My friend and mentor Greig Clark said this about growing a successful business:
“Building a great company means creating something that is slightly more than a business and slightly less than a religion.”
While your CEO may set the cultural tone for your company, as COO and part of the leadership team, you must be committed to supporting and fulfilling that vision before you can ask your people to be.
I’ve talked a lot about the things companies can do to build a world-class work environment—the physical space, cultivating a thriving social environment, instilling a sense of ownership in each employee—but there are three more areas you’ll need to focus on to elevate your company to the “zone of cult.”
I’m no whacked-out hippy, but I do believe that positive energy is powerful and contagious. Cram your workplace with positive energy and your employees will be happier and more productive. Allow negative energy to creep in, and watch petty squabbles, gossip, and backstabbing percolate.
This concept may seem a bit touchy-feely to COOs—your CEO is likely the more expressive one of the two of you. You don’t have to act like someone you’re not, but you do need to set the energy level for those who work for you in whatever way aligns with your personality.
At the end of each day, ask yourself, “What did I do today to raise the energy level of my team?”
I’m not talking about demanding a world-class culture with an iron fist or playing petty games like raising your seat so you tower above anyone who meets in your office. Rather, endeavor to make your meetings more powerful. Meetings are basically microcosms of your entire culture. Guess what long, fruitless, boring meetings say about it?
Alternatively, a vibrant, efficient, focused meeting turns what is often the worst part of someone’s workday into an actual, productive event. And can you imagine what kind of effect that has on the workplace culture your leadership team is trying to build?
Every company strives to build a different kind of culture, whether it’s one of innovation, fun, or even a culture of growth. But if you are going to be successful, you have to get buy-in from your team members. And for that to happen, the entire process has to be organic and authentic.
Especially if you aren’t a rah-rah type of leader, trying to motivate your team can come off as forced or awkward. Find people in your organization who are suitably enthusiastic and get their help in rallying your troops.
Maybe you’re good with large groups or maybe you feel more comfortable mentoring employees one-on-one. You might revel in hoisting a few pints with your team after work on Friday or prefer treating them to coffee once in a while.
You must choose to participate in a culture that fits with your morals, your standards, and plays to your strengths. The best leaders don’t put on a face or play a character, they are simply themselves and people are drawn to that behavior. That’s how leaders help to create and support a culture that works.