A business is like a child – all it wants to do is grow up. But it’s not enough for management to want growth. The employees need to want it too. When my partner and I were starting our company 5 years ago, we were aware of this. We wanted to build a business that would grow and thrive for a long time. So, before we had a single employee, we set out on the mission to build a company culture that would drive growth, not hinder it. In retrospect, it is the biggest reason why we succeeded and we continue growing.
The secret to our success: fulfilled employees.
It sounds simple, but it’s one of the toughest jobs in the world. I want to share with you what I’ve learned from my experience so that you too can build a culture of growth and prosperity in your organization, and as a result, grow your business. I will share with you my 5 tips on building a growth-oriented culture, but first, let’s go over why culture is important for sustainable growth.
Why is culture so important?
Culture is an abstract concept – but the reasons why we need to invest in it are very real. Just like in society, within an organization, the culture is what holds people together, moving everyone toward the common goal. An organization’s growth depends on a few factors, and they are all tied to your employees.
- Company efficiency – motivated employees are far more productive, and communicative with each other, thus boosting efficiency,
- Less turnover – keeping top talent that you’ve invested in can make or break your growth goals,
- Attracting top talent – happy employees talk. A good culture can turn your organization into a talent magnet,
- Customer satisfaction – fulfilled employees lead to happy customers.
As an entrepreneur and a business consultant, I’ve seen the effects of good culture (and bad culture) first hand. The culture determines the way that people feel while they are at work, and how they feel about work after hours. Work is something that can exhilarate you. And if you are excited and motivated, that impacts productivity, creativity, and teamwork.
If your employees are fulfilled at work, they won’t only do better work, but they will also spread the word. Also, happy employees lead to happy customers.
In summary, the way your employees feel about work is the key to the growth of your business.
How to build a growth-oriented company culture?
The most important thing to understand is that the core of a growth-oriented culture is leadership. That means that creating a growth-oriented culture starts with you.
The reason is simple: your employees need to believe in your vision and to want to help you realize it. The only way to motivate them to do so is to show that you care about them. Deeply and truthfully. Only then can you expect your employees to act in reciprocity.
My 5 tips on building a growth-oriented company culture:
Listening doesn’t mean just giving people your time. It means giving them your undivided attention. Actively assess their problems and ask them questions that will help you find a solution. Listening is one of the best ways to show your employees you care.
Throughout my career, I’ve met many leaders that do not have this skill. They are not only making their employees feel insignificant, essentially pushing them away, growing the void within the hierarchy. Leadership is about building a bond, just like in a friendship, or a partnership. It’s a two-way stream. If you want your employees to listen to you, you need to listen to them first.
I’ve seen many managers and company owners fail miserably at this one. I know how important it’s been for the growth of my company. The employees love the fact they can just call my name. Or send me a text, or call me. And in terms of the company, I can tell you from first-hand experience, that we’ve avoided and resolved many potential problems thanks to communication.
The biggest reason why employees refrain from speaking up or bringing something forth is because of 1. You always look busy, and 2. you always look agitated (and get aggressive). Yelling at one employee will almost certainly refrain 5 others from speaking to you. If you want to grow your company, becoming more approachable and grounded is something you have to learn how to do.
Including others in your decisions is great. Our company has a policy where we always include all the people involved in a project in the decision-making process. The benefits are more than clear:
1. The employees often know more about the project or client than we as managers do. They are the ones that talk directly to the customers, and they see all the details of the project.
2. More heads always think better than one.
3. People like to feel included and are more likely to execute their part.
4. Having more people brainstorm and debate makes it easier to make the decision with confidence.
So do it. Next time when you are creating a strategy that your employees will have to carry out, call a meeting. Order some food and just talk about the project with them. In my experience, some of the best ideas come when people are relaxed and enjoying something tasty. Sure, some ideas will be useless, but some might be absolutely brilliant.
I see the organization as one large team. Whether you have 3 or 300 employees, the organization functions because they all work together. If you reward individual achievement only, that encourages competitiveness rather than cooperation.
There is nothing wrong with a little competition, but when the goal is growth, the only way you can get there is together. Everyone needs to do their part, and when a group does amazing work by collaborating, they deserve a medal. You can feel the energy when a team wins: everyone is clapping and cheering for each other. There are many winners, and also no losers.
Everyone makes mistakes and everyone has bad days. Yes, you need to forgive your employees. But you also need to forgive yourself.
In my opinion, the biggest reason why leaders, especially leaders of organizations that are just gaining steam, tend to lose focus, is because they suddenly have a lot of eyes on them. I’ve felt the pressure myself, especially when we hired the first female employees on our team. I could feel how much they looked up to me, and I could definitely feel the pressure.
In those moments as uncomfortable as it might be, it’s important to remember that you can set an example by showing that you are human too. Let your employees see your mistakes, how you deal with them, and learn from them together. It’s okay to make mistakes, as long as you learn something. Remember that you are all in this together, and that empathy is your biggest strength.
If you want to grow your business, you need to build a growth-oriented company culture. It’s a long process and you need to be consistent in your efforts. That means that you need to show up with a positive and empathetic mindset every day. It’s not always easy, but if you love what you do, and you believe in your vision, it is possible.
Changing your actions and reactions is one of the hardest things you will need to do in your life. But if you want to create a culture of growth, you will need to do it. A lot of people stand to benefit from your personal transformation. Your self included.
Start by assessing your current behavior and take it step by step. Be patient, and persistent. And don’t forget, your goal is not growth. Your goal is to become a better leader, and the result of that will be growth.
Creating a growth-oriented company culture is all about your personal growth as a leader. Start by assessing your current behavior, and then:
- Learn to listen and respond attentively
- Be approachable – at all times
- Include your employees in the decision-making process
- Reward teamwork
- Forgive mistakes and focus on learning from them, collectively
This is a long term commitment, but if you are consistent, you will soon see why the best leaders in the world commit to these practices.