It feels like more has been written about business culture in the past few years than in the entire previous century, and justifiably so. Smart companies and business leaders know the right culture can make all the difference. Unfortunately, much of what grabs the headlines revolves around the more sensationalistic cultural components. Egg freezing, zero hierarchy and paying for the college tuition of employees' children are just a few innovations or "gimmicks" that have drawn mainstream media attention.
While there's nothing wrong, per se, with any of the above mentioned benefits, they can steer leadership teams to focus on the wrong drivers of culture. The "wow" of the "hip" office quickly wears off and elaborate benefits packages can get taken for granted by even the most conscientious employees. And, surely, some on your team are not planning on having children, already have grown children or actually do want a great boss who can mentor them.
The companies who have enduring great cultures are the ones that don't necessarily ignore the bells and whistles of culture. On the other hand, they understand the most significant component: the right people. Here are three traits that cultural keepers must possess -- and that businesses cannot afford to overlook.
1. Look for friendly professionals.
Never underestimate the power of surrounding yourself and your team with friendly personalities. If your entire team were warm-hearted, naturally friendly and happy, imagine how much more pleasant your work environment would be. All of sudden, people actually look forward to Mondays and employee retention soars. Friendliness is infinitely more transmissible and merits greater attention than indifference. With the right people, a culture of "nice" can quickly develop. This translates to how customers are treated, which impacts new sales, repeat business, customer service and beyond.
2. A willingness to go the extra mile.
Like most characteristics you desire for your business, this one starts from the top. When was the last time you went the extra mile for an employee? And, I'm not necessarily talking about grandiose gestures such as exorbitant bonuses or lavish gifts. Did you wish someone happy birthday, take them to lunch to celebrate closing a good deal or better yet, offer them a helping hand when they were swamped? Going the extra mile for an employee is a simple way to set the tone for the entire organization. It's also how you gain lifelong employee loyalty and the benefit of the doubt when the going gets tough.
Having a team of employees who go the extra mile consistently helps to minimize any constraints in your organization. Going above and beyond the call of duty can win new customers and retain ones you may have otherwise lost. The extra mile leads to customers for life. It's amazing how good old-fashioned extra effort can be a difference maker and serve as a cure-all for the inevitable mistakes -- or ill-timed missteps -- that can plague even the most whip-smart teams.
3. A team-first mentality.
Many businesses are obsessed with attracting star players. They believe strongly in the 80/20 rule and given that, do whatever they need to accommodate the top performers, sometimes at the sacrifice of camaraderie and teamwork. Great organizations value excellent performers, certainly. But by putting the team before the individual, they actually attract and develop more of them than their competitors do. As Jim Collins wrote in "Good to Great," Level 5 leaders are ambitious first and foremost for the company, not themselves.
An emphasis on the team creates an atmosphere where no single person is looking for individual glory, which helps to offset unhealthy competition and ruthlessness within your organization. The team win is all that matters. And the right people on your team are the ones who are driven more by helping their teammates succeed rather than their own career ambition.
Not only are friendliness, extra effort and a team-first attitude traits that drive a company towards success, they're also traits that don't particularly require extraordinary talent. To construct a team full of individuals with the aforementioned qualities, simply lead by example. And most important, look to onboard and promote only those who characteristically possess them in spades.