6 Things Managers and Executives Can Do to Improve Company Culture
Jeff Hayes, President and CEO of The Myers-Briggs Company
Organizational culture (company culture) is the way that people within that organization behave and what those people mean when they do those behaviors.
And as managers and leaders, you shape and transmit the company culture. Your behaviors reinforce company culture much more than vision and values statements do. Leaders are especially important in this because they have most influence in shaping and transmitting the ‘real’ culture (informal, perceived, understood). This is not necessarily aligned with the ‘ideal’ culture (formal, published).
So as a manager or leader, what can you do to improve your company’s culture?
Start with your employees
Managers and executives looking to improve work culture can’t overlook the people impacted most. And who have the most insight!
Ask employees what they think are the top things you could do to positively impact the culture. This is something we’ve been doing internally as we bring together multiple organizations under The Myers-Briggs Company. We created cross-functional groups and interviewed them about existing company culture, the culture they wanted to see in the organization, and what sorts of visible behaviors in THEIR positions would demonstrate that we’d achieved that sort of company culture.
It’s one thing to say what you want the company culture to be, the next step has to be engaging the workforce and having them visualize, verbalize and identify specific behaviors of that ideal culture.
Have a strategy around employee feedback
Don’t let employee insights go to waste. Your organization should demonstrate, clearly, how their feedback is being used to impact change. Failing to do so makes employees less likely to provide feedback in the future. Also, if one employee voices their opinion, take it seriously, because if one person is saying something a lot more are probably thinking the same thing.
In working on our own culture, we’ve created committees to address common feedback items so that employees are working together to solve identified problems.
Create more opportunities for fun together as a team or the whole company
Not only are these important opportunities to engage with one another on topics outside of day-to-day work, but they act as a great way to gain insights into how your team works together and communicates. It’s easy to get caught with your nose to the grindstone too often, and allowing time for fun is as important at work as it is in the rest of your life.
Allowing people to work from home if possible or offer a flexible schedule for work hours in the office makes employees feel more trusted and respected. Respecting your employees’ time and being accommodating improves confidence all around.
Employees who feel like they’re valued and understood, and are generally happier with their work/life balance, are going to be more engaged and more committed to the organization. Again, within our own organization we’re looking into the best ways to offer flexibility (especially with the crazy Bay Area traffic!).
Work on your own development
When you become a manager or executive, your personal development shouldn’t stop. But for many other things take priority. However, when you become a manager your own development should actually kick into high-gear! You’re responsible for the development of those you manage, and the best way to do this successfully is through leading by example and encouraging everyone to continue growing and developing.
I can tell you that within our own executive team, we recently did an MBTI and FIRO-B refresher training to get to know some of our global colleagues better. Even for those of us well-versed in personality psychology, we noticed behaviors as a group that weren’t as productive as they could be.
Our CFO and VP, General Counsel (for example) have preferences for Introversion while the rest of our executive team (five of us) have preferences for Extraversion. In our meetings, we realized that we weren’t giving time and space to those who preferred Introversion because the rest of us were so comfortable talking over each other and brainstorming out loud (very common for those preferring Extraversion).
Since that training, we’ve made a consistent effort to create the space and time for our Introverted colleagues to contribute. Now before we move on to another topic, we’ll ask for their input if they haven’t spoken up. When a question is posed, we all give it at least six seconds of silence before moving on so anyone thinking through alternatives can voice their opinion before we jump ahead.
Even at the executive level, we’re still working on our own personal development.
Balance long and short-term objectives for your company and your team
One of the biggest challenges for companies looking to improve workplace culture is the constant pressure to focus on short-term gains as opposed to long-lasting initiatives. Some of this stems from pressure to produce results on a quarterly basis and some of it comes from human nature of wanting easy wins and quick solutions to problems.
But thinking this way doesn’t exactly empower executives to take on risky or ambitious projects.
Projects that may not produce short-term results to tout in a quarterly earnings call, but can do long-term good.
When organizations shift to think more long-term, it’s easier to make arguments for employee wellness initiatives, efforts to improve employee engagement, and to improve an organization’s relationship with their community.
Even a shift to start thinking about gains over a 6 or 12-month period would have a significant impact in how organizations operate. I’m seeing more and more organizations realize that this focus on quarterly, short-term goals is counter intuitive and potentially destructive. It’s evidenced by the growing number of certified B-corporations: organizations committing themselves to goals of not just increasing profitability, but improving their impact on the environment, their accountability towards employees, customers and community.
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