In its simplest form, an organization is a mutual relationship with the public. If a company gears the majority of its efforts outwards, the inner works will slowly begin to disappear.
Focusing on the internal works of an organization–beginning with its leadership–sets the tone for employee behaviors and interactions, and eventually customer relations.
As Simon Sinek has famously said, “If you take care of your people, they’ll take care of the customers.” The importance of good leaders and an environment that fosters the success and growth of great leaders will affect everyone.
Leadership Involves Pathfinding
Leadership involves pathfinding: looking forward and behind to define where the organization is going and what it wants to become.
This involves everything from identifying who your core consumer is, how you speak to them, which platforms you reach them on, and what value you provide them. Organizations across the globe know this, but very few know how to execute pathfinding in a way that builds a mutually beneficial, respectful and valuable relationships with their stakeholders. As with any sustainable and healthy relationship, trust is a foundation that must exist from the start.
Edelman’s 2020 Trust Barometer looked at how people trust four major societal institutions: government, business, NGOs, and media. This year’s report revealed that “none of the four institutions is seen as both competent and ethical. Business ranks highest in competence, holding a massive 54-point edge over government as an institution that is good at what it does (64 percent vs. 10 percent). NGOs lead on ethical behavior over government (a 31-point gap) and business (a 25-point gap). Government and media are perceived as both incompetent and unethical.”
As I built BW Missions, I realized that the best way to instill trust is to provide a platform for people to share their stories. This lets us authentically, transparently, consistently show up for our clients and our community. It also lets our customers show up in a real way for their own communities, building trust around the causes they care to press forward.
“Leadership involves pathfinding: looking forward and behind to define where the organization is going and what it wants to become.”
It’s About Cultivating, not Showcasing
Your ability to establish a foundation of trust––and act on that foundation––will benefit everyone. Remember, it’s not about showcasing, but cultivating. When you cultivate a consistent and balanced internal culture first, your relationship with the public will naturally follow second.
Emotional skills are just as important as the technical skills, if not more, when building a strong internal culture. A team cannot focus on what they need to do if they feel misplaced or undervalued. Slowly, over time, employees who feel undervalued will give less and less because of how they feel in the workplace. To prevent this, consider adopting one or more of these habits.
- Take an “employee audit.” Learn who they are as people. Diving deeper to understand your team members on a more individualized level will catalyze, ripen, and protect skill growth and your company’s overall efficiency. It’s not always about someone’s output — their personal performance is often a reflection of how much you care about them as an individual.
- Host team huddles. Over the last 6 months, our team of 3 became 4, then 5, then 6, and continues to expand. As we grow, we’ve had to perfect our communication rhythms. The single-most transformative tool has been our team huddles. They occur every day between the leadership team for 15 minutes or less, where we share anecdotes that showcase our company core culture, express gratitude for professional or personal events, and recap daily priorities with time for discussion and questions.
Once a week, the leadership team hops on a one-hour zoom call for problem-solving discussion and strategy brainstorms. Not only do the team members on these calls reap the benefits of a more unified action-plan, but the core messages and takeaways cascade from the team leads to everyone on the BW Missions team. This communication cadence has catalyzed our efficiency and led to incredible breakthroughs in new ideas, solutions for stuck-points, and growing closer amidst virtual obstacles.
- Ground everything in your core values. Core values are the guiding principles to company culture, and can only be effective if they are intentionally set, known, recognized, and practiced throughout the entire company. Core values should be a priority to every team member, and should become embedded in conversations, events, and goals.
Building upon and sharing the values, passions, and purpose of the brand’s narrative is impossible if those executing it do not feel like part of the team. Maintaining a high degree of communication demands authenticity from the top-down, and builds trust from the bottom up. Experiment with feedback outlets, different technologies, and get creative!
Internal culture is more than setting up a ping-pong table in the office and using emojis on slack — it’s unifying your team and amplifying the members of your brand.