5 Steps to Cultivate a Strong Practice Culture
Have you ever watched a timelapse of a garden growing?
Snap a mental picture of what your practice’s culture would look like if it were a garden.
Is it brown and full of weeds? Or is it tall and overflowing with dark, healthy green leaves?
Why do so many practice owners strive for a better team culture?
Because it’s the single most important thing you need to succeed.
Leaders and managers sprout from the fertile ground of a healthy culture, which alleviates a lot of recruiting stress in the long haul.
Happy employees also means more profit.
An organization called Global Corporate Challenge (GCC) surveyed employees from 500 organizations across the expanse of 70 countries.
The results show that employee happiness is a huge factor in productivity, low turnover, and in keeping talented employees.
For our company, that’s proven to be true time and time again, and it’s because of our culture.
Gratitude is something we practice every day, and it actually works. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
People work harder in a positive environment, and that eventually translates into more money in your pocket.
But the most rewarding factor has very little to do with money.
A Positive Culture Changes Other People’s Lives Too
The way you design your culture will inevitably affect thousands of people. Consider how many people they know. Their kids. Their kids’ kids. You get the picture.
Their trajectory in life can be changed forever if you stay true to the core values that guide your culture.
And those changes have the potential to last centuries beyond your organization. But it’s far from easy.
There’s no such thing as exemplary success without daunting challenges.
It comes with the territory. One of the biggest hurdles you’ll face is correctional backlash.
To carve a masterpiece, you have to cut and chip and hammer. But instead of marble, you’re shaping people.
The only way to improve people is to push them; teach and coach them to success. The pushing part doesn’t always feel good, for you or them. But it’s one of the most vital parts of the process.
Here’s how it’s done.
Step 1: Create & Own Your Core Values
It’s nice when people take it on themselves to shoulder the core values without any help along the way. But even the people with the best intentions imaginable will need correction. That’s just how it is.
And it’s easier to correct your people when you’re all on the same page.
Our employees take ownership of our core values, mainly because of a simple idea in action: Own your core values.
We preach it from day one. The first time you introduce someone to your new values, it feels a little weird. But once you’ve done it for a while and see that it really does work, you’ll be totally unashamed when you talk about it. It gets easier and easier over time.
Step 2: Do NOT Employ People Who Reject Your Core Values
It’s easier than it sounds. During the interview, explain how important the core values are to you, and especially why. You know what a lot of them will do?
They’ll say, “Nope,” and leave forever.
Which is perfect. Because you just avoided a painful, drawn out and dysfunctional business relationship that would’ve ended with you firing them because they couldn’t accept your values.
Step 3: Establish Clear Expectations Early
That is, during the interview.
When we interview people, we ask the usual questions to help weed out poor fits. But vastly more important are the seeds of our company culture that we pepper into the interview.
We talk about:
► Where we’ve been.
► Where we’re going.
► Where we are now.
► The kind of person we want to see in the role.
► How we cut out cancer as fast as we can because it creates an amazing work environment for our team.
► Our Core Values.
If you believe in your organization, it’ll bleed from you as you speak. That’s a good thing. Nobody wants to follow a leader who won’t drink his or her own koolaid.
By the time we’ve finished, they know exactly what to expect, and what is expected of them. That means there’s no surprises throughout the process.
Next comes the onboarding.
Step 4: Create an Onboarding System That Teaches and Solidifies Culture
Seeds need water, nutrients and a favorable environment to grow. Similarly, the mind consumes words, which hold the ideas and beliefs that help your freshly planted core values grow.
During training, we talk about our core values. A lot.
In fact, we chop each training day in half to concentrate on our core values. It’s basically Miracle Grow for the culture we’re growing.
I think one of the major reasons our culture has been so successful, is because we talk about it:
► With pride.
We give them examples of ways to implement their core values. And you know what? They take it and run with it. It’s amazing.
Step 5: Keep Up On it
When we see people do things that break our core values, we correct them immediately. Correction is tough. But it’s undoubtedly one of the most vital things you can do.
Your vision is built with the foundational bricks of your core values in action. When someone breaks those values, they’re pounding at those bricks with a sledgehammer (often without even knowing it). So what do you do? Correct them. How do you correct people without triggering hostility and resentment? Correct them all the time.
Weekly Coaching Sessions
It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s not. Weekly coaching is the best correctional tool we’ve implemented. Our policy is, if you can’t find anything for them to improve, your leadership needs to improve. Because nobody’s perfect. And people get it. You’d be surprised at how readily people take to correction when it’s done in a routine coaching session, where it’s understood that there’s always something to improve.
This is the best way to bring up your values daily.
During the morning huddle, our managers ask one person which core value they think we should focus on, and why. One by one, the entire group, managers and leaders included, say something they’re grateful for.
Start doing this from day one, and never stop.
Remember, when you focus on creating a strong culture, your organization isn’t the only thing that benefits. Your people become better people. You become a better person.
It’s mind-boggling; the people they influence can (and hopefully will) benefit from the decisions you make today.
It’s some great thought-food to chew on.
What decisions are you going to make today?