Company culture is the unique personality of a company. It is the group dynamic that emerges from people individually as they collectively make decisions about how to work with others and deliver on their role. Culture stems from the founders’ goals, behaviour and personality but is also develops of its own accord from the interactions between people over time in the group dynamic.
Traits of company culture in a successful growth B2B SME
The Listen, Innovate and Grow B2B Framework defines five cultural factors you need to get right:
- Balancing failure and success, team and individual
- Motivation through purpose
- Empowerment of the individual
- Enablement of the role
- Creating happiness at work
For a full explanation of the Listen Innovate Grow framework, please see this post.
Balancing failure and success, team and individual
A helpful way to conceptualize motivations and behaviour is through spectrums of: (a) outcomes, success or failure and (b) individual versus group dynamic. These matrices define the LIG Health Growth Culture Matrix. It’s an idea developed through assignments working with high growth companies that share wonderful permissive cultures where people are empowered to drive change and success.
The model is shown below.
Listen Innovate Grow Healthy Growth Culture Matrix
The model describes four behavioural modes that employees can inhabit based on (1) how they respond to success and failure and (2) the extent to which they internalise or externalise each. A strong balanced growth culture is one where success is shared but individuals feel pride in their personal contribution. It is a workplace where there is true ownership of failure as a step on the pathway to success.
Motivation through purpose
People who come to work with purpose are more enthusiastic and will exercise more discretionary effort in the pursuit of their goals. As a leader, being able to effectively define and communicate your organisational purpose and aligning personal goals to it is a key enabler of growth.
The purpose should be seen at every level in what your people do, from tangibly expressed statements such as the company vision, mission and goals, through to regular company communications and the type of language used in it.
- It is imperative that when you hire, applicants understand your organisational mission, values and goals and that there is a natural affinity with them.
- Every role in the organisation, described by a job role description, should be linked to that purpose so that all your people understand and know how they individually are contributing to success in achieving the purpose.
- You should never assume your people understand the purpose of the company and their role and ensuring that this is broached in your regular annual review cycle is critical.
Empowered people to do their best
Even if your people understand and are aligned with your purpose, it will amount to nothing unless they are empowered to contribute. This means they have the necessary control and authority to do their job. Beyond their role, they should also have opportunities to be able to express their opinions about how the organisation functions and how others can work better.
Key habits to empower your employees include the following:
- Demonstrating your trust in their decision making
- Allowance for them to make mistakes and treat them as opportunities to learn
- Asking guiding questions as the means to engage and provide direction
- Demonstrating positive thinking and a focus on mutual problem solving
Enabling people to deliver
Supporting employee’s means ensuring they have the tools and resources to do their job. A person can be motivated and empowered, however, without the right resources and tools, they will ultimately fail through lack of enablement. This is the worst sort of failure because it is tantamount to setting them up for success and then pulling out the rug from under their feet at the last minute. Suggested strategies to ensure your people are supported in achieving their purpose are:
- Asking ‘do you have everything you need to do your job or can we help with something?’
- Through the review cycle, ensuring employees think actively about what they need to do their job and identify any gaps
- Budgeting generously for learning and professional development to fill any gaps
- Monitoring for excessive working hours or signs of stress. People working long hours are probably feeling unsupported but trying to do the right thing by filling gaps themselves.
- Asking people to think ahead about where things will be over the short, medium to long term not just functioning perpetually in the present ‘do’ state.
Ensuring people are happy at work
Everybody can feel the ‘vibe’ of a company the moment they walk in the door. Some places are serious and reserved while others are vibrant and filled with life. There is no right or wrong about this, but whatever the mood, employees should feel happy and enjoy what they do. While happiness at work arises from purpose, empowerment and enablement people must also find their work stimulating, interesting and motivating.
Suggested actions include:
- Regularly checking that people still find their role interesting – if they don’t, identify stretch opportunities or a new role that presents new challenges.
- Giving people, particularly younger people, and opportunities to work across different areas of your business. People naturally identify and gravitate towards what interests them. Don’t be afraid to let people change roles if they need to explore new horizons.
- As your organisation grows new jobs will open-up. You should encourage people to consider their interest in those jobs and consider moving into them.
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