“Much of a company’s value lies between the ears of its employees.” (Jack Welch)

There is an old fable in which three stonecutters were asked about their jobs. The first said he was paid to cut stones. The second replied that he used special techniques to shape stones in an exceptional way, and proceeded to demonstrate his skills. The third stonecutter just smiled and said: “I build cathedrals.”

There is a big difference between someone who is just employed and someone who is inspired. This reflects itself in the results they produce. The best businesses have a deep emotional soul which employees become attached to. They believe in the company’s vision, goals and values and pour their hearts into making a difference. In this situation, when extra effort is called for, employees give it willingly and without complaint because they understand it is important.

This is what “culture” is all about. It is one of the most valuable assets a company can have. Essentially, it allows you to do more with less. It will also determine whether you have a team of stone cutters or cathedrals builders.

A great culture is not easy to create and its origins date back to the day a business is started. It is shaped progressively over time by words, behaviours and actions. Culture lasts a long time and once embedded is difficult, if not impossible, to change. You really only get one shot at it, so think carefully about every action you take and whether it will add positively, or not, to your business culture. This should be at the front of your mind at all times.

Here are some tips:

  • Make sure the business comes first, the employees second and you third – this approach will remove self-interest from your decision making. Self-interest is a culture-destroyer. By working in this order the business and the staff will take care of you, after you have taken care of them. “Inspire ‘em and love ‘em” and they will love you back. And remember, there are a lot more of them than you!
  • Walk the talk – if you promise something, make sure you do it – no excuses! Also, don’t be vague or non-committal – say what you mean and then do what you say. Got it?
  • Get out of your office and spend time on the shop floor – if you’re not spending at least half a day every week at the front line with staff and customers, start doing this immediately. They’ll love you for it and you will unearth a mountain of fresh ideas.
  • Improve people jobs (and lives) – do your best to redesign processes and systems to create more time for people to work on the things they like doing – this will improve productivity and generate more ideas from more people.

Jack Welch of GE fame once said much of a company’s value lies “between the ears of its employees.” He’s 100% right. Employees will respond positively to committed, engaged leadership – they want to believe in the vision of the business and participate in its outcomes – in exchange for this, you have to “go the extra mile for them” and commit to action, not words, in ways that help them reach their own personal goals and improve their lives.

Treat employees as individuals and show you REALLY care and you’ll build a great culture. Don’t and you won’t – it’s that simple…