Whenever I hear someone talking about the secret of a company’s success, a little voice in the back of my head says “It’s the people.” Everything else stems from there.
Organizations, and even distinct teams within organizations, have a collective personality that reflects their culture. Like people, companies make a lasting impression… not just to customers, but also to employees. Culture is engrained in an organization’s values, amplified by its people, and reinforced at every experience touch point. Employees sustain culture in the organization in the ways they interact with each other, and a positive culture produces an environment where high performance teams can thrive. Getting it right ultimately means money. Yet, so many companies still get their priorities wrong.
Esteemed executive legend, Jack Welch, professes that “a high quality senior HR person is as critical as the CFO.” If your company does not treat the head of HR with at least as much importance as the CFO, then your company is getting it wrong.
As a former Virgin employee, I love this Richard Branson quote about his approach to people: “Convention dictates that a company should look after its shareholders first, its customers second and its employees last. At Virgin, we do the opposite. It seems common sense to me that if you start with a happy and motivated workforce, you’re much more likely to have happy customers – which, of course, leads to larger profits and happy shareholders.”
Culture is participative and does not work if forced. It may be the vision of one or a few, but culture is everyone’s responsibility. It is not simply an HR or leadership function. It is the job of a leader to set the right vision and inspire a team to embrace it. If he or she cannot, then culture will not be sustained by employees.
Every business leader has his or her own take on building high performance teams, so here is mine.
I believe in hiring insanely smart and passionate people. It is my role to learn from them, build the vision, and facilitate an environment for them to be successful at getting us there. It is critical to effectively scope and align process, resources, and responsibilities. I am not a micro-manager, and I think being a micro-management is a sign that something is fundamentally wrong. It is up to me as a leader to remove roadblocks and empower each team member to get on with it and excel at the job he or she was hired to do. I am only successful at my job if they are successful at theirs. It has to be all about THEIR successes or else it is MY failure.
I am especially proud of the teams I have built over the years and of what they have accomplished. If I do it well today, it is because I have learned from all the times I have gotten parts wrong in the past and from all the talented people with whom I have had the privilege of working. It is not easy, which is why it is important to stay so focused on what can make or break an organization… its people.
If there is interest, I will post a follow up on transforming the culture of a team or organization.