A business turnaround is always a stressful time. You have so many plates to spin, your email is pinging constantly and your staff will come to you every second of the day with a new fire that needs putting out. ‘Improve your company culture‘ is probably way down on your to-do list (if it even appears at all.
The temptation in this situation is to focus on the key ‘hard’ areas of a business:
Whilst that is a sensible thing to do (and I totally advocate that) there is one thing that underpins everything – culture. If you want to improve your company culture, then you must understand that it is the central thing that influences all areas of your business. Read this previous post which explains all about The Business Triangle.
Why Culture Is Overlooked During Business Turnaround
A lot of CEOs will say to me things like, “We already have a great culture! We don’t need to waste time on something fluffy like culture.”
As soon as I hear these statements, alarm bells start ringing. Culture is misunderstood by so many, and very few businesses actually establish a good culture. It’s seen as a ‘woolly’ or ‘fluffy’ thing that is only for emotional people. It’s basically seen as a waste of time.
Quite often senior management will look at culture as staff engagements activities (free breakfast, a night out etc).
This is not culture!
But humour me for one second…
Could it be that some of the root problems in your business stem from your people?
Could it be that some of your people aren’t performing because they are disengaged? Perhaps they have been let down and no one spoke to them about it. Instead, they were just told to, “Get on with it!”
Perhaps some of your people have been getting away with underperforming because of the culture that has been set – not by you, but by others.
If you leave your culture alone then guess what? Others will start to form it for you. You can’t have this!
Imagine a scenario where a new person joins your company. Who has ever spoken to them about your culture? If no one speaks to them about the culture then they will pick up your culture, not from you, but those who surround them the most – their peers.
Peers are a dangerous group to set the culture. Peers can often cut corners, turn up late, underperform without reprimand. So in the eyes of a new person, “It’s OK to do that because [NAME] does it.”
Want to Fire People To Save Money? Wait! Stop!
So you want to get rid of people to reduce your human capital costs. That’s fine, but I want to ask you the root cause.
CEO: I want to fire [NAME]
CEO: Because they’re a low performer.
ME: Why are they a low performer?
CEO: Because they’re rubbish!
ME: If they’re rubbish, why did we hire them in the first place? Shouldn’t our culture on hiring been very clear to the recruiting officer, and therefore they shouldn’t have been offered the job in the first place?
ME: And also, if the person was rubbish, have we ever got HR involved and put them on a coaching plan or a PIP?
ME: Then you can’t get rid of them…
What’s the lesson here?
We’re very quick to point the finger and blame other people. We always have to look at ourselves. We have to look at ourselves and ask some serious questions.
This art of first looking at yourself is a cultural point.
What Is Culture?
Your culture needs to reflect why you exist in the first place. What is your reason for being? Why should anyone care?
Simon Sinek did a fantastic talk on this whole piece. I encourage you to check it out. It might change your mind.
From your ‘Why’, you’ll start to form core values which display to your staff and the outside world:
- What you stand for
- What you don’t stand for
- How you behave
- How you don’t behave
- What values you hold dear, and place above all others
Culture is intentional. Culture takes work. Culture takes consistent, hard and focused effort over years to establish.
What Is Your Culture?
Can you define it? Can you sum it up in a few short sentences?
If you can’t, then you have a problem.
- Watch Simon Sinek’s video on ‘Starting With Why’
- Reflect on the key messages in that video
- Look at yourself and ask:
- Do I know why my business exists?
- Does my team know why we exist?
- Have I ever communicated this to my team?
- What values are actually important to me?
- Go into detail on each one of these
Have you defined your culture? Leave me a comment below!