There are thousands of do-it-yourself seminars, books, and articles to help entrepreneurs achieve success. Business leaders continually look for the latest advancements and insights into what can make their company great. But sometimes the answer can be right underneath your nose, and it’s one of the most inherent, yet commonly overlooked aspects of a company.
A critical component to success is aligning company culture with mission and business strategy. Everyone from a C-suite executive to an entry-level employee plays an active role in achieving your company’s mission and business outcome. When we support our team by giving them the tools and resources they need to be successful, we are one step closer to achieving corporate success.
It’s important to understand what culture means because unfortunately it is too often associated with building a positive work environment or boosting morale. While these factors can be valuable, company culture goes beyond this concept. Culture must connect the dots between “big picture” milestones and employee goals. Culture is in the DNA of your company; it’s how people interact and the values they share. It binds your team together, creating a collective knowledge, vocabulary, and voice to achieve a common goal.
This DNA, of course, has to spread across the entire body of a company – not just one or two people. Often CEOs, particularly of startup companies, make the mistake of trying to lead all areas of the business on their own. When I first started my company in 2011, there were five employees and I was the sole decision maker. We were scrappy and determined, but not reaching our full potential. It wasn’t until we moved to a consensus-based leadership model and relied on each individual’s respective expertise, that we were able to grow to over 50 employees and hit our stride. This collaborative environment is ingrained in our culture and essential to achieving our corporate goals.
When company culture is properly fostered, it can serve employees just as much as it can business outcomes. Here are three areas to evaluate how your company culture is being developed and where there might be room to grow:
Team Leadership: Adapt to the idea that every person on your team is a thought leader. Employees at all levels make decisions, achieve results, and serve as brand ambassadors to external audiences. As a senior executive, set an example of leadership behavior for others to follow, encourage individuals to question the norm, and create opportunities for staff to share their knowledge.
Greater Education: Provide resources for employees to navigate the challenges of the workplace and measure their performance. At OncoSec, we provide employees with a personalized scorecard, self-assessments, company values, and resources to guide conversations with managers. These resources also serve as a blueprint or reflection of our brand – who we are, what we do, and where we’re going. The goal is to help employees hone critical skills and identify what they need to succeed. It is also a way for companies to define and track changes that are related to the execution of their milestones and overall performance.
Collaborative Environment: Create an atmosphere that is aligned to the way your business is conducted. For me, it was important to break down silos and open doors for employees. We use a progressive approach to measure performance to ensure managers trust their employees and employees trust their managers. In the end, it’s rooted in elevating everyone’s leadership. We also implemented a hybrid design of open and private office space in our new building. We needed an environment that increased creativity (due to the nature of clinical projects), but also contained private spaces to analyze and digest information.
When entrepreneurs and leaders make a concerted effort to ingrain culture into how the company functions and drives its strategy, you’ll be surprised by what you can achieve. By fostering culture, you not only set your company up for success, but your most valuable asset: your team.