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How to create a positive organizational culture that brings out the best in your team

How to create a positive organizational culture that brings out the best in your team

I am an EMPRETEC alumni and I was recently invited to speak about AYG’s organizational culture and ways to create a positive work environment in the 4th edition of EMPRETEC Entrepreneurship Community event (EMPRETEC Comunitatea de Antreprenori, short for ECA) which took place in Bucharest.

Since it was a great networking opportunity to get together with the other members of the community, I undoubtedly said Yes and enthusiastically waited for the event to come.

Fast forward a couple of weeks, there I was alongside other awesome entrepreneurs, talking about how we can improve our work culture to create a place where everybody is inspired and nurtured to be the best version of themselves.

There are 70,000 results showing on Amazon alone when you search for `leadership`, hence, it seems we have the definition of the leader and the understanding of the leadership concept anchored quite well.
However, statistics show that many employees are not involved and do not feel motivated in the workplace and most of them blame… exactly the leadership. Shocker?
According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace, 85% of employees are not engaged in the workplace. We spend more time at work than we spend with our families and friends, so, imagine an environment where only around 15% of our peers are satisfied…

What I personally learned in 12 years of team management is that it all starts with setting the right work environment for your team. And if the work environment is favorable, each member of the team has the ability to do remarkable things and to convey the idea that the one next to him has the same capacity.

Both my father and his father before him had navy leadership positions and I was raised with constant stories about how the captain goes down with his ship and all sorts of stories that, in the end, emphasized 3 key traits: camaraderie, trust and cooperation. It is only later that I understood how much impact these key learning points had on my leadership skills.

As a business owner and leader myself, I strive to create an organizational culture that has a solid foundation based on these 3 pillars: camaraderie, trust and cooperation.
Since we are going to spend around 90,000 hours at work over a lifetime, it’s important to be in a place we’re you’re feeling inspired and cared for.

So, let’s narrow down some of the tactics we brainstormed during the event on ways to create a positive organizational culture that brings out the best in our teams:

Camaraderie: pillar #1 of our organizational culture

Gallup’s study found that “when employees possess a deep sense of affiliation with their team members, they are driven to take positive actions that benefit the business — actions they may not otherwise even consider. The best employers recognize that people want to build meaningful friendships and that company loyalty is built on such relationships.”

Companies that have a highly-engaged workforce realize a 41% reduction in absenteeism and 17% increase in productivity. Employees like to feel that their work is meaningful to the company and they are contributing to the business’s mission and goals.

Introducing tactics connected to camaraderie is a great way to foster employee engagement and this is why we actively look for new methods to add to our AYG Happiness Program.

  • You know how at the beginning of each year/end of year, a company audits their year and sets the objectives for next year? Well, we also do that, but on top of setting company goals, we also have a meet-up with each of our team members and complete a personal SOAR analysis (Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, Results). It’s important for us that our team members feel that we also root for them, as they do their best to achieve organizational goals for the company. It’s a win-win situation. And we also monitor their progress in quarterly meetings, where we discuss about both personal and professional results.
  • Every bAYGy (AYG baby – an employee in their first year of activity) has a buddy allocated in their internship period. This person is their go to friend when they need help with anything – company wide. The cute thing? They become a buddy for the next bAYGy, so, everybody is directly connected with a friend, from the beginning. We found it as a great way to foster camaraderie and affiliation. And it also facilitated the onboarding process.
  • We work, but we also have fun! We don’t usually remember work days, but we almost always remember something that happened during our #AYGMoments events. We have Games Night on random Friday evenings (and yes, my team members hate me for winning at Catan), we bring sweets for good team members on Saint Nicholas Day (and a stick for naughty team members – just joking, we don’t have naughty kids here), we leave the city for a teambuilding weekend for AYG Day, we believe in Santa and celebrate Secret Santa, we celebrate each team member’s birthday with cake and kid champagne (our favorite is strawberry flavor). We have random roast moments, but we respect and appreciate each other, nonetheless.
  • When s#$t hits the fan, or after a stressful period, we go to lunch and decompress. We should do this more often. #Notetoself

Trust: pillar #2 of our organizational culture

1 in 3 employees don’t trust their employers, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer.

Simon Sinek explains the power of tribes in a great movie on leadership. 50,000 years ago, at the beginning of homo sapiens, we were all living in a dangerous environment. You were looking to the right, a prehistoric tiger was coming to serve you as breakfast. You turned your back and you could be hit by a lightning bolt! All the forces were trying to kill you. And what did we do? We grouped into tribes, in order to protect each other, as we were confident that someone would defend our backs, and in our turn, we were protecting their backs. You could sleep quietly in the cave knowing that Vasilică Mighty is on guard.

Back to our era, our company is our tribe. Outside the tribe, we still have all sorts of dangers: be it the economic crisis, political instability, a bad customer, unserious suppliers, etc., all negatively impact you and reduce our chances of success, bringing stress and frustration. Can we influence contemporary forces trying to figuratively kill us? No! But we can influence the tribe and how the tribe reacts to these constants. We, as leaders, set the tone and the direction!

What we do, here at AYG, is quite simple and straightforward: we put our people’s interests first and create a conducive environment for development! And, well, the result? People start to gain confidence and things are beginning to develop and there is growth – both individually and on organizational level.

  • Do your team members trust you enough to speak their minds and provide a sincere feedback? If your team brainstorms ways to improve an activity, do you take into account their opinion and integrate their inputs, no matter it comes from an intern or from your middle manager? Do they trust they can come with constructive criticism on leadership attitude and not figuratively pay for it?
  • Do your team members feel protected at work? Are they equipped accordingly for safety situations? Not everybody works in front of a computer.
  • Do your team members feel they can count on you? Will you offer them a `work from home` option in case their kid gets sick? Can they skip a work day should they need it (and recover the hours at a later date)?
  • Do your team members trust they’ll receive their salaries even though your client did not pay their invoices? Do they have to constantly wait to receive their outstanding salaries because the company is low on cash?
  • Do your team members trust you’ll keep your promises? And do you keep your promises?

Cooperation: pillar #3 of our organizational culture

According to a survey on rewards and recognition, 43% prefer to receive recognition privately on a one on one with a manager, 10% would prefer to receive recognition publicly in front of their peers, and 9% would prefer recognition privately, in written form.

We are all different: some of us are extroverts while others are introverts, some of us prefer to verbally transmit a message, while others prefer the written form. We have different needs at different times and the secret to getting the best out of this is knowing who you work with. Knowing their strengths and knowing what they need to improve, caring about their aspirations and being sensitive about where they want to reach.

To this respect, what we basically do is try as much as possible to provide personalized recognition and work in order to be as aligned as possible with our team’s personalities.

We also care a lot about being respectful and mindful of each other’s time as part of our organizational culture. That is not leaving a mess for others to fix. And it’s basically related to following the procedures we laid down especially to avoid functional gaps such as not knowing where your colleague left off a task you need to take care of or hunting a missing document which was not properly archived or it was not supplied. As an agency doing Magento development, is rather easy for us to have processes that tackle precisely these situations, but nonetheless, we actively promote being sensitive about each other’s time. In doing so, you are essentially showing you care for your colleague.

What we also emphasize, in terms of cooperation, is learning from past negative experiences in order to improve processes and results. There will always be ways to make something better and faster, so, monitoring these aspects can bring new perspectives and lighten morale. Sure, it also helps if negative experiences