Building A Work Culture
Sadly, we spend most of our time at work. Knowing this, it would make sense to value improving the culture we work in. A typical day for most people will involve 6-8 hours of sleep, a roughly 8-10 hour workday, an hour or so or more of a commute, and then the rest is their time with family, friends, or whatever. That means 50% or more of our waking hours during the workweek is spent at work. Over the past year, “at work” has changed for many to mean working from home, but the majority of people still work outside of the home and with people other than family.
Most people inherit a work culture when hired and often feel powerless to change it because it isn’t theirs to change. Day in and day out, they go to work and do their job, waiting for their shift to end so they can go home to something they enjoy. I was like this for years when I first entered the healthcare field. The problem is that if we are in negative culture for more than 50% of our waking hours, that work culture begins to affect our lives outside of work. If this sounds like you, then you have two choices: change jobs or change the culture. I believe that we all have to power to change the culture we work in.
Start With The End In Mind
In his book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey talks about starting with the end in mind. I try and apply this to all aspects of my life. If I know where I am trying to go, then every decision along the way can be made by asking, “does this get me closer or further from the desired outcome.” This can easily be applied to work culture as well.
What is the culture you want to create? Remember, you will be spending 8-10 hours a day there, so in your mind, create the “ideal” work environment. What does it look like? Who works there? What is the vibe? Those are the type of questions to ask yourself as you create your perfect culture. This thought experiment allows you to see your culture and start to be your culture because you now have a clear picture of what it looks and feels like.
Be The Culture You Want
Now that you know what it looks and feels like, it’s now time to start to BE your culture. What does that mean? If you want your culture to be relaxed and fun, then start acting that way. If you envision a less formal culture, music playing, and co-workers engaging as friends, then start to do those things. You will be amazed at how quickly others will follow your lead. Most people want their workplace to feel better but don’t know where to start.
Each work environment comes with different barriers to the “ideal” work culture, and it can be hard to make changes for fear of ruffling feathers. My advice here would be to start slow and involve your superiors. Tell them your plan and how changing a culture can improve productivity, quality, and the bottom line. They love that kind of stuff!
It is impossible to change your work culture by telling others to do it. I have seen this a lot in my twenty-year career. Senior leadership gets a new great idea from some consultant who spends a few days watching your team in action. After a few days, they know exactly how to make your organization better and what has to change. This is passed down by the people who never leave their offices. You get the idea…it doesn’t work. Culture only changes when the people who are the culture want it to change. Know the culture you want, then start to BE that culture.
This is my plea to all the owners, presidents, directors, managers, and anyone else who is in charge of a team: hire the right people and TRUST them!
Trusting and empowering your team to do their job and create a great culture is the greatest gift a superior can give to their team. This starts by trusting yourself as the person in charge to hire the right people. Hiring must start with the end in mind. As someone in charge of assembling a team, you should have the culture you want to create in mind and hire to that culture. Assuming that you did that, then get out of the way and let them organically become the team you envision them to be.
Each member of the team should and will bring something different to the culture. If you trust them to be the person and team members you thought they were when you hired them, they will flourish. The culture you envisioned will come to be. If you try and make them fit a system that is not true to who they are, the culture fails. It is that simple.
You can not be all things to all people, and that is OK! I remind myself and my co-workers of this daily. There will be people who do not like your work culture. This could be new co-workers or customers. My advice is not to change unless a consistent trend starts to emerge.
It is always good to receive feedback, analyze it, and make changes if needed. I am a big proponent of continuous improvement. Evolving and growing your culture over time is necessary. However, if one customer complains about what you do and how you do it, that is not a reason to change. If you try and be everything to everyone, you will be nothing to many.
I think of my work culture as an identity. My co-workers and I have worked hard to create a place that we love to work at, and our clients love to come to. Our clinic is fun, loud, and full of energy. It is literally the opposite of most health care facilities. Most of our clients love it and find it a refreshing change from the norm and place that they enjoy coming to. Some don’t. And that is OK. Those people that do not like what we do are welcome to find another clinic, and I tell them that. If we change what we do for them, then we lose all of the people who love our clinic for what it is.
If you believe in the culture you have created, then do not compromise. Iterate, grow, evolve…but do not compromise.
You Have The Power To Make Change
Peter and I have mentioned many times on this blog and our podcast that we all have to power to create change for ourselves. We are the story we tell ourselves we are. This is also true for work culture. If you love your job but hate your culture, you can change jobs or make a change. From my experience, changing jobs is often not the answer. Unfortunately, a lot of work environments are awful. Don’t assume the grass will be greener. Take action today and make you work a place where you love to go. Remember, you spend 50% or more of your waking hours there, so it’s kind of a big deal!
What is your ideal work culture? Have you ever created your own? Do you have ideas like these on how to create a great work environment? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section below. We would love to hear from you!