Humans are creatures of habit. We have our morning routines, our standing drink order from Starbucks, our favorite hit-up for lunch, and don’t even try to mess with our patented-and-perfected sleep system whether it’s ear plugs and an eye mask or podcasts and night cream with our favorite down pillow.
We like what we like and we do what we do.
So it becomes increasingly easy for what we do day-to-day to become our culture. Intentionally or not, our day-to-day routines, actions, and operations build our team and brand culture brick-by-brick…and like any building you don’t want those bricks piling up helter-skelter. More importantly, are those bricks reflective of what you are trying to build or have some bad habits allowed toxicity and struggle disguised as hustle become your trademark?
But wait!…..I have a great team and everyone here loves each other and we all sing kumbaya in a circle around a fire before we leave each day!
Well, aside from the (probably?) fire code violation going on…that is excellent!
Is that great team culture built by happenstance or by intentionality? Great cultures built by happenstance aren’t scalable and as the Scalable CEO you know the importance of taking things to the next level with strategy and intention. Some simple principles can help you take it up a notch no matter if you are at the bottom trying to climb out of a pit of negativity or ascending the side of a beautiful mountain with the summit in sight.
We gotcha, fam.
This discussion is about your team AND your brand. A better, happier team will always produce greater outcomes (the studies back it) but all the basic principles apply to your team and your customers. So press that button and hop on the express elevator cause we are heading up, up, and away!
#1 Connect People to a Purpose
When was the last time you had a discussion about your brand values? A real discussion. Company core values are a trendy thing and most companies will establish some when setting their mission and vision statements.
However, a lot of times the company values serve as nothing more than pretty artwork on your boardroom walls.
A favorite exercise of mine, when working with a company, is to ask each employee I talk to “What are the company values?” and see if they know. More often than not they don’t know. Sometimes they do, and then my follow up is always, “How did your work today reflect those values?”. I don’t ask to try and stump employees in a GOTCHA! moment – I’m honestly looking to see how the company is intentionally shaping their corporate culture and company values should be the golden strands that flow through everything they do.
Back with the C-level staff, when the discussion turns to values, the question becomes “Are you willing to pay for this?” and not just for a designer to make them look nice for the website and the office walls. A true commitment requires an investment. The investment might be time, energy, or decisions but all those are worth just as much as writing a check.
Step One: Get ‘em
Establish REAL values that reflect the AUTHENTIC vision of the legend you are actively building. Values you are willing to pay for in your energy, your time, your legacy, and sometimes your cash.
Step Two: Hire ‘em
Build a team that is just as inspired by the work you do and your motivation behind it as you are. Your hiring decisions should be a living embodiment of your corporate values. Their actions and intentions should reflect what is essential to your brand culture.
Step Three: Live ‘em
Make those values become the compass that guides your work, your visions, your strategy, but also your brand and your team. From the organizations you support to the services you provide and from your HR policies to your day-to-day decisions they should all be able to support the values.
Some best practices for value-based leadership:
- Include values as a priority piece in your onboarding
- Do occasional quality checks where you ask staff to match items on their to-do list with brand values
- Make a habit of releasing new company policy or decisions with a “value justification” that explains how it is connected
- Use storytelling to promote the actions and decisions of your employees that positively embody the values
- Have KPIs that measure value based decisions and or actions and not just production or output
#2 Put People First
We kind of touched on this in the idea that a better, happier team creates more and produces more and makes a better brand by extension, but you can’t go wrong with putting people first.
No matter what you make, or what you do, people are the core of your business. Without people you can’t produce…well anything…and without people to buy the item or service you don’t have a business until AI becomes advanced enough to need your services.
So it makes sense to put your biggest asset and your biggest customer first and foremost…people.
Even if your model is traditionally defined as product-centric (“driven by the desire to focus their attention on building and bringing products to the market” a’la Google) you can embrace that you are building and bringing products meant to serve and enhance the lives of the market aka customers. Focusing on the end user, and what you are bringing to their lives, makes it a net-positive for everyone.
This advice isn’t just for Tinder and Bumble. Relationships are how you get to know each other better and how we build trust. Getting to know your team lets you know how they work and gives you valuable insight to your customers. Trust builds brand loyalty internally and externally. Both are pillars to success.
Be intentional about creating opportunities for relationships to build between you and your team, your team members, your customers and your brand, and your customers and your team. Plan social events, recognize special milestones, and turn a faceless market into a sea of individuals for your team. Look for policies or operations that sabotage this or build walls where there should be bridges. Allow time for everyone to engage in socialization that isn’t just production focused.
Development isn’t Performance Management
“I develop my team!” has started to mean “I provide my team with skills…if they benefit me.”
Recently I read about a non-profit that when facing burn-out implemented a new professional development policy that employees could have one hour a day to spend on their personal development – however they wanted.
That’s right. Not professional development. Personal development. Employees had a wide latitude in that they could do “whatever they needed to do” to make sure they were at their best.
Employees weren’t submitting a PD plan seeking approval with justifications on how they could better serve the company with this development opportunity, they were allowed to focus on themselves and their own goals and the organization in turn saw greater things from a better, stronger workforce.
When you extend the energy to invest in others, whether it be your team or your customers, you are inviting them to invest back in you which is what all great brands have going for them – a large group of people investing in them whether it be with their passion and talents or their incomes.
#3 Create Positive Experiences
If you are following along and living your values while you put people first, #3 on this list should come more naturally but that doesn’t mean you should assume it’s happening. It is just as important and should be done with intentionality and planning like the other elements and not left to chance.
Associating with your brand should be a positive experience for both the customer and every single member of your team. Clients and employees alike should feel proud of their connection and association with your brand – and you should provide them with the stories to tell that will brand your legacy.
There are lots of ways to create positive experiences for your team, from relationship enhancing team builders to Saturday morning service projects but the epic annual appreciation event won’t mean as much if their day-to-day grind is an on-going battle with scarcity and negativity. The biggest positive experience you can create for your team is a well resourced and positive work environment.
Teams that have the resources they need:
- Adequate time to work on projects, brainstorm ideas, and have a work-life balance
- Information they need including clear roles, expectations, and definitions of success
- Access to resources and tools that are standard for the job they are expected to do
And work in a supportive and collaborative environment are teams that are living positive experiences.
Happy teams are also going to create better customer experiences, but (again) that isn’t something you leave to chance. Serendipity should never be in charge of your customer experience. Be as strategic about your customer service as you are about your team members’.
- Create standards and processes that everyone in your organization is held to when it comes to “on stage” aka customer-facing behavior
- Empower your team to make customer oriented decisions
By creating the standards that dictate the customer experience, and training your employees to them, you create a consistent environment and eliminate variables that may influence the type of service a customer will receive. The customer service should be as trademarked and authentic as your logo.
Empowering your team gives them the power to make customer-centric decisions in real time. Needing to run every decision up the chain creates hesitancy and time-delays that don’t speak to excellence. Provide the framework for client interaction – with your standards – but then empower them to Put People First in a way that is brand authentic.
There are always ways you can do things bigger and brighter, but if you don’t address the fundamentals to do things better it comes off as all shine and no substance. Neither association speaks to quality or excellence.
Stepping back and shoring up the fundamentals:
What you stand for.
How you treat people.
What you give to others.
Helps you launch yourself to a place that isn;t just bigger and brighter…but honestly better too.