When you’re facing a mess in your company, it can feel overwhelming, even unrecoverable at times. There are moments in the bathroom, in the car, or in your office when it feels like the walls are closing in and you can’t breathe because you don’t know how to turn it around.
The good news is that nothing is unfixable until it’s gone.
If you’re experiencing a poor company culture today, take these lessons, implement them, and do things differently.
If you want to avoid company culture collapse, pay attention! These problems are avoidable if you have the proper systems with checks and balances in place.
Here are three companies who have been there and what you can learn from them.
CEO, Howard Schultz, was an inspiring leader that created a values-driven company culture for the coffee brand which led to sustained growth and product quality over a 14 year period. His vision for the company was strong and innovative, but when Schultz took a step back from the company, things fell apart.
When Starbucks hit an all-time low, Schultz came back to lead the company into its next era of success. He brought the focus back to leadership, culture, and quality products. He closed down hundreds of underperforming stores, retrained all of the remaining teams how to make an excellent cup of espresso, overhauled the company leadership, instituted a customer loyalty program, and created an alliance with Arizona State University for all employees working over 20 hours per week to qualify for free online tuition.
Broken down, first Schultz reinforced company values through new policies and procedures. That’s why the leadership was overhauled and the employees were retrained. Values and vision are what guide your company. When you abandon them or don’t support them with real processes and systems, it’s easy for even the most successful companies to find themselves off track with profits dwindling.
When considering your own company, do you have clear and memorable values in place? Do you have processes and systems that support your team carrying out those values in their daily work? What processes, systems, or training could you implement that would help your team more easily uphold these values every day? Are there any executives, managers, or other employees standing in the way of your team meeting company values or goals?
Secondly, Schultz implemented loyalty rewards for both customers and employees. A successful culture is one that leads by investing in its people. When you pour resources into developing your employees, personally and professionally, you build an emotional bond with them that makes them more loyal and engaged.
What are some loyalty programs or incentives you can use with your people? Is there a certain training or certification they’ve been asking for or that could help them accomplish their tasks more efficiently? By creating wins for your employees, you create wins for the company.
Which vision would you rather accomplish—building a bee colony or having a War of the Roses?
Battles between departments and even team members are common in company cultures where competition and being the best are at the forefront. What begins as harmless motivation to increase your numbers, close more sales, or produce at a higher rate can quickly become a divisive war that sabotages the company’s success.
Former Ford CEO, Alan Mulally, decided that in order to turn the company around, he was going to get everyone rowing in the same direction. That’s when he implemented “One Ford”. This ideology brought all of the divisions and leadership together, creating a simple vision for everyone. Finally, instead of focusing on how divisions could “outdo” one another, they were working together for a common goal.
Looking at your own company, does your culture promote competition among divisions or peers? Do you promote being the best or being your best? What are ways you can build relationships between your people? Are you aware of any workplace bullying that needs to be weeded out?
Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box when looking at ways to bring your people together. The more they behave as one cohesive team, the more they will accomplish.
Satya Nadella inherited a hurting Microsoft in 2014, and while there were many things he shifted to overhaul the company culture, perhaps the most important piece he implemented was a company-wide growth mindset.
Under previous leadership, people were often punished for mistakes due to how employee reviews were conducted. Managers were forced to rank their team members, which meant even a successful employee who was doing great work could earn the bottom rank if they were on a strong team. This led to innovation being stifled and increased workplace stress because employees were afraid to share their ideas or make mistakes.
With Nadella at the helm, those practices and expectations changed. Ideas became encouraged, and mistakes are now considered learning opportunities. Even the CEO himself has apologized on internal memos when he’s spoken out of turn or spoken before considering all of the perspectives. This has created a culture of learning-forward teammates that now have the power to support one another. With stronger emotional buy-in and employee engagement, the culture is now thriving—as are company stocks.
When you think about your company, what opportunities are available for growth? Are you punishing your people for sharing their ideas or making mistakes, or are you turning those moments into launchpads of excellence?
The more opportunities and resources you give your people to succeed, the stronger your culture will grow. As a leader in your company, it’s your job to make sure those opportunities and resources are available to your people.