Why Great Leaders Care About Culture All the Time (Not Just When It’s Bad)

 

Expectations need to be set in all relationships and business is no different. If you’re not upfront with employees, new and old, your turnover rates will skyrocket. And it’s not just about their responsibility or duties. You also need to clearly explain what it’s like to work at your company and how you expect them to behave as an employee.

Now it’s my time to be upfront: my business had a high turnover rate. For years we struggled to figure out why. So I met with leadership coaches, other CEOs and anyone else who would listen to me and could give advice.

I learned it’s not my employees, it’s me. More specifically, it’s the corporate culture that I established when I first started my company 16 years ago. Many things change in business over that amount of time but for some reason, I never took another look at our corporate culture — that was something for HR to worry about.

Now my eyes are opened. Here’s what I’ve learned.

Words matter
Any communications or HR professional will tell you this, but it’s often met with eye rolls or disinterest by executives or business owners. Your corporate culture is integral to the long-term success of your company. So, before you fall into the rabbit hole that I did, you need to figure out exactly what you expect from your employees.

Most importantly, you need to figure out how to communicate this to employees. Everyone wants an honest employee, or hard working, but the “how” is often left out when defining employee conduct. This is the difference between getting employees who show up 9-5 for a paycheck vs those who are truly invested and dedicated to the success of your organization as a whole.

Lead By Example
No one will buy into your mission or culture when they see you, or other higher-ups, breaking the rules that you set or not acting in-line with how they’re expected to act.

If you keep seeing employees leave for the same reasons, it’s not that you’re hiring bad employees (well, maybe a few). It’s because you’ve not done a good enough job of defining what it’s like to work at your company and what you expect out of employees.

No one wants to be blindsided after starting a new job. Be brutally honest and the ones that turn down your offer weren’t right to begin with.

It’s Not Them, It’s You
Part of leading by example is owning mistakes. I’m not talking about typos or improperly imported data. I’m talking company-wide failures. A perfect example is something my friend Guy Kawasaki coined “the Bozo Explosion.” It’s simple: “A players” hire other A players, and B players hire C players to make themselves look better.

Years back I hired a President to handle most of our day-to-day. Turns out, he was a B player and hired a slew of incompetent employees and contractors that inevitably cost my business just shy of $1M and took months to reverse the consequences.

Was I mad at the President? Sure I was. But at the end of the day, it was my fault for hiring him. When looking for the bozo, all I had to do was look in the mirror.

The truth is, there’s no easy way to determine who an A player is. Tonnes of candidates can look good on paper and appear to be a good fit for your culture. But if the culture itself is off, you’re going to keep hiring the wrong people time and time again.

So sit down and define who your ideal employee is. Then work backwards from that profile to define your corporate culture and you’ll prevent the downward turnover spiral.

The biggest revelation of all is that people are your most important asset. I’ve found that I spend the least time with my best employees. So, when looking to take your business to the next level, don’t look for that secret marketing initiative. Look for how you can strengthen your employees and the health of your organization, then the rest will follow.

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Credit: Scott Jordan