What is a business about? Creating products, delivering services, making it worth everyone’s while financially. But when you build a business, you create more than outputs. For one thing, you create a place that people go every day instead of going somewhere else. A place where they go to be with the people you hired instead of other people. A place to do the things you want them to do instead of all the other things they could be doing instead. We all have a certain amount of energy to do stuff with. But the nature of our workplaces can either build on that energy or deplete it. So don’t fool yourself – you aren’t just creating products, services, and businesses – you are creating force fields.
You can call it culture, climate, or something else. You can even ignore it completely, like so many people do (while talking about it a lot). But you aren’t a truly savvy business leader unless you’re also an insightful architect of its underpinnings. Your tools are your behavior, your decisions, priorities, feedback, communication – it all contributes in some way to the way people feel when they walk in the building, and to the way they feel when they walk out of it. In the middle, this implicit, invisible force field shapes the kind of choices they make on behalf of your business.
This is where touchy-feely and nuts-and-bolts merge. We don’t want people to just think or just do, we want them to feel. Sure we want people to think, “I’ll choose product/service xyz” and be willing to pay for it. But we also want them to love it, to love you! Likewise, we want people to do their jobs, but we also want them to love them! Because when the energy they bring to their work expands versus contracts, they feel great and they do great things. They tell other people “come work at Acme Corp!” and then you have the best of the best knocking on your door.
If you want to build a killer culture, you don’t make an itemized list and hand it out as people come in the door. People don’t memorize your mission, vision, and values – they intuit and sense them, and they either embrace them or they don’t. People care a lot less about fancy perks than you think, and they care a lot more about how their work places make them feel. How, as a business leader, do you create this resonance?
To evoke feeling is an art form. To create a company where customers love to do business and employees love to work, you have to show, not tell. You need to be part storyteller. Stories help us connect to each other and to bigger ideas through shared history, meaning, and emotions. Show people what your business is all about by living your beliefs and talking about them. Tell stories that let people be part of the organization’s history and one of its heroes.
“I used to believe that culture was ‘soft,’ and had little bearing on our bottom line. What I believe today is that our culture has everything to do with our bottom line, now and into the future.” – Vern Dosch, author, Wired Differently
“Corporate culture is the only sustainable competitive advantage that is completely within the control of the entrepreneur.” – David Cummings, Co-Founder, Pardot
“Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.” – Simon Sinek, author, Start with Why