What really builds a great culture in a rapidly growing business?

In the last issue, I wrote an article about the importance of treating your employees as adults and why we don’t run an adult day care centre at Insentra. I often have entrepreneurs ask me how to make their culture fail-safe, especially when their business is growing rapidly. The answer: there is no fail-safe way to create an exceptional culture. However, if you create real alignment to the company vision and strategy, build a leadership team who have the passion to implement the vision and foster an environment where people can be their best self, then your culture will take care of itself. Let’s explore a few ways we achieve these goals.

Gain Alignment
For culture to be sustainable, every single leader in the business must be aligned. The culture must be clearly defined, articulated and communicated.

We recently ran a two-day offsite workshop for our leadership team with the aim of getting all leaders of our business aligned with the company vision. The event was structured around a fantastic concept by Steve Farber who wrote a book called The Radical LEAP. I would encourage every entrepreneur to grab a copy and take a read. It speaks to the concepts of Love – loving what you do in the company of people who love what you do. Energy – people feed off your energy as a leader, so bring positive energy into every interaction; positivity begets positivity. Audacity – encouraging people to be bold and to have the difficult conversations (often resulting in “Oh Sh*t Moments) and Proof – don’t just say it, do it, live it, be it and do it consistently.

At the end of our two days together, every member of our leadership team left energised, absolutely in alignment with the company vision and with clear steps for how they can behave to continue the consistent implementation of our culture.

Foster teams, not hierarchy
Hierarchy kills the business. Every organization has a hierarchy which is needed in certain situations such as performance escalations, and career path opportunities, among others. However, when the hierarchy is used to “pull rank” then it becomes defeatist to building a successful culture – it destroys the concept of team. If a team is operating effectively, no one should ever have to leverage their position to get something done – all team members should want to support one another regardless of roles. At Insentra, we have a motto of One Team, One Dream – if someone unnecessarily pulls rank based on hierarchy then we see this as a red flag. In a team, environment hierarchy should not be required.

No conversation is off-limits… unless it’s bitching
Culture is killed when people are not able, to be honest with one another. This is where bitching comes in. Bitching is off-limits in our company; it is the root of all office politics. Every member of the team is encouraged to speak openly and to be audacious – have a difficult conversation without fear of negative consequence. People will be comfortable to speak openly and have much-needed conversations if the hierarchy in the business is not feared.

Encourage Escalation
Staff often don’t escalate issues for fear of it becoming a career-limiting move or that they will be seen to be “throwing someone under a bus”. Without an ability to escalate, issues remain open and fester, driving ‘bitchy’ conversations and relationship breakdowns. Creating an environment where people feel comfortable to escalate (and to be escalated upon) enables every conversation to take place in a constructive and productive manner. It is essential to ensure that the escalation does not result in the initiator being chastised, otherwise people will no longer escalate.

We are on a constant journey to ensure our culture is maintained as our business grows. Building and maintaining culture is a never-ending process and one to be embraced. A culture can and always will be the make-or-break of a great business. BFM

Ronnie Altit