, so everyone is reminded of all the meaningful work we do. And we make sure to showcase our alumni and students in emails we send to our database, so our entire network is constantly being uplifted and applauded."
The CEO at PetDesk, Taylor Cavanah uses Legos to celebrate accomplishments every day. "Everyone in the company gets a certain size and color lego piece and everytime they accomplish something they add it to the Lego structure in our office," he said. "It's a nice visual representation of the team's accomplishments and company growth."
Aim for radical candor
Of course, giving kudos is an effective way to bring the team together and create internal raving fans, but there are also times when you need to say hard things or give constructive feedback. Work on being extremely honest, and doing so with tact and grace.
"Radical candor is something we aspire to every day," Cavanah said. "It starts with leadership practicing this level of honesty publicly every day, and it has to infiltrate each person in the entire office. When this idea is embraced, trust is strengthened and contentment can thrive."
Hit the refresh button
At my company, Tallwave, we have built an agile culture in which we encourage our entire team to raise their hands if they see a better way to improve upon a process or call into question a tact that's simply not working or unnecessary. This not only gives everyone a voice, but also ensures we're operating as nimble and smart as possible.
We also embrace something called "RRU," which stands for "Refresh. Renew. Unite." Quarterly, we review and reflect upon what worked during the previous three months and what didn't so we can enter the next quarter recharged and refocused, with a strong action plan in place. But this is not just at the company level --the team is also encouraged to explore what worked and didn't work for them in their personal lives and identify areas they may want to grow in or strengthen.
Keep it fun
Last, but obviously not least, is the matter of keeping the workplace enjoyable. When you center your business on core values, and motivate and appreciate your employees while maintaining an environment of honesty, you've laid as flawless of a foundation as you can. With all of these crucial aspects covered, you've left room for the possibility of laughter and fun - which is really what a unified team is built upon.
Once you focus on creating internal raving fans, you'll see a shift in work ethic and attitude. This will only naturally permeate your culture, and spill over to your customers. And yes, that means you'll have internal raving fans and external ones.