Creating a positive and cohesive company culture can be challenging, especially when leaders are often balancing a wide variety of responsibilities and an ever wider variety of personalities. As the CEO of the U.S. division of a global marketing company with business units specializing in a variety of communications disciplines, I’m here to tell you that a cohesive culture is possible. It requires dedication and work, but it will absolutely be worth your time and effort. Having a company culture that speaks to the core values of the operation is the foundation for good business, productive employees and, ultimately, meaningful growth.
Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way that have facilitated the cohesive culture that helps my teams flourish.
Lead with Vision
A clear, defined vision is essential for fostering a cohesive culture as long as you present that vision in a way that secures buy-in from your team. The right vision—which clearly outlines an effective path to growth and success for the company and its individual employees—can be an emotional driver and the foundation of a company’s mission statement. It can inspire collective optimism for the future of the company and establish core values and behaviors. A vision that’s written down, distributed and championed by leadership will guide your teams toward a common ideal.
Identify what Success Means
Success can have many meanings, so it’s important to determine what that looks like to you as someone who is helping to shape the business. Identify business goals and then share those ambitions with all teams. This could be hitting a stretch production number, reflecting profitability, achieving year-over-year growth measurements or a measurable increase in employee retention and engagement. Whatever the goal is, everyone needs to know it and understand how their team can move the company toward success.
Be an Engineer
You must know how each team works individually—and how they work together. Having a solid background in each team’s day to day tasks and deliverables means that you understand how all the parts fit together to achieve the final result, providing you essential insights when making workflow decisions.
Assess the Situation
It is incredibly important that you spend some time to get a reality check on where the team stands today in relation to your culture and engagement. What are your culture’s strengths and weaknesses? It’s not a bad thing to uncover weaknesses—rather, this is an opportunity to identify areas to target for improvement. When culture is on the line, an area of weakness may cause a rift between teams. Address it now before it becomes a source of struggle.
After assessing the situation, you can’t just hope the culture changes. You must put a strategy together to foster strong, connected teams who are fully onboard with the direction the company is moving in. This could mean regularly scheduled check-in meetings, or it could be a company newsletter or email updates. Whatever works best for your business, you need to provide the opportunity for communication and visibility.
Your teams are made up of individuals who come from different backgrounds, with different learned behaviors and different levels of experience with success, failure, fears and drivers. In order to create a team environment where everyone feels connected to the company and culture, they must all be treated as individuals first. Management Study Guide concurs, “Knowing employees well leads to a healthy work culture.”
One rule I live by is that, as CEO, you should never have lunch alone. Take the time to get to know your employees both on a personal level as well as the ins and outs of their day to day work, their pain points, etc.—and help them get to know you on a deeper level as well.
Know Your Audience
When done right, team building activities can be a huge morale booster and foster excellent teamwork. Before planning an event, take time to evaluate the dynamics of your team. Are they 20-somethings looking to go out for dinners and happy hours? Are they a bit older with families of their own so team lunches or more family-oriented activities like picnics and BBQs are a better fit? Select appropriate experiences to ensure a large turnout and therefore a successful event.
Trust Your Team
There’s no greater threat to a positive company culture than to have a leader who micromanages every aspect of the business. To put it bluntly: Get out of the way. You hired employees for their expertise and it’s best to let teams do their jobs. You can still support them in areas where they can’t forecast, but provide the necessary guidance and then step back. It happens time after time where the leader gets too involved in the minutiae and invariably makes the work harder or even derails the process. Trust me, I’m speaking from experience. Let your people do what they do best and empower them. You won’t regret it.
There you have it! If you want to create a cohesive company culture, you’ll need to put in some time and effort, but you’ll get teams that are motivated, empowered, dedicated and loyal to your vision because you secured their buy-in from the start. A cohesive culture lays the groundwork for teams to operate well both independently and together, increasing the likelihood of superior performance and employee satisfaction—and reducing costs caused by interdepartmental error, feuding and employee turnover. The single most important thing to remember as a leader is that you must authentically live and breathe the company culture.