Do you have the right culture ‘on the bus’?

Culture is an integral part of any company’s success. This applies equally to small and medium sized companies, as corporate organisations.

An interesting indicator of culture is to ask each member of your team the following question, and if they aren’t familiar with cars then use animals instead:

“If our company were a car / animal, what sort do you think it would be?” Then ask them why they said that.

For example, I’ve done this exercise as part of an assessment of a business overall, and heard answers like these:

“A BMW that’s 30 years old and still limps along”.

“A red Mini Cooper – we’re small and fast and can get into places that others can’t”

If you think your company culture needs some tweaking then go through this exercise with your team. You will discover a lot about what’s really going on in your business. We all know that a good culture will help you fly, and a weak culture will drag you behind, but very few business owners ever proactively do anything about addressing their culture. It’s worth addressing.

1. Strong cultures create strong companies
Best employers continually award top marks to companies where the culture is based on values of openness, transparency, respect, and trust.

It has been well researched that culture is a huge driver of organisational success.

Look at Virgin as a well-documented global example. This excerpt was taken from an interview with Bruce Highfield, HR director for Virgin Blue, after it had been established in Australia:

“Unless you get it right, you can’t restructure culture. You can restructure your business, but if you’ve burnt people or if you’ve killed their enthusiasm or commitment then changing their office spaces or even putting a few more dollars in their pocket will not unduly affect the culture that exists.

“Having a top team that really works effectively together is really half the battle. Culture starts at the top, and the leadership style of the boss is what filters down,” he says.

2. Good leadership drives good cultureDo You Have The Right Culture ‘on The Bus’?
So true. With all the best people in the world, if the leader doesn’t live and breathe good culture, then the team won’t be motivated to stay.

I have seen many poor leaders who are the antithesis of what it takes to create a winning culture:

  • They lock themselves away in their office
  • They’re too busy to have any quality time with their team
  • They continually move the goal posts so the team don’t know exactly what they’re meant to be doing and become resentful for what they have done being not required any more
  • They don’t mentor and support
  • They don’t lead by example
  • They lack confidence

You owe it to yourself, your team and your business to learn what it takes to become a good leader.

3. It’s not just about good people; it’s about the right people.
In the book ‘Good to Great’ Jim Collins talks about getting the right people on the bus (in the company) and the wrong people off the bus.

Good people will stay on the bus, even if the destination or the route changes, because of the other people on the bus who they want to stay with. When there’s a good culture on the bus, good people will be attracted to it and want to stay for the journey.

Culture is a combination of values + behaviours + capabilities. People bring capabilities and behaviours to the business and the business needs to have inherent values, like Virgin.

You can map out a model of your culture to cover values, behaviours and capabilities, so you can recruit, assess and measure against it.

Your culture determines how you and your team lead and influence others and manage customer and supplier relationships. These things will all equate to performance and profitability.

So, what is the culture on your bus, and have you created a winning one?