Hands up if you love Monday mornings?
And what about your team? Do they leap out of bed excited to start another week working with you, or do they get the Sunday evening blues?
Even worse, do the Sunday evening blues get YOU?
How not to do culture
When I worked at NEXT doing my professional training 20 years ago I absolutely hated Mondays. To be fair I hated most days I worked there. On paper, a fabulous company to work for, and many people had a better experience than me, but the finance department back then was a harsh place to be.
It was first-in last-out presenteeism at its worst, they had an active policy of “Managing Expectations Downwards” – God forbid should any of the ambitious people they’d recruited actually want to grow and develop, and the only women that “made it” were the ones who adopted the aggressive alpha culture and put work before family or having a life.
It wasn’t all bad; I learned so much about brilliant financial management and worked with some inspiring people, and I met the awesome Trudi Lilley who’s now my accountant and great friend (she hated it as much as I did!) But it was without doubt the most miserable 3 years of my career. I’ll even share a secret with you… I used to cry in the shower many a morning at the prospect of another day there.
The biggest irony is that they trained me for 3 years, paid for me to take all my professional exams and qualify as an accountant (for which I am genuinely grateful) but because I felt so stamped down, I resigned the day I qualified to set up my own business – 19 years ago next month in fact!
Great investment huh?
And my biggest lesson was about culture. How not to make people feel devalued and downright miserable. How there must be better ways to help people be their best.
I often wondered, if they allowed everyone to fly rather than rigidly box them into their place in the grading system, slowly destroying their ambition and potential, just how much more successful could the business have been? Could people like me have been happy there? (ie the gobby ambitious ones who weren’t going to have their future decided for them!)
If everyone could show up as their best, free to throw their ideas into the mix, feeling able to speak up and shine, what could the knock-on effect have been?
But it’s still going on, and in a business like yours
I get to see inside a lot of business and although I believe culture is definitely evolving in lots of ways and becoming more human, I still see the outdated command and control model being used way too often.
We get a unique insight because of what we do. We see the financial performance and results of those businesses, and we definitely see a correlation between unhappy, demotivating and disempowered cultures, with poor profitability and tight cash flow.
So what do these cultures look like?
- Staff being KPI’d to death in the name of accountability
- Suffocating micro-management, instead of allowing people the freedom to use their intelligence and judgement to find a way to hit their goals
- Rigid rules and structure in the name of control that make people feel like they’re back at school
- A lack of flexibility; being unforgiving about life stuff that everyone has to deal with
- A self-fulfilling lack of trust – believing that staff will abuse any perks, like working from home or flexible working
- Volatile or bad-tempered business owners that rule by fear
- Lack of access to the directors, making people feel disconnected from the business
- No sharing of vision or strategy, so people don’t know where they’re headed
- Staff don’t feel valued or important in any way to the business – they don’t know if what they do even matters in the bigger picture
- High staff turnover – so lots of wasted time and money spent on recruitment and training
- People don’t do a jot more than they have to. Why the hell would they?
To summarise, they look and feel miserable. They have low morale. You can actually feel the low energy when you walk into the office.
And your business can only ever be as good as your people, so this isn’t the way to build a great financial future.
But when your team LOVE working for you, know that what they do really matters, have freedom and flexibility to do their job, are treated like grown-ups, and feel they’re being nurtured and developed, they show up very differently every day, full of ideas, energy and passion.
Doesn’t that feel better?
But don’t do it just for the money
Although I’m making a clear case that having a great culture is the best way to make sustainable long-term profits and build financial value in your business, it’s unlikely to work if you do it just for that reason.
Culture has to be genuine because you want your team to be happy working for you and not dreading Monday morning.
Because you want to show kindness to the people that spend most of their waking hours with you.
Because you want to head a business where your team are buzzing with ideas and energy, and wouldn’t even consider leaving – they’re just too damn happy.
I guess the biggest question to ask yourself is would you want to work for you, in your business?