Take a poll of your team, or better yet, have someone from outside your company take the poll: How would your employees describe your company? What would they say about you as a leader?
Would it be, She is a great boss; she cares about me? Or would they say, This company is micromanaged. There’s no money for promotions, no room for advancement?
Would they say that you had their backs no matter what? Or would they say you’re watching the bottom line too closely to notice them?
Now, remember, I’m not saying how you actually go about leading, or what your goals and intentions are; I’m talking about the perception of your team. What do they really think and feel?
Because, at the end of the day, this is is the reality of your business. This is what defines your company’s culture.
People like to think of company culture as bylaws and mission statements—something we write on the walls of our shops or put on our websites or in our employee handbooks. That’s not culture. Those are our goals, our missions, our objectives. Some are systems or processes. But, again, that’s not your culture.
Your company’s culture is what your employees see, experience and feel every day working in your operation. It’s not in writing anywhere, and maybe, even, it’s hidden—at least from you as the owner. But your employees know it, and by the way your company operates, that culture is carried out, repeated and engrained (for better or worse) every single day through your actions and the actions of others.
And here’s the point to this all: Culture affects morale and motivation, it affects growth, and it affects your bottom line. We talk a lot about our systems and processes and everything else, but, ultimately, your business’s culture will determine its success.
Here’s an example: At the time of writing this, I just returned from a mission trip to Mexico. During that trip, I had the chance to visit the manufacturing plant of a very well known, international company. (I’m excluding the name of it for reasons that will be clear.) And this factory in Mexico is the company’s highest-producing facility in the world. You take a look at it, and at first glance, it’s hard to pinpoint why it is: All the company’s worldwide facilities have the same equipment and machines. They have the same processes, systems and workflow. They have the same access to training and resources, too. So, what makes it stand out? Culture.
After speaking with the plant’s manager, I learned that the staff had started a small Bible study the year before, which slowly grew and grew to include more people. Eventually, that grew into the staff attending church together and interacting outside of the workplace. The entire team became very similarly faith-based and performance shot up.
Now, don’t take this the wrong way: This isn’t a push for faith or religion in business. That’s not what I’m saying at all, right now. What I’m pointing out is the unifying actions and routines of the team. They developed a unique culture built on trust and community. They started working for their teammates rather than with their teammates. They’re newly created culture boosted morale, it increased motivation and ultimately led to a culture that had each employee looking to pick up the one next to her or him. It led to a culture that allowed the operation to flourish well past its processes and systems.
People—happy, motivated people—are the difference between a business that can simply make money and a business that can thrive, grow and truly reach its potential.
So, how do you do that? Stop making so many rules.
There, I said it. Are you doing OK? Need a second to catch your breath? I know what that phrase has you thinking: But, Aaron, we’ve been told (by you at times!) that we must have consistent systems and processes to succeed! That’s 100 percent true, and I’m not speaking contrary to that. What I’m talking about is us overdoing those to the point that we limit the ability of our team members to think creatively and work with proper mobility and freedom.
We get obsessed with rules. Think of how many mistakes occur in your business that you instantly jump to make a process or regulation to defend against. We end up with 500 policies that prevent 500 separate one-time situations that are likely never to occur again. I’ve been guilty of this at times, too. And while we feel like we’re preventing fires from starting in the future, what we’re really preventing is a culture that allows employees to flourish.
We need our service advisors to have the freedom and creativity to diffuse issues at the front counter. We need our managers to have the freedom and creativity to differentiate leadership styles to reach certain employees. We need our techs to have the freedom and creativity to solve problems.
Instead of meeting a mistake with a newly written policy thrown at the employee, teach them how to better handle the situation. Be a leader who takes the time to help others improve. Be a leader that actually carries out your vision each time. Really, just be a leader. Show them you’re a part of their life and a part of how they will improve and succeed personally. Show them that you care, and that it’s part of your culture.
The best teams are the ones that are agile and creative and can adapt and adjust. Those are the teams that will get us to the next level. Those are the teams we need to build and nurture. That’s how we’ll succeed—together.