As CEOs, we have a job to direct and grow the organization. And, when you look at your schedule, you probably have a lot of those activities in your business: from vision-casting to strategic meetings to special projects that you hope will result in new opportunities. However, there is one activity that many CEOs are not doing and it is hurting their organization.
Let me explain with the following illustration: Imagine two people who need to drive somewhere. They each get in their cars and go, and eventually arrive at the intended destination. Both people were in the same kind of car. But there was one difference: One car was tuned properly and working well, while the other one had impurities in the fuel line and a bad wheel alignment.
While both drivers arrived at their destination, one would arrive sooner and with less effort while the other took longer, required a lot more effort and worry, and even risked a breakdown along the way.
That’s because there are two factors at work in this scenario: One is the path and target destination but the other is the functionality of the car itself. By one measure, both travelers reached their destination but, when you consider the effort expended, there was one better performer.
Most CEOs Aren’t Doing This And It’s Hurting Their Organization
And that’s what’s happening in many Executive offices right now: CEOs are busy working on the path and target destination, creating a vision and executing on that vision; meanwhile, there is something happening in the organization that is holding them back. It’s not necessarily efficiency or a hierarchal structure or even who is in charge of what portfolios. What’s missing in so many companies is a focus on the culture.
Culture. It’s the hard-to-define fabric of your company. It’s how your employees view themselves, each other, you, and the organization as a whole. It’s how motivated your employees are to show up to work, and how much work they get done, and what they think about the value of their work in relation to your company’s mission.
Do your employees view their work as a valuable contribution?
Do your employees spring out of bed each morning to get to work?
Do your employees proactively look for opportunities to make themselves and their peers better?
Do your employees speak positively about your company to their friends, family, and potential clients?
The biggest indicators of what your culture is like is not when things are going well but when things are going poorly. When things are busy or when people are stressed, how do they feel about your company? Does your team close ranks and push each other toward victory or is everyone jumping ship and blaming each other?
CEOs Need To Be The Culture Leaders
Every company has a culture; some grow it by design but most let it grow by default. Like a garden, you can create an abundant crop that you care about or you can let it grow by default and deal with the weeds.
As a CEO, you may need to delegate efficiency or hierarchal structuring tasks to your COO but the culture of your company needs to remain your responsibility.
Here’s how to create a culture in your company:
- Spend more time with your employees. Get to know them. Take time with them. This is not an activity that pulls you off of your important work; it IS your important work.
- Create a common goal that everyone can get behind. Sure, you might have a revenue goal that you need to achieve but most employees want to feel value in their work beyond a dollar figure that they’ll never see. So, find a common goal that resonates with the human beings at every level in your company.
- Help employees understand how they fit into the big picture. The bigger the company, the harder it is for any individual person to see their value.
- Create memorable events. From outings to outrageous meetings that people will talk about for months to come, you will create a strong culture by creating memories and shared experiences.
- Create an “us-versus-the-world” mentality. This one is tricky because it can easily go wrong, but you will create a strong, high-performing culture when your employees feel that they are participating in an organization that is uniquely positioned in the marketplace. This can work whether you are the underdog or the leader in your area.
- Be seen. Record short videos that you share with your organization about the kind of company you want to be and the value of the work you are doing. Do this daily.
Culture is an often-overlooked (or sometimes-delegated) activity that should be on your schedule every single day. You already lead your company with a vision toward a goal. But, do you want to arrive at that destination in a finely tuned vehicle or with one that is sputtering and not operating at peak capacity? As the CEO, you are already working on the external aspect of growth but when you grow your culture by design, you make sure you arrive in a finely-tuned vehicle.