Culture is a journey, not a destination. You can’t buy it in a do-it-yourself box, and you can’t install it in an afternoon. It’s all about the road being travelled, and that’s all about the attitude, or mind-set, of the leaders of the brand.
As I studied the habits of great (and not-so-great) cultures, interviewed people leading brands, and spoke to the teams in the trenches, the one constant that kept arising over and over again was mind-set. Mind-set was either the catalyst to a magical culture or it was the culture killer. The desire to build magical culture isn’t enough. The brands that succeeded in building authentic cultures had leaders with distinctive philosophies, approaches, and mind-sets.
The following list of healthy culture mind-sets showed up consistently in the leaders of successful cultures. I ask that you pause and reflect on each of these. If your current mind-set to building culture mirrors these, congratulations. If you recognize an opportunity to adopt one or more of these to give your culture journey a boost, please feel free to do so.
4: Trust and Transparency
Trust is a big word in building culture. How to earn it? How to live it? One of the most effective ways is to have a culture of complete transparency. Think about it.
When you hire someone, you are asking them to commit a great deal of their life to build your brand. When you bring on a client you are asking them to place a great deal of trust in your hands. Don’t you think you owe it to them to be transparent?
No one likes to be kept in the dark by others, and yet it is common for owners and leaders to resist sharing information on things like the health of their brand.
Key business drivers like revenue, gross margins, performance metrics, gross profit, client retention, staff retention, etcetera, should always be shared and in such a way as to be educational. This raises the business acumen of the overall team. (I am not talking about sharing everyone’s salaries or bonuses. There are some things that should remain private.)
Why is this important? The talent pool that you have assembled is a great resource for ideas on how to improve things if they have come off the tracks, and how to accelerate things that are working well. They can only do this if they are in the know. Great leaders understand this and have no problem sharing.
There should rarely, if ever, be a situation where you have to make a hard decision such as downsizing the number of team members without any input from the team.
Your team may surprise you with outstanding and creative solutions to get you back on track without having to let people go. You won’t know if you don’t share.
Clients appreciate and value transparency, too. There are many simple best practices you can implement that will have immediate impact, including:
- Monthly metric reports detailing all interactions with the client
- Quarterly scorecard reviews on the client’s overall health
- Monthly webinars to introduce new concepts and or provide clarity on current issues, and
- Client strategy councils, made up of a cross section of clients, that meet on a quarterly basis to discuss issues and solutions.
Talk about transparency! I guarantee you that adopting these practices will earn you an extremely high client retention rate.
5: Creating Experiences
Strong cultures understand the value of creating special moments and they work to build a positive memorable experience around everything.
Most brands tend to act in a robotic, transactional way. In other words, they take a cookie cutter approach to how they treat and deal with people. They do not create memorable moments and, therefore, miss out on the opportunity to create raving fans. I believe people, whether employees or customers or clients or vendors deserve better. And I believe brands deserve better, too.
Creating memorable experiences, and cultivating brand ambassadors who will tell your story for you, is key. Treat every interaction with every person as a chance to tell your story. Let me give you an example based on my experience with coffee shops. Vancouver is coffee crazy. There are coffee shops on every corner representing international, national and local brands. I have noticed that often the larger the brand, the more transactional the experience. Whereas, with the owner-operated smaller brand, the more memorable and personal the experience. I truly believe many of the larger brands have forgotten why they exist, becoming too process-driven, and the pursuit of profits has replaced experiences. A typical experience in these coffee shops is you get to the front of the line, respond to the question about what drink you want, pay for your drink, and wait to have your name called. That’s it. That’s the experience. Pretty transactional, not particularly memorable. The smaller brands seem to understand the value of the relationship and take the time to get to know you on a personal level. They have lower staff turnover and seem genuinely pleased to see you.
My local coffee shop, a small owner-operated brand, makes me feel so welcome and special every time I am there by investing time in getting to know me. Often when they see me walking across the parking lot, they have my drink ready for me when I get there. Even if I did not want that drink that day, I take it with a huge smile on my face, because they recognized me and created a memorable experience.
So how do you create memorable experiences?
Think in these terms: everyone that works for you and every client that engages your services has a life cycle. During this life cycle, there are moments. Team and client first days, birthdays, anniversaries, promotions, awards, acquisitions etc. Build an experience around each moment and make sure you:
- Treat every interaction as a story opportunity.
- Define the experience from the end user’s point of view.
- Consistently exceed expectations.
Finally, the simplest way to frame your mind-set is to use this question as your guide: “How do I make it easy for people to engage with us and create raving fans?”
If you do, it acts as a gut check for you to make sure you did everything humanly possible to ensure that you created a positive and memorable experience.
Great cultures create positive, memorable experiences. Positive memorable experiences will build you a legion of engaged followers.
6: Consistent Communication
Strong, healthy cultures communicate effectively and consistently. When effective, consistent, communication is present, people are in-the-know.
Being in-the-know is comforting. Communication is the foundation to building inclusiveness. It fosters a spirit of cooperation and creates a culture of accountability. People appreciate communication. Even if the news is not good, they will respect you for your openness and be willing to be part of the solution.
Cultures that fail to communicate effectively and consistently tend to alienate people. With that alienation comes “blind spots” that get in the way of what you are trying to accomplish.
Blind spots will lead you to miss important change opportunities, and they can also result in looking for things that are wrong, versus bringing a spirit of cooperation. This can be very damaging to culture.
For culture mind-set 1 through 3 click here: http://unleashculture.com/thirteen-mind-sets-that-foster-great-cultures-1-through-3/