Every entrepreneur I’ve met wants to go faster. Whether that means faster processes, faster content creation or faster sales, people like us are hard-wired to chase momentum. But in my experience, entrepreneurs often overlook their single biggest weapon in increasing the speed of growth: their company’s culture.
One of the greatest challenges CEOs, managers and business owners face is the motivation and engagement of their team members. A 2015 study found that only 32 percent of employees were truly engaged in their job, 50.8 percent of employees were not engaged and 17.2 percent were actively disengaged. These numbers are disturbing for entrepreneurs looking to build a solid team around them and usually reflect the lack of a strong company culture. But for the optimists, these numbers provide an incredible opportunity to gain an unfair advantage over the competition.
If we as entrepreneurs could flip those numbers around and build a team of actively engaged individuals with a shared vision and sense of purpose, we could all move forward faster toward our greatest contribution. But creating a cohesive, motivated team isn’t always easy. There are a multitude of opinions on the best way to do it and thousands of online articles offering up different ideas and solutions.
All entrepreneurs are unique, and everyone has different ways of inspiring their team. But in my 20 years of helping entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 companies grow and expand, I’ve found the fastest way to create an inspired yet stable workforce is to have a strong, established company culture as the backbone of the organization. I’ve also discovered there are general tactics that can help any leader improve the engagement of their team and get leveraged results.
The single most important element driving your team’s engagement is an established Client-Centric Mission. This mission should reinforce items like:
● Who your company wants to help.
● How you’re going to help them.
● The changes you want to make in the world.
● How success will be measured.
When people have a clear picture of where they’re going, why they’re going there and how to get there, things fall into place more easily. There’s less ambiguity around team roles, and an individual’s sense of purpose increases as they’re able to actually see the impact of their work. No one enjoys busy work. The clearer you make your Client-Centric Mission, the more energy and intention your team can put into their work.
Few people enjoy blindly following orders or being a pawn in someone else’s scheme. So I’ve found that one of the best ways to create engagement is to make sure your team is a part of the creative process. Whether you’re building a new system, brainstorming content or coming up with new strategies, try setting an outcome for your team to figure out. By allowing them to contribute their thoughts and opinions, and help develop a solution or plan of action, you give them a stake in the outcomes of that project. When people are brought in at the beginning of a new undertaking, they carry more responsibility and feel a sense of ownership for successful delivery. They’ll care more about success because they have a personal investment in it.
The daily huddle is a quick meeting held every morning to provide the team with a chance to get on the same page, set an intention for the day and understand company performance. It also gives the team a chance to acknowledge the contribution of unique team members. In my company, a section of the daily huddle is called “Who Got Caught Being Awesome?” By encouraging all team members to point out something valuable a fellow team member did the day before, you create a positive environment that rewards performance. When you acknowledge a team member in the daily huddle, that recognition is leveraged because it’s done in front of their peers. Praise is always magnified when shared in front of a crowd, even with only a few people. So use this meeting as a chance to celebrate wins and focus on critical issues that the company needs to address.
Your culture won’t take hold or grow unless you talk about it often. Holding monthly or quarterly culture meetings (depending on how fast your company is growing) allows you to discuss the foundations of your culture and what you’re trying to build. It also allows team members to express what the company culture means to them and any ways they think it can be improved. These meetings are especially helpful when leadership takes the time to tell personal stories about how the company was founded and what it means to them. The more teams understand leadership, the greater their connection to the company and its direction.
I’ve seen these small habits and perspective shifts change entire companies. When you can provide a clear path for your team and show them how their role contributes to the company’s overall mission, individual talents become leveraged, momentum increases and the work environment is more enjoyable. If you’re looking for the quickest way to speed up your company’s growth, look to the people around you. Figure out how you can improve their careers, and your company will improve along with them.
About the author: Alex Charfen is co-founder and CEO of CHARFEN, a training, education and consulting organization for entrepreneurs and small businesses. For more information, visit www.charfen.com.
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