Creating a Culture for Company Growth
Ginny Grimsley, Sep 17, 2021 8:30:00 AM
Company culture is the shared attitudes, goals, and values of an organization that starts with leadership and impacts every aspect of the business, from the way internal meetings are run to the way customers are sold to and served.
We talk about the culture of our companies in terms of how they’re set up to make things happen, and to get things done, and we’ve been pretty proud to call our company cultures “performative,” but does a culture like that maintain a cushy space for humans to grow and, thus, for companies to grow?
In a performance company culture, everything depends on either winning or losing no matter what, and there’s not a lot of room for the biology—which is always messy.
Your company is made up of humans. Humans are biology, and biology is messy. If leaders behave as if that’s not the case—that they’re perfectly energized, hopeful, successful, efficient, and rosy all the time—they inspire their team to expect the same of themselves, and that’s too much pressure for anyone.
This is a lie that will always get exposed one way or the other because it’s literally unsustainable.
People burn out. Leaders exhaust themselves and take their frustrations out on their teams.
Basing the entire culture of a company on its performance—on the strict binary of winning or losing—is like pouring seawater on your petri dish. Nothing really grows in a culture like that for long.
When a manager builds a growth culture, teams can hone their ability to think critically and see through blind spots.
Leaders who project vulnerability by acknowledging insecurities and shortcomings rather than unconsciously acting them out inspire teams to do the same.
As a result, people in cultures like this spend more energy creating long-term value and less time defending their humanity. How much people know is less important than how people feel and make others feel. That’s the biology of it.
So, how do you culture for growth?
Building a growth culture requires a combination of individual and organizational pieces. Deliberating creating a growth culture in your business requires:
- An environment that feels safe, inspired by leaders who are willing to show their own vulnerabilities and own their faults and mistakes first.
- Instead of judgment, certainty and self-protection, people should be encouraged to be curious, transparent, and continually learning.
- Steady, clear feedback—at every level of the organization—that is grounded in a company-wide commitment to helping each other grow and improve.
- Short, easy experiments with new ways of doing things in order to remind everyone that change can be productive and safe.
Culture Comes From the Top
Leadership has the biggest influence on company culture, and if you’re not leading the creation of a growth culture in your business, it’s being shaped for you—and in a way you may not want. Be conscious of your leadership style, and stick to it in everything you do. Acting, speaking, and (most of all) thinking consistently in alignment with the culture you want to build is foundational to trust which creates strength even through tough situations.
Curiosity over Competition
Competitive environments can challenge team members to bring their best and strive for better results, but too much competition has a negative impact. It can create fear, resentment, and anxiety. Nothing crushes your soul more. If it can crush your soul, it will crush your business. Asking questions, though, leads to innovation which leads to growth. When you allow your team to ask, to show, and to be innovative and bold, and you’re willing to do the same, your company culture flourishes for the long haul.
Clear Feedback on a Consistent Basis
Transparent communication helps team members understand opportunities for growth and can build confidence and trust. For leaders who are interested in building a safe company culture that retains great teams, transparency involves earning your team’s trust by communicating in an open, honest way. When team members feel like the people in their company can be counted on to tell the full truth, they’re happier and more productive.
How individuals and teams respond to change says a lot about the state of the company. For companies looking to scale, adaptability among teams is crucial, but teams can’t adapt when they’re afraid. When people can adapt and are versatile in their work and ways of working, positive change within the company that promotes growth is more possible. Individuals who can adapt have a positive attitude that inspires others and the environment. Leaders who inspire positive change and model adaptability do the same for their companies.
To Challenge or to Nurture? Both.
Culturing for growth requires a delicate balance between challenging and nurturing others and yourself. This can be difficult when we’re taught that business leaders should be withdrawn, tough, and ruthless.
Historically, performance-driven company cultures inspired fear by creating a zero-sum game in which people are either “winners” or “losers.”
But, business leaders are realizing that building a strong business culture that inspires trust, respect, and dignity in workers and clients truly flourishes over time.
Building a culture like that takes into account our biology is a growth culture: people feel like winners more often (and get a lot done) when they are challenged and nurtured in equal measure.
Growth leaders realize that just because humans (and leaders are human, too) have off days or make big mistakes doesn’t mean they’re “losers;” it means they’re human.
A big helping of empathy, compassion, and mutual respect every day goes further toward a healthy company culture than intimidation, fear, and judgment ever could.
We’re culturing and cultivating growth at Growth every day, and we can help you do the same in your business. Contact us to catch this spirit of service we have spinning around.