By Julie Smith and Will Hill
This was the question we found ourselves discussing recently. It’s a challenging question that begins with…what do you think your firm culture is? Can you describe it? And, how do you actually know if you have a positive culture?
According to Company Culture Statistics: Leadership and Engagement in 2022, 88% of job seekers say that a healthy culture at work is vital for success. In the wake of recent articles about “quiet quitting,” and with the talent shortage top of mind in most firms, building a positive culture should be a top priority.
The more we talked, the more we realized that there are five common denominators to positive firm cultures that can be replicated with commitment and intention from leadership.
- “I’m fiercely protective of my culture.”
Culture should be front and center. Leadership should be thinking about their firm’s culture every day. Every person in the firm needs to be engaged, feel heard, and feel valued.
It’s easy to get lost in the daily grind and forget important things. Things as simple as making eye contact when someone walks into your workspace and not multitasking when someone asks you a question. Demonstrate that who you are responding to is worth your time.
When you are fiercely protective of your culture, words match behaviors. The open door policy is really an open door policy. Leadership is transparent and available, and it doesn’t happen behind closed doors. Which leads to…
- A collaborative environment.
When you cast a direction or vision, do it together with the team. In some firms, leadership teams make a decision, plan out what is needed to get done, and assign tasks and steps. Collaboration is far more effective in executing change, getting buy in, and driving a positive, strong culture.
Importantly, you must value everyone’s opinion in a collaboration in order to arrive at the best options. Ask for your team’s input, ideas, and feedback. Empower your team to figure out answers to tough questions and how to re-engineer processes that no longer work.
For firms who aren’t used to collaborative decision making, where do you start engaging your team in key decisions and getting their buy in?
- Start with your firm’s mission.
You can’t work on your culture if you don’t know what your mission is. A firm’s mission is more than ‘what we do.’ It’s about how you prioritize changes that will come as the firm evolves and serves clients. Every decision should be centered around the firm’s mission.
As a leader, it is your responsibility to make sure everyone understands what their role is and where they fit into the overall mission for the organization- and to hold them accountable. You don’t have to have all the answers. Try this with your team, “I have an idea. I don’t have all the answers, just an idea.” Allow the team to own it, and direct them to get the results you want.
- So, you’ve been operating without talking about your culture with your team…
Let’s assume you have a great one. But, let’s also assume you have an opportunity to amplify it with your next staff hire. You are in an interview, and they say, “Culture is very important to me, and I want to be part of a firm with a strong, positive culture.” Start here. Define what you have in your firm. This is where you will likely discover gaps that you can begin to fill.
Perhaps you find yourself off in the weeds too often. Having a confidante can help keep you focused and on task. It’s beneficial to have another person to help with the lift of leadership. If you’re not leaning into your team then you’re not utilizing a valuable resource.
Pain is twice as motivating as pleasure. If you’re feeling the pain of people leaving or you’re struggling to attract the caliber of talent your firm deserves, you’re undoubtedly ready to initiate change. Ask yourself a couple things:
- Do I engage with my team and actively listen to their ideas and needs?
- Is our mission clear for all my team members?
- Have I placed people where they have the best chance for success?
- Does my team interact with each other in a positive nature?
If any of the answers are “no” then it’s time to get to work on your culture.
- Positivity is mission critical.
Approaching everything you do from a positive standpoint flushes out the negative. Come at every problem with positive energy. Leadership must always rise above any negative.
Negative team members will stand out. When they do, a direct conversation must take place. There is no time or room for leaders who are unable to address conflict. Sometimes, people don’t realize they are being negative. Help this person see for themselves that they need to address and change their attitude. Great cultures don’t attract great people, they attract all people.