Organizational culture eats strategy for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Building a winning culture is something many companies don’t work on. It is left to chance and is giving a little lip service. Your company must first have a purpose for being. What problem are you helping people solve? If everyone understands that then you can build the culture around that.
Southwest Airline wants to be the low-cost carrier. That is a simple straightforward purpose. It is easy to share with someone new to the organization. We don’t need to spend a great deal of time explaining it.
How do you share your purpose with new people to the organization? Remote teams need to be able to quickly grasp the organization’s cause. It helps them make quick decisions. For Southwest, if it doesn’t help them remain a low-cost carrier then they don’t do it.
How do we create a common experience for each of our employees in a remote environment? To facilitate this we need to establish standards and procedures. Starting with a common language of how we interact and perform our work.
Each day the team needs to have these common values reinforced from multiple levels of the organization. If we send mixed signals to people we can quickly undermine the culture. Everyone needs to be accountable to these common values. The president of the company does not get a pass.
One way to create the common experience is to educate your team so they understand the purpose. Education should be on-going as we share the corporate vision. I have heard leaders talk about “visioncasting”. As a leader, your team needs a repeated education of the vision.
Building culture requires creating social engagements. Many remote companies have yearly or semi-annual gatherings to build the cohesive team. Having time face to face can really strengthen the bonds that have begun virtually.
Think of ways to get people to interact differently. Perhaps it is a trip to a bowling alley for a friendly competition. Could you spend an afternoon at an ice skating rink or a paintball course? When we are working together we get to know our professional side, it is also important to get know the whole person.
As you study human motivation you realize that it takes more than adequate compensation to get people to work. Recognition from peers and their corporation is a big factor for many people. When you lead a remote team to find ways to recognize the accomplishments and help feel appreciated.
When you highlight quality work in a meeting this gives their peers a chance to congratulate them. If it comes off as inauthentic though it can have the reverse effect. Make it personal and genuine for that particular person.
Early in my life, I thought I had to always be right and make a perfect choice. As I have gained experience I have learned how important it is to try things out. We need to abandon the “failure is not an option” mindset and see how an action is our friend. Each time we try something we should gain some feedback and be able to have a better understanding.
Remote teams need to help draw out our failures as lessons learned and share them. If we become isolated and get a misguided representation of our colleagues this can be dangerous. As leaders, we need to shine the light on our failures and help our teams approach them with the right attitude.
This really dovetails nicely into learning. Failure comes before learning in life as it does here. We want to create an organization that is always learning and innovating. As we take new approaches to existing challenges we can help our organization grow.
I once heard a leader state how “teams that learn together to grow together.” Bringing our team together to share a new technique or new technology can help share learning and knowledge. It also can help build camaraderie amongst the teammates.