Inspiring and effective leadership – and management that brings significant and enduring differences to a business – isn’t something that comes about overnight. Companies have an organic component to them; they respond to stimuli, they require cultivation, and only when a wide array of different components are in place and ticking along correctly, will they develop the culture of engagement required for success.
Top-notch management is absolutely central to cultivating a culture of engagement in the workplace and among employees. In fact, studies have shown that managers determine a minimum of 70% of the variance in engagement among employees, and the true figure probably sits much higher.
However, it’s important to bear in mind that the importance of management doesn’t specifically negate the pivotal role that leaders of all kinds play in cultivating this culture; good leadership at all levels is foundational to engagement and acts as a precursor to the roles that management play. Indeed, when leaders take on the role of champions of engagement, this clears the path for managers to first support and secondly sustain the engagement and culture of proactivity that has been successfully established.
Branding as an Aspect of Leadership
You might be wondering where branding and brand management comes into all of this. Well, as with so many things in business, everything is dependent on the knock-on effect that good business culture creates.
Branding is a valuable aspect of company culture, as it lays out a framework, a brand voice, and a feel for what a company is all about. Leaders need to incorporate brand values into every aspect of what they do; when leaders get involved with maintaining brand consistency, encouraging engagement, and creating that workplace culture of high engagement and care, this signals to managers and CEOs that those values are a key priority for the company. Furthermore, this will result in leaders holding management accountable for the ongoing success of that culture, and for the expansion of those brand ideals.
It’s important to remember, however, that the role of a leader goes far beyond accountability and messaging. At the very heart of this concept sits the true role of leaders in any workplace, and in any business. Leaders must adapt their practices, be open to new ideas, and strive for the establishment of an organisational culture in which positivity, proactivity, and high levels of engagement can thrive and replicate itself.
In this article, we’ll be looking at three simple but highly effective practices which can kick start a positive cycle of engagement culture, and which have the capacity to bring about dramatic changes that truly bring results. Brand management isn’t always at the heart of these practices, but what we do at Haus of Hendricks plays a fundamental role in sowing the seeds which allow company culture to flourish.
Recognising Company Culture for What It Is
All too often, leaders make the mistake of assuming that organisational culture is nothing more than a social phenomenon; something which will arise organically and of its own accord (or fail to materialise for reasons beyond their control). However, culture is the cumulative effect of branding identity, and of the shared values, rituals, thoughts, or behaviour of employees… and these factors have the potential to wield a massive influence on the actions and decisions of employees, and thus the way an entire business runs and performs.
Anyone who has worked in a number of different companies will have had first-hand experience of the effect of company culture. Some workplace cultures provide an atmosphere and network of motivation, leading to fuelled performance and high rates of employee retainment. Others, conversely, drain the motivation of employees, leaving them feeling as though they have no control over their individual and group environment, and no incentive to perform at optimal levels.
This partly comes down to perception, but the perception of work culture among employees hinges upon the actions and words of leaders. To put this another way, employees’ perceptions hold sway over their own engagement… and whether that’s a positive or negative force, in the end, comes down to leadership.
There’s little doubt about the fact that architecting a work culture of engagement is a daunting task, not least for leaders whose skills and attention are based on strategic and tactical matters. However, we’ve identified three straightforward, simple, and commonsense daily behaviours which set the right tone for positive workplace culture, and which lay a solid foundation for high-level engagement that makes a real difference.
Step 1: Be Genuine, Be Respectful
It should go without saying that everyday kindness and decency from leaders to employees is essential to a positive company culture. However, despite this as a baseline, many employees feel disrespected by, and disconnected from, their leaders. We’re not saying that leaders should become best friends with employees. Yet even subtle acts of interaction and outreach, and with techniques such as active listening and following up on comments and questions, leaders can shape their workplace culture in dramatic ways.
Simply by being visible, out on the floor, or within easy reach of employees, and starting each day with a greeting can provide an excellent foundation on which to build (this can be replicated virtually if your company doesn’t have a physical shared space). Employees like to be seen by leaders, just as they like to see them, too. They want to be reassured that leaders understand the pressures and stresses they face day to day. Importantly, they also need regular opportunities to voice concerns, ask questions, and be heard.
Leadership rounding programs (in which leaders directly interact with employees in a working environment) can go some way to meeting these requirements, but this only takes effect when leaders are consistent and dedicated, and it is approached with real sincerity.
