The jury is out. According to research, CEOs, founders, and senior executives all face similar challenges no matter what industry they’re in: building talent, scaling the business, and reacting quickly enough to change.
When you start a business the only thing you’re worried about is keeping your head above water -- paying the bills, generating revenue, and not eating another ramen noodles dinner. That’s it. However, as your company grows more and more successful and demand increases (ideally), the need to scale organizational competencies grows with it. While the need to scale is natural (a fifty person company works differently than a 500 or 5,000 person company), the behaviors that garner success are not. If you haven’t established the right norms, that’s when you look back and go, “Uh oh. We need to change how we do things around here.”
Don’t let it get to that point. Starting a company is one thing; starting it right is another. Just as a house requires a strong foundation to support its infrastructure and withstand unexpected catastrophes, startups are no different. To start off on the right track apply the below practices beginning day one of your new venture:
1. Share your toys.
Being transparent about decision-making and the criteria used to arrive at those conclusions serves three things.
First, it helps others understand your thought process so they can learn and adopt (or not) for themselves. Second, if Joe knows how Sally two levels above him arrives at a decision, then it empowers Joe to feed Sally the right information she needs and ignore the impertinent, thus saving time.
Finally, it doesn’t take a rocket surgeon (that’s a joke) to know that honesty builds trust. State Treasurer of Ohio Josh Mandel instituted the Transparency Project, an online database that allows residents to view state expenditures down to the actual check used. If the government can do it then, well, let’s just say anything is possible.
2. Communicate consistently.
There’s a saying I share with my coaching clients: You can over-communicate, or under-deliver, but the choice is yours.
By over communication I’m referring to touch points through the day and calendar year that are as reliable as a hangover after a night of mixing red wine and tequila shots (true story). When employees are consistently provided feedback on their performance, roles, responsibilities and expectations, there’s no ambiguity about where they stand; they can focus with laser-like precision on any paint points that exist without stressing about the unknown.
Remember, though, that there’s a difference between micro-managing and overly communicating. Micro-managing is about control; over communication is about awareness. Don’t be the micro-manager everybody loves to hate.
Related: When It's Appropriate to Micromanage
3. Hire for fit.
Hire for character, train for competence, coach for performance. The people you associate with and with whom they associate all fuse together to create the culture and brand that others will either pursue or purposefully avoid -- much like walking on the other side of the office hallway to avoid (yet another) awful conversation with Johnny.
4. Define winning.
Along the lines of transparency comes a shared definition of winning. Everybody, across all business units, needs to know how the CEO defines success so they can map their efforts toward it. Unclear language or an absence of clear metrics create unwanted ripple effects that put large burdens upon frontline employees trying to navigate uncertainty.
Just as people need personal development every day, so too do organizations require daily cultivation to sustain a culture of excellence. Start today, but continue every day.
Related: 10 Ways to Build a Winning Culture