Small businesses aren't immune to the disease of disengagement that's plaguing American companies. I see it everywhere. Owners hire people to perform certain roles and then fail to support them in those roles. They don’t share their vision for the business and restrict employee involvement in it. This behavior creates a loosely connected team with members who have no vested interest in the company and won't stick around for the long haul.
Wouldn’t it be terrific if you could create a culture of contribution, and be able to positively leverage your staff as an extension of your organization? I asked Dr. Maryann Baumgarten, the president and CEO of transformation training and coaching firm LitUp Leadership, about how managers and owners can build more engaged and productive workforces. Here's her advice on how to move your culture needle one team at a time.
Lead With Purpose
Nietzsche said, “He who has a why can endure any how.” When was the last time you articulated your purpose? Why are you in business? What are you aiming to accomplish as an individual, as a team, as a company? Why does it matter? Purpose creates a single point of focus for the whole team. Not only will you approach your own work with more passion, but each team member will feel empowered and connected to the company’s success. Communicate your why regularly by working it into meetings, marketing materials and even performance reviews to make it a living, breathing force.
Build A Sense Of Belonging
Sports teams have colors, names and logos so fans can easily relate to and internalize them. Making the sense of belonging more explicit in your team will increase each member’s sense of peace, camaraderie and connection, which, in turn, will drive loyalty and productivity. Have you considered a team name? Rituals, events and other opportunities to bring the team together also can help create a secure foundation.
Divvy Out Domain Control
Supporting autonomy is a key requirement for healthy team functioning. Giving your employees full control over an aspect of the business will enable them to think through solutions more effectively. When they know the why of the company and you both agree on the high level “what” behind the domain they own, they can freely decide how to deliver more powerful, innovative results. They will feel trusted and free to be themselves, which increases their commitment to you and the company’s goals.
Make Contribution The Bottom Line
When your employees’ work directly benefits the team and the organization, they get the all-important feedback that they matter. Show your people that without them, business outcomes would be very difficult, maybe even impossible. While individual performance is important, your emphasis should be on an employee’s contribution to team performance. When the team accomplishes a goal, allow the employees to decide on a specific incentive that involves everyone. Baumgarten suggests, for instance, in addition to individual bonuses you might consider a team bonus that goes to a charitable organization of the group’s choice.
Finally, the most important thing you can do as a leader who desires a positive culture is stay in tune with your team. Note what your people need and how it's changing over time. Communicate actively, be aware of roadblocks and continually take action to sustain your momentum. When something works, repeat it—and when it doesn’t, be willing to throw it out or rework it. This process will only make you better.
Read more articles on company culture.