“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” – Peter Drucker
Culture is a deeply embedded part of any organization. It shows through your employees’ values, ideologies, assumptions, behaviours and attitudes; and is the one thing that is not only critical to success, but hard to shift in the face of change. As such, a toxic culture in the workplace is detrimental to any business.
Toxic Culture Starves Businesses
Corporate culture has often been likened to an iceberg, in that most of its weight and bulk lie below the surface where it is hard to see and reach. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to impact, just that it takes patience, persistence and a focused effort from all levels of an organization.
I have been involved in many purchases in which the organization was failing due to a poor internal culture. When an owner runs a business based solely on the bottom line, it is impossible to foster a positive culture. The problem is you can’t be successful in business if the internal culture is toxic; It will literally starve the business.
Small Businesses are still Susceptible to Toxic Culture
Small business owners are probably the least likely to concern themselves with creating a strong internal culture, but probably the most at risk from having a toxic culture. As Lou Gerstner, former turnaround CEO for IBM once stated, “Culture isn’t just one aspect of the game; it is the game.”
Internal culture, if not created from the get-go, can be fostered, but in the face of change, that same culture will be tested. It takes a determined and focused effort to ensure that each and every employee, regardless of level or responsibility, is invested in the health and well-being of the organization. Here are four tips to creating a strong base, and avoiding toxic culture in the workplace:
1. HIRE RIGHT
Looking for people who share like values is the first step in ensuring that your team is on the same page. Creating a values-based hiring protocol allows you to focus on identifying how well a candidate’s values align with the organization’s values. At the end of the day, your decisions should be based both on who has the best experience as well as who is the best cultural fit. Both are critical.
2. DRINK THE KOOL-AID
You can’t expect employees to buy-in to a corporate vision that isn’t supported at the highest level. You really need to ‘walk the walk’ and not just ‘talk the talk.’ It’s a very similar approach to how you hopefully secured investors. Who would invest in you if you don’t invest in yourself. You have to completely believe in your vision, your strategy and your team so that others will follow. It starts at the top.
3. TOUCH BASE
Never assume that your employees are “on board.” While on the surface all might seem productive and positive, remember, corporate culture often lies beneath the surface. Take time to really talk to your team members and ensure that not only are they performing, but that they are invested in creating a culture that drives your business forward. Having these touch-point moments allows your team to feel valued and working toward a common purpose.
4. RECOGNIZE & REWARD
We too often only recognize financial achievements, placing lesser value on qualitative results. While this might drive a healthy sense of competition in the short-term, it is an eventual ticking long-term time bomb. It’s important to recognize those in your organization who are helping to support the organization’s vision, regardless of their job title or level. Every single person is responsible for steering the boat in the right direction.
At first it may seem as if corporate culture is an elusive piece of the puzzle, but creating an organization based on solid fundamentals and creating a team that believes in the vision and the strategy is a great place to start.
About Roy Murad
Roy Murad is a father, husband, business advisor, investor, advocate for new business ventures, and consummate entrepreneur. Over the course of 35 years building businesses, guiding companies and identifying strong investment opportunities, while nurturing a thriving family, Roy Murad has amassed a wealth of experience; experience, that may be of value to others who are looking to shape a balanced and successful life experience.
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