Certain industries are notorious for the kind of company culture that they cultivate. Hedge funds on Wall Street are known for fostering an extreme form of cut-throat competitiveness (not unlike what is depicted in The Wolf of Wall Street). By contrast, places like social work organisations tend to be more collaborative. Most workplaces will fall somewhere in between these two poles. The thing about these two cultures is that they both carry downsides that can impact the long-term health of your business. Highly competitive workplace environments bring out excellence and top-notch results, but they also encourage people to undercut and back-stab each other in an effort to be the best. Egalitarian businesses foster creativity, collaboration, and empathy, but they can also suffer from weak leadership and low productivity.
As the owner, it is up to you to find a good balance that encourages excellence while still promoting a sense belonging to a team. Your employees will only move in the direction that you lead them in – the culture of your workplace starts at the top and trickles down the ladder from there. If your workplace suffers from nepotism, mistrust and internecine fighting, that is YOUR fault. You are the captain of your ship, and it is your responsibility to lead in a way that empowers your employees and rewards merit.
Setting the right tone for your business is a daunting task for those unfamiliar with how to go about it. Fortunately, there are a few simple yet powerful steps that you can take to seeding your business with the right behaviours and mindset, so that it will blossom into something greater.
1) Never play favourites
We get it: you get along with some people better than others. It’s only natural that you’ll align with certain personality types better, but that does not excuse or justify treating them better than other people. When you allow subjective factors like that to influence who you hire and promote, you undermine the integrity of your workplace and show that competence and merit are not valued or rewarded. Businesses that suffer from backstabbers and “brown-nosers” are almost always guilty of violating this rule. Don’t make somebody a manager just because they’re your friend or family member. Let a person’s work ethic and performance be the sole dictating factor in their promotion, and that focus on excellence will work its way down to the lowest employees in your company.
2) Hold yourself to the highest standard
You set the tone of your workplace. Your employees will follow your lead, and the standard you set for yourself will be the standard that your employees ultimately hold themselves to. If you ask your employees to perform a particularly dirty task, be the first to do it yourself. If you ask your employees to stay late, don’t hesitate to do so yourself when the times call for it. If you demand that your employees keep their smartphones off of the floor, don’t check your text messages every five minutes. If you hold them to a different standard than what you hold yourself to, you will lose your respect and credibility as a leader.
3) Set goals and follow up, but acknowledge success
Employees do not start off apathetic and unmotivated. In most cases, a failure of leadership has led that person to become disengaged with their job. Preventing that process from beginning is accomplished by setting clear goals while still empowering the employee to achieve them. People will take pride in what they do if they know that they are recognised by management for what they do. Set a target for your team and hold them accountable to it, but make sure to give them ample feedback along the way.
If your employees know that you are paying attention to what they do and entrusting them to perform at their best, they will go above and beyond what is expected of them. A worker without aim is an unproductive and unhappy one, but one that is micromanaged will begin to doubt their own abilities and self-worth. Find the right balance between the two, and you’ll be amazed at what your employees will accomplish.