Equally important to the foundation of culture is the simple, consistent, and regular acknowledgement of employee’s efforts and accomplishments. Time after time, we see absent recognition (or worse, recognition which is only ever limited to formal events or programs, when it is taken as a given) as a leading factor in low levels of engagement. A timely, genuine, and sincere ‘thank you’, followed by evidence of how the effort has helped or taken effect, goes a very long way towards cultivating that all-important engagement, and boosting morale which forms a cornerstone of positive culture.
Step 2: Communicate What’s Happening in the Workplace
One of the pervading stereotypes of leaders is that they tend to be a little guarded when it comes to communication. This is problematic for no shortage reasons… but not least because it leads to employees filling the gaps, often with assumptions that can be less than favourable.
Leaders should strive to be transparent, open, and approachable, especially in regards to changes and developments which are occurring within the organisation. This can only be fostered effectively by means of frequent and thorough communication via as many channels as is realistic. Sharing what is happening, however, is often not enough. In order to cultivate work culture, leaders must go a step further and explain the why as much as the what and how.
Leaders have a tendency to assume that employees are not open to change. However, this is most often not the case; change is almost always embraced, so long as the employees understand the motive clearly, and are given the opportunity to recognise how it furthers the company’s mission, and how it will affect both individual and group progress.
Bear in mind that communication is most powerful when it takes place before a change happens, thus allowing for employees to provide their own input and thoughts. Employees want to be heard, as we outlined above, and long-term employees especially want their knowledge, insight, and experience to be recognised by their leaders.
Once feedback has been solicited, leaders must act on it… even if that action involves explaining why the feedback cannot be taken on board or carried through. Failure to follow up will result in one thing: employees ceasing to provide any input whatsoever, and therefore eroding engagement and the culture we’re trying to establish.
This essence of openness and transparency is at the heart of what Haus of Hendricks does. We believe in sitting down with our clients, sharing ideas, and collaborating at every step.
Step 3: Promote Fairness and Accountability
We often hear that, in less engaged organisations, accountability is something relative. That is, the majority of employees actually believe that they’re following rules and working hard… and it’s always ‘others’ who are slacking or lacking in compliance. This is especially the case when few rewards for excellence are in place, and repercussions for those letting the side down are just as scarce.
Let’s make one thing abundantly clear: accountability begins with crystal-clear performance standards which are applied equally across the board, and that includes leaders and management. If leaders fail to model the correct behaviours and approaches, it sends a clear message to the team: that the company rules are, in fact, arbitrary.
At the same time, it’s highly important that leaders ensure accountability doesn’t become recognised as the same thing as punishment. Employees require consistent feedback from their leaders, emphasizing successes and recognising individual strengths and abilities.
A connected challenge with accountability comes back to tensions and friction between work units, and the common perception that one group has of another – that other groups or teams experience favouritism, or gain an ‘easy ride’ from leaders. This almost always stems from simply misunderstandings, and one team not being aware of another’s timelines, protocols, or individual pressures. In these instances, leaders should consistently encourage meetings with cross-functional setups, and in which teams can communicate with one another. The result? A reduction in distrust, and streamlined processed and boosted efficiency.
Leadership as a Positive Approach to Company Culture
It doesn’t need to be said that engaging employees is something for which there is no single recipe, and approaches depending as much on the nature of the business and the individual nature of the team, as much as anything else.
However, leaders focusing on workplace culture have the chance to deepen engagement and participation by heightening all kinds of initiatives, and in doing so, they set the stage for no end of future successes.
- Does your company have open channels of communication, so all members of staff are aware of any changes and the reasons for them?
- Are you able to encourage feedback, communication, and support networks for your teams?
- Does your company branding reflect your company culture? If not… how can it be altered and tweaked to allow this aspect of your business to shine?
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Haus of Hendricks brings luxury branding to multidisciplinary projects, enriching businesses with design solutions that radiate success. In the pursuit of visual engagement, we channel the poetic, foster innovation, and throw open the doors of possibility.
With results-driven creativity and artful design, Haus of Hendricks curates high-end branding, marketing and organises events that inspire great change. From conception to completion, we forge narratives that bring customers to your door, and provide graphic design, social content, and luxury packaging that sparks the imagination and cultivates success.