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Ronnie Altit, founder of Insentra, a global IT services business, and a member of the Executive Council for the CompTIA ANZ Channel Community, shares his thoughts on company culture.
Have you ever stopped to question a company’s culture before partnering with them to deliver a solution? As the CEO of a 100 percent partner-led business, I have learned organisations with a fantastic corporate culture – with teams who love what they do, who they do it with and why they do it – are without a doubt the most partner-friendly. This will lead to the most successful engagements for your clients. It’s always good to look at a potential partner’s culture. However, for true partnership, the culture starts with you.
Business basics dictate that leaders must create vision, mission and value statements. The real question is how well the organisation understands them and, more importantly, how well they’re lived. All too often, vision statements provide no inspiration, don’t evoke emotion and sit on a wall collecting dust in a marvellous-looking frame for all to see. The reality, in many cases, is they’re just words on paper until the leadership creates a people-focused culture to support the vision and each person in the organisation believes it is achievable.
“People are our most important asset” is a much-overused statement by leaders in business. How many leaders put their teams ahead of the bottom line? How many create an environment where people love what they do? In my experience, the numbers are more likely to come first and the people second. This is crazy thinking. Without the people there are no numbers to speak of and without a people-first culture cultivating happy teams, a company will never be successful.
A people first culture doesn’t just happen; it needs to be created, nurtured and fluid. Culture starts at the top with the CEO, permeates from the bottom and percolates from within; it must be consciously created. It has to be definable in words and front of mind for not only the leaders but for every person who is a part of the organisation. Most importantly, it must be real, true and core to the DNA of a business where staff say things like, “It’s how we do things here” and “That’s not who we are as a company.”
So how does one create and nurture such a culture? Here are five influential ways:
1. It starts at the top.
The CEO is the owner of culture and must lead by example, living the values every day. The CEO must define the culture, set the tone for what’s acceptable and unacceptable and regularly remind the crew of the importance of having an outstanding culture. If you are a CEO, take ownership today and make a profound impact on your business.
2. You have to define the culture.
For a culture to be easy to understand, people need to be able to explain the behaviours that enable it. In our company, we have an analogy of a rocket-propelled steam train and every person who joins reads this before their final interview with the CEO.
3. The whole team must personally identify with company values.
Most organisations set company values and expect individuals to live them in a certain way. For values to have true impact, it is important to recognise the differences in individuals and the way they uphold the company’s values. Sure, there needs to be a baseline understanding. However, a narrow viewpoint will only result in meaningless words. Engage with your teams and run workshops to unpack the meaning of your corporate values and innovative ways in which they can be upheld. Listen to your teams and incorporate their understanding while celebrating their differences.
4. You have to lead from the heart.
An effective culture cannot be created or grown without the entire leadership and management living and breathing the company values. Their belief and behaviours must be authentic because people immediately see through facades. Be sure to hire and promote leaders and managers who truly believe in the values of the company and want to ensure they are consistently applied through the organisation.
5. It’s not just the CEO and leadership.
Every member of a company is a custodian of its culture and needs to be empowered to make decisions leading the company to live its values. Often, we hear people say, “This company once was a great place to work but it’s changed” and we blame management. Going on the basis that there has been no change in management, the culture in the company changed because every person inside the company allowed it to happen.
I remind my team to be vigilant daily and ensure they don’t allow the culture to change. Empower your teams to own your culture and let them police behaviours. When everyone believes in the values, they won’t want to see the change and won’t let it happen. If you hear someone saying the culture has changed, ask them what they are going to do about it.
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Ronnie Altit is founder of Insentra, a global IT services business, and a member of the Executive Council for the CompTIA ANZ Channel Community.