Most of us understand how important it is to foster a positive culture in the workplace: an environment that encourages collaboration and autonomy. A culture of learning, entrepreneurship, and cultural diversity where employees feel inspired and important. But the jury is still out on the best way to get there. This post suggests a relatively simple way to get started as a leader in purposely contributing to a better work environment—by asking five questions to push you in the right direction.
“Culture is more important than strategy.” – Tony Hsieh
The most effective strategy and the smartest people will still struggle to achieve their goals in a culture that stifles creativity and independence. In fact, with a weak strategy and a stellar culture, you’ll probably get where you need to be eventually because people thrive and make it work when given the respect and freedom to do so.
“Culture is not part of the strategy, it IS the strategy.” – Jim Collins
The questions a leader asks greatly influence the reality of any team or organization. Here are five key questions to help you see the reality inside your team and its people … so you can set a course for cultural differentiation.
#1. Do you understand and communicate the shared dream?
What is the common thread in your team that ignites passion and aligns your efforts? What goal and vision unifies your people to a common purpose? Hopefully you have a mission and a strategy in place for your teams, but does it truly align with a shared purpose that everyone can get excited about?
#2. Do you care about the people you work with?
Do you care deeply for the people that work for and around you? Do you set an example of respect and an openhearted approach?
I’m talking about honest, true, genuine caring … this isn’t something you can fake. Forget any ideas you have about the workplace needing boundaries on personal sharing and connection. Yes, you may want to steer clear of religion and politics, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get to know people’s hobbies, learn about their families, and care about what they’re doing after work or this weekend.
If you struggle with this one, you may need to open up a little, which brings us to #3 …
#3. Are you connected to the people you work with?
Do you allow yourself to be open and connected with your teams? It’s all too easy to stay closed off at work and “stick to business” … but is that what is best for your team and your culture? Can you really have a culture where people feel important and empowered if we all leave our true selves at the door?
Don’t be afraid to let your teams see the real you. Lead with your heart. Let people in and encourage them to do the same with each other.
#4. Are you empowering?
If you truly care, connect, and share a vision, this should come much more easily—but do you empower the people who work for you?
Company leaders want autonomous employees and employees want autonomy, but this type of culture seems to elude many while only a few have mastered the art.
The best leaders create opportunities for other to succeed, and do everything they can to help them get there. Clear expectations, the right resources, and a leader in their corner—that’s what people need and what you can give them. Read the article linked above for five steps to getting there.
#5. Are you proud, engaged, and happy?
It’s cliché because it’s true—it’s best to lead by example. Are you feeling empowered, engaged, and happy to go to work most days? Do you feel comfortable and inspired by the culture around you? If not, why not? What needs to change? What you need and what your employees need is not all that different.
If you’re reading this article and looking for ways to move in a positive direction, you’re already on the right track. Work through these questions with an open mind and a willingness to change, and you’ll be amazed at the impact you can have on your enjoyment of work and the culture that surrounds you.
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