This Is How to Build a Successful Organization That Reflects Your Beliefs

Business leaders come in every shape, size, gender and personality. Some are laid-back and flexible and allow employees lots of leeway to come and go if they get the work done. They dress casually, and play is considered a big part of the work process. Other leaders are buttoned-down and prefer a bit more rigidity in schedules, a more formal dress code, and employees have a common objective and assigned tasks. Both leadership styles produce results and success, no doubt. However, what’s most important is that the leader establishes corporate culture and focus. Then, leaders must communicate—and model—these beliefs for everyone else in the company.

So how does one do this?

Every business owner or executive team leader must first make three decisions:

  1. What will your corporate culture look like?
  2. What will you focus on?
  3. How will you behave?

It is critical for you as the owner, CEO, general manager or division manager to answer the three questions above. Because … if you don’t do it, someone else will. And if that happens, chances are you will not be happy. So how can you strengthen your leadership role and ensure that your organization’s focus, corporate culture and employee behaviors reflect your values?

Use the following four strategies, and the culture will reflect your beliefs and values:

1. You have to set the tone from the get-go

Your vision—or your lack of it—is reflected in your organization’s business. For example, if your business casual dress code has morphed into jeans and T-shirts, why are they wearing jeans? Or, if a slightly less strict schedule for work turned into an atmosphere where work hours are more like guidelines than actual rules, ask yourself why the situation occurred. Most likely, you failed to set an example of what you want your corporate culture to be, so you invited your employees, intentionally or not, to set the stage for you. Employees need leadership. If you don’t make decisions, they’ll fill in the blanks.

2. Determine your company’s focus by setting the rules  

Do you want your team to focus on customer service? Or do you want them looking for growth opportunities … eliminating overhead … or expanding a soft client base? If you don’t determine the top two or three goals for your organization—at minimum—then lower levels of management or the workforce will make up their own. And what are the odds that those goals match yours? Even worse, I’ve seen cases where separate departments focus on completely different, and therefore conflicting, agendas.

For example, you have departments that focus their energy on projects that do nothing to serve your target customer base, spreading your organization and its resources too thin. Or the projects may not be profit-oriented, which slows growth and limits your bottom line. Wherever you choose to focus your organization’s energy, make sure the decision is clear to everyone. Then establish guidelines and specific tasks for each team member.

3. Model the behavior you want to see in your team 

Leaders set the example for their team members. If a CEO is just crazy about email, and he zaps out emails all day long, then everyone else in the company will too. As a result, the organization may suffer from a lack of face-to-face meetings. The CEO sets a bad example and gets bad results.

If you see behavior you don’t like in your organization, first look at your own behavior. For example, if you observe that your people often speak abruptly to one another, you must ask yourself if you are abrupt in your own interactions. Do you set an example of flexible, considerate customer interaction? Do your employees? If you don’t, chances are good they won’t either.

4. Communicate your beliefs and values every day  

If you want employees to embrace your chosen corporate culture, you must constantly communicate and reinforce those values verbally, physically and visually. In addition to modeling the behavior you want, reiterate the company’s culture in your newsletter, on your intranet, in your orientation manual, on your Web site and in all your verbal and written communications. Because different people have different learning styles, a combination of reinforcement tools ensures that your message gets across.

Another useful strategy is the use of contrasting examples to illustrate what you don’t want. For example, if a company is in the news for a behavior that goes against your desired culture, highlight it during a meeting by stating, “This is not how we do business.”

The goal is to create a win/win environment  

When you use these four strategies to determine your corporate culture, focus the organization on what’s important and establish norms of acceptable behavior, everybody wins. By providing a clear direction for your people, you reinforce your leadership role, strengthen your organization and create a business that is based on the beliefs that are most important to you.

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