How to Build A Productive Culture

How to Build A Productive Culture

Yes I know…another article about culture.  I feel your pain.

A colleague and I had a coffee with a client this week and we were discussing some issues he was having in his team.

My colleague mentioned culture and I could see his eyes rolling back into his head.

I knew why.  He could see hours and hours of work being created for he and his leaders with no measurable outcomes.  He’s probably worked with consultants on company culture millions of times and ended up with a set of values and no practical tools to help make sure his staff live and breath them.

The subject of “culture” is a topic that confuses leaders because it can feel so intangible but, as Peter Drucker said:

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast”

Let’s start by clearly defining culture.

Culture’s oldest and simplest definition is “how the work gets done”. 

By understanding that culture is about “how” things are done, it’s easier to understand why focussing on culture ensures optimal business performance.

It’s how we serve our clients. It’s how we ask each other to do things.  It’s how we feel about going into work and interacting with the people we will see all day.  It’s how we lead and manage.  It’s how much of our discretionary energy we put into any important task.

Everyone in the team should be facing in the same direction and working towards a shared purpose.

We should all know where we are going, and how we are going to get there.

When something goes wrong, we should all be in it together.

This week kicks off a series of three blogs about relationships.  This one will be most relevant to leaders.

Next week we talk about how to build productive relationships and the following week we will hone in on productive networks.

Here are five steps to building a productive culture:

1.    Be clear about your values

Your team’s core values should define your culture.  They serve as behavioural guides for all of us to live by.  They tell us how we are going to achieve our purpose as a team.

Why values are important:  Values tell us how to behave.  If we encourage employees to live by our values, we are assured that they’ll act according to our vision of how our brand behaves in the market.

How to establish values:  Once you understand why your organisation exists and your purpose or mission (the why and the what), your next question is how.

  • How do we need to behave if we are to be successful?
  • How will we delight our customers?
  • How will we lead the market?
  • How will we treat each other?
  • How will we treat ourselves?
  • How will we be better tomorrow than we were today?

(PS.  Our coaching team can facilitate workshops to help you define your core values.)

2.    Reward the right behaviours

Let’s be practical.  If you want people to behave in a particular way, you really need to incentivise them to do so.  Much of the time we fail to reward the right behaviours.

Why rewarding the right behaviours works:  What you measure and incentivise happens.  Rewarding excellent work is much more productive than disciplining bad behaviour.
It inspires the right behaviour across the team by leveraging off positive action.

How to ensure you’re rewarding the right behaviours:  At an organisational level, make sure your incentive program rewards the right actions.

For instance, most sales environments offer bonuses to employees only based on their individual financial results and then struggle to get staff to fulfil their compliance obligations, or support each other as a team.

As leaders we may not have the opportunity to change our company reward systems but we can recognise positive contributions in other ways.

3.    Encourage group-wide productive habits (and do so one habit at a time)

One habit that has significantly changed the productivity of our team, is the habit of asking not to be disturbed when you are working on something important.

We all love to chat, but no one gets offended if a teammate asks, “Can we talk about that later as I’m working on something important right now?”

That might seem like a small thing but most workplaces don’t have cultures where one employee will say “can we talk later?” to another without feeling guilty or having someone taking offence.

When you have good relationships internally, you can ask for what you need without guilt particularly when you realise that it’s for the good of the team as much as for yourself.

Why this works?  When you get your whole team to commit to key habits together, you encourage a culture of collaboration.  Habits that encourage optimal productivity include:

  • Always starting and finishing meetings on time,
  • Discouraging needless email communication, and
  • Encouraging team members to delegate work as soon as it hits their desk and not an hour before it’s due

How to do it?  Slowly.  Agree to the habits that will make the most difference.  Gain agreement from everyone involved (this requires communication, coaching and training and having all leaders agree and commit to change).

Focus on new habits one at a time.  Perhaps this month you should work on saving each person 1-2 hours per day by introducing “do not disturb” protocols, then next month gain further productivity improvements by introducing greater meeting disciplines, and the following month have your team commit to start email batching.

Before you know it, your team will be operating like a well-oiled machine.

4.    Create a learning culture

Creating a learning culture is all about succession planning.

Why this is important: Hiring for company culture is hard, particularly in leadership roles.  Growing talent from within allows you to maintain a productive culture with little productivity lost when there is turnover or growth.

How to do it:  Only hire people who will champion your values.  Provide formal and informal opportunities for coaching and development at all levels.  Encourage your leaders to take responsibility for attracting and developing talent for the firm (if you want this to happen it needs to be included in KPIs).

At an individual level, be the person known for developing talent by supporting less experienced people in your business, and be known as the person who always takes time to learn from those who are more experienced.

5.    Create opportunities for the team to socialise (without alcohol!)

Visit our offices and you’ll see our team socialising in many different ways.  We eat together in our beautiful kitchens, we exercise together, and we might go bowling or play laser tag.

Last year one of our colleagues Sam Holliday had an art exhibition and everyone from the Sydney team were there to support him. Earlier this month a handful of staff volunteered at the RSPCA together.

In March, Ashton Bilbie, Sam Holiday, Ben Duffield, and David Ashton will hike three peaks in three days raising money for a charity we support that works for disadvantaged teens called Whitelion. (You can support this worthy cause here)  While it will be of most value to the four gents…the whole team will be behind them.

Some of these events involve alcohol, but most don’t.

Why it works:  The members of our team are all different and come from different walks of life, so if the only opportunities for us to socialise outside of work involved drinking I think we’d be less likely to know each other. Working together on common goals outside of our core business helps us to work together better in our day to day jobs.

How to do it:  Create opportunities for your team to socialise.  Going to drinks every now and then is fine but it won’t challenge people to talk to people they wouldn’t necessarily socialise with.  Team activities like laser tag or charity days encourage people to work together in different ways and promotes the kind of understanding we need to have of one another if we will truly respect and support them.

Join Our Productivity Coaching Program

We will work together over a six week period to help you become more efficient and effective.  After defining your goals and success measures, you’ll receive weekly coaching calls as we introduce new strategies each week to help you save one to two hours per day, achieve your goals and maintain a healthy and happy personal life.

Review the program information here.

For a free consultation about the Program email me or call 03 96029890.

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