I’ve worked in some awesome companies— collaborative, educational, challenging, and most of all… fun! The best jobs have always had the best people. I’ve also worked in some not-so-great environments— political, demanding (in that “oh no – what are they making me do now” kind-of way), deceptive, and profit-at-all-costs thinking which made for a less than engaging job experience. What I’ve learned over the last decade is that a great culture takes daily work, but it’s worth the effort because it directly impacts performance.
To build a thriving culture, your family business needs to start with the foundation of a strong mission statement. One that is both meaningful and followed. Many of us have experienced a mission that looks good and sounds great, but it’s merely lip service. Too often businesses only value product lines, growing sales, and increasing margins. A mission statement must be bigger than increased market penetration— more purposeful and motivational. Your mission is your why. According to Simon Sinek, the mission is the reason an organization exists. It’s what people can grab on to. What is your mission? How do you get people excited to live it out?
Tips for Building a Culture by Design
Once you’ve established your mission and are unified around it, it takes intentional practice to cultivate a culture of high performance. Below are four useful tips.
- Hire with your mission and values in mind.
One of the primary goals of your hiring team should be to evaluate how well a candidate understands and fits the purpose of your family business. Your frontline interviewing team are the gatekeepers of your mission. Through phone screenings, interviewing, and casual interactions, this team gets a better understanding of a candidate’s character. What makes them tick? What are they passionate about? Do their values align with our values? From the candidate’s perspective, it’s wise to provide them with the opportunity to talk with numerous team members. This helps potential candidates understand if the messages are consistent and genuine throughout the organization. Candidates should have little doubt about what your values are and how they will fit.
- Develop rhythms that reinforce the mission and values of your family business.
This can be accomplished in a variety of ways. Weekly meetings with your entire team are helpful to review your values and build community. Be intentional about discussing the mission and values regularly. Specific praise of each team member’s wins and successes publicly in word or writing is powerful— no matter how big or small. Don’t be afraid to call out the areas for growth when needed. Share those things that need improvement, were behind schedule, or were left undone.
- Enforce your mission and values through key metrics.
Most organizations have key metrics that revolve around sales, productivity, profitability, and customer service. But what about setting team member goals around projects completed on time, volunteer hours donated, and training hours completed? According to Harvard Business Review, “Purpose-clarity organizations (where managers excel at communicating how employees’ work contributes to the mission…) had better financial results.” Denison, a global consulting firm, has also conducted extensive research on how culture impacts financial performance. Survey your organization using a validated tool that will give you measurable results. Set some goals and metrics that revolve around your mission and your values. Discuss these at quarterly one-on-one meetings or during annual evaluations.
- Build trust through unvarnished communication.
A book that offers great principles on this topic is Fierce Conversation by Susan Scott. Scott states, “Create an organizational culture where candor and curiosity are the expectation.” It’s difficult to work in a culture where employees can’t speak their mind, or when there’s a disagreement— employees walk away only to never bring up the conflict again. These situations can cause team members to stew, fester, or talk to friends outside of work about how they’ve been wronged. Or worse, team members gather round the water cooler and chat about it with peers. However, when a company attains open, honest dialogue in a caring and respectful way, you’ll find that people trust each other. I relish working in an environment where we don’t all have to agree, but we care about each other. People want to work in a culture where they know how they’re doing, where they stand, and that they’re cared for. Fierce conversations are never easy but are so valuable. Keep in mind that unvarnished communication includes encouraging conversations as well. Promote the great things that people do. Send an e-mail when you hear how a person went the extra mile for a customer. Share the good stuff loudly.
In conclusion, I’d be remiss if I said that by doing these things you will never lose a team member. The reality is that there is no magic formula to minimal turnover. Even when you have built a culture of high performance— turnover still happens. Sometimes a different organization is a better fit for someone, or a spouse gets a new job in a different state. In the end, if you hire great people who believe in and live out a meaningful mission, your family business will perform at a higher level. And your employees and customers will be happier.
Written By: Keri McCarthy
DISHER Business Lead – Talent Solutions