Business culture has always tended to be high on the agenda in the corporate businesses I have worked within or been exposed to over my working career. The creation of a positive business culture, family feel and happy employees is proven to result in higher productivity, less HR issues and therefore greater results for success in terms of profit margins and bottom line cash. Unfortunately what the higher echelons of corporate businesses claim versus the actual culture of that business are not necessarily aligned. To have, however, a documented framework for the business culture plus a supportive workforce to instil it is paramount to the business functioning cohesively and moving forward together.
However it’s not just the larger corporate and multi million pound businesses that need to keep their culture high on the agenda. Within smaller businesses, irrelevant of the industry, a healthy business culture will undoubtedly have a similar impact, perhaps even to a greater extent given that each individual can directly impact the business to a greater extent.
As with many forward planning tasks, it can be difficult to take the time out of your business to look at the current culture and decide if it is harmonious and supportive of the goals and vision you have in place (assuming you do have these in place – if not read here why they are so important!).
Taking some time out, as with all planning skills will payback many, many times ensuring that you, your business and those who work with or alongside you are all working towards the same goals and pathway to success.
I’m currently reading ‘Do it! or Ditch it’ by Bev James, a successful entrepreneur and businesswoman, coach and motivational speaker with over 20 years experience in business transformation. She details some excellent approaches to assess whether your business decisions will work towards your ultimate aims or against, but also discusses ‘people power’ and how you can choose who you work with to help you deliver.
There is some guidance on how to effectively manage your team, some of which I am sure many will be familiar with, however she extends this with a section regarding to taking responsibility, blame and and the culture of your business which I thought was very interesting.
Bev advocates for individuals to take (and be given) responsibility, a view which I totally agree with. No one person can run a business purely on their own. Even if there’s only one person in the company, they will rely on a network of business or friends/family connections for support and certain skill sets. The great thing about giving responsibility to people within your business team is that it grows them as individuals as well, making the most of their skills and letting you as the forerunner of the business to concentrate on the ‘wider picture’, the strategy and goal setting for the business.
Another very important aspect linked to this is tolerating mistakes and not allowing a blame culture to emerge. Without mistakes an individual doesn’t learn the impact that action has or what needs to change to avoid the same outcome.
Many entrepreneurs and business owners will hold their hands up and say they have made mistakes – some potentially quite impactful on the success of their business, some not so much. However the crux of the matter is that if a mistake is made, it must be learnt from, ask why it happened and ensure that preventative actions are put in place to try to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. Quite often the individuals involved in an error will probably know what is required to avoid it in the future, which in turn gives them greater responsibility and inclusion within the business as well.
This will avoid a sense of blame to occur within the business and be accepted, something that I know for sure is still very common within the corporate world unfortunately. People are too busy covering their own backs to take responsibility and too fearful of the consequences in owning up to an error that may have been made – jobs are too precious these days to be putting yourself at risk by admitting something was your fault! However there is an underlying management theory around the suggestion that every time you point your finger at someone, there are likely to be three fingers pointing back at you – something definitely to keep in mind!
Instead of looking to blame someone for the error, it is so much more positively impactful to consider what impact you (and each team member) might have had on the situation. Was the chain of communication strong enough? Was there any ambiguity about the process? Did I ensure the team understood my expectations? Try to find some learnings from the situation whether personal or professional and put those learnings back in to practice to ensure the same error doesn’t occur again.
Thomas J Watson, founder of IBM, is credited as saying, following an error made by an employee that was costly to the business, “I was asked if I was going to fire an employee who made a mistake that cost the company $600,000. No, I replied, I just spent $600,000 training him. Why would I want somebody else to hire his experience?”
What a refreshing way to look at the situation, and what a fabulous culture to nurture, where the attitude was of investment as errors were made rather than black marks against that individual, possibly impacting their job security. I can only imagine a switch to this attitude and creating this business culture would create a much more positive outlook within the team and impact in the ways most businesses look for – sales and profits.
So I guess the morale of this post is, why not take a business culture health check – is your business one that advocates support and harmony, or one of blame and fear? Which would you choose to work in and what can you change to make it better?