Every business owner and leader has a few things in common regardless of the industry they are in. They want a culture of excellence, they want to see positive results, and they want to win! Unfortunately, one of the other things many of them have in common is the lack of knowledge on what it takes to create a winning culture or the grit to implement and sustain what is needed.
The culture a company fosters can be the single largest competitive advantage that will drive success, so understanding the key variables in creating a culture of excellence is imperative. Through personal experiences, various case studies, and an abundance of feedback from employees and leaders I’ve found the following to be the top ten ingredients in creating a winning culture of excellence:
1. Clearly Defined Vision
Behind every winning business is a compelling vision that clearly articulates the company’s overall goals and purpose. All business owners know what their vision is, but if employees do not understand the big picture vision, they will feel the day to day tasks in their roles are disconnected from the greater purpose. Employees who feel they are part of something meaningful are almost always more engaged and productive.
2. Collaborative Teamwork
Aristotle once said, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” which is the exact essence of team collaboration. Team collaboration enables people with a range of diverse skill-sets and ideas to come together to solve problems and create innovative ideas that each person individually would not be able to do.
3. Clear & Consistent Communication
Employees want to be informed. They want to feel they are aware of the problems and can be part of a solution. When leaders fail to communicate regularly, employees almost always begin to insert assumptions about what is going on and why. They begin to unnecessarily worry and lose trust in their leaders. A culture of excellence requires a continuous and consistent flow of communication from top to bottom and bottom to top.
4. Career & Growth Opportunities
Employees want to feel they can not only be successful in their current role but that they also have growth opportunities. These opportunities aren’t limited to growing businesses who can afford new roles for people to promote into as growth opportunities can be any opportunities that enable an employee to learn more, do more, and contribute more to their individual and organization’s success. Whether your organization has a quality employee and leadership development program or project teams that employees can get involved in to contribute to big picture projects, opportunities for people to feel they are progressing beyond the scope of their day to day role is a must.
5. Accountability & Recognition
You can have the best strategic plan and a top-notch implementation of the strategy but both will fail miserably if there is no accountability to achieving the goals set in place. Accountability goes beyond disciplining people when they don’t do what they are supposed to. Accountability is also about recognizing and celebrating milestones when people do meet goals. People innately want to have structure and know that whether they do or don’t meet expectations it is noticed and matters. When leaders fail to hold people accountable for underperforming and fail to recognize a job well done, employees begin to disengage and productivity suffers.
6. Attracting & Retaining the Right Talent
Knowing your talent profile and continuing to assess and redefine the profile is critical to ensuring the right people are in place to drive your business. Too often hiring managers make the mistake of hiring who looks best on paper alone. Or even worse, they hire based on who fits the talent profile of the past. As businesses evolve and industries change it is important to re-assess the talent profile and make changes accordingly. Sometimes this involves eliminating old roles, sometimes it involves training to upskill current employees, and sometimes it involves shifting people to new roles. Keeping outdated talent and skillsets in newly defined roles in a changing business will hinder, if not halt completely, the desired results.
7. Team Building
Too often leaders underestimate the power of team building and cut the efforts as they consider it a waste of time or money, but the reality is a cohesive team is essential to the success of most project deliverables. Providing an activity where teams can take a break from the focus on their job tasks and focus on getting to know each other as people on a united team can improve team trust and cohesiveness exponentially. When people get to know the individuals behind the job they do they are more likely to work together better, leverage each other more, and even be more supportive and understanding of mistakes as opposed to the ‘every man for themselves’ environment which is very toxic.
Stop focusing on what IS and start focusing on the endless potential of WHAT COULD BE! Innovation is exciting and people want to be a part of that. Innovative cultures not only empower but require people to think outside the box. It forces more collaboration and more of a desire to be part of something new. It creates the fire and passion needed to grow a business. So many businesses spend their time trying to keep up with the competition, constantly chasing parody. As soon as they catch up with the product or service, the competition is already releasing the latest bar raising idea. Be the change!
9. Make it fun
An old proverb made popular in the 1980 movie the Shining so eloquently said “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Old school mentality dictates that there is no time or place for fun at work, but I beg to differ. People spend far too many hours of their life at work which is often the root of high stress. The days of work having to be a checklist of tasks to do, a stick to your job and have no fun, a sit at your desk until it’s time to clock out are gone. This doesn’t mean fun should replace work, it means make doing the work and working together in your company fun. It means when you work hard and have fun you can make a bigger difference. When people love what they do not only do they work harder but it shines through in the customer experience. There is a reason companies like Google, Facebook, Zappos and so many other companies are such desired places to work. They blew up the status quo and created a culture of collaboration, flexibility, trust, and fun. They went full force with non-traditional concepts that make a good company great, but that most companies fear to implement.
10. Know your customer
At the heart of your business and culture should be the focus on the customer experience and their satisfaction with your offering. At all times you should be staying apprised of current and upcoming industry trends and the voice of your customer. A sure way to fail in creating an excellent culture and service is to lose touch with the changes in customer needs and satisfaction by making assumptions based on outdated trends.
As with any solution to complex problems creating a culture of excellence is not a single variable solution. There are many variables that, combined, create winning teams and cultures of excellence. Creating a new culture or turning an existing one upside down and inside out is no easy task. It takes planning efforts, implementation efforts, and continuous and ongoing reinforcement. It takes grit! It’s not easy, but it is worth it. Do you have what it takes to create a culture of excellence? Your company needs it and your employees crave it!
Alicia has a diverse professional background including prior experience in accounting, corporate credit and treasury, university student financial services, human resources, talent acquisition, business development, and strategic business operations. A few key highlights of Alicia’s career experience include the leading of the entire career services function in Apollo Education Group where she helped plan, develop, and coordinate company-wide implementation plans to promote, educate, and reinforce the University's position in providing exceptional education and training to a national working adult population. In this role, Alicia led employer engagement efforts for helping connect employers talent needs to best-fit candidates as well as lead an organization of talent advisement experts dedicated to helping students link their education goals to career and employment success.
Beyond student and employer focused career services Alicia also led the design, development, and implementation of a career development and progression program including candidate skill development, the talent hiring process, and compensation modeling to accelerate high-potential talent and create a consistent talent pipeline for the internal organization. It is Alicia’s passion for both driving business success and helping people set individualized career goals and develop meaningful plans toward achieving career success them that keeps her in the Talent and human capital related field looking for new and innovative ways to help people and companies succeed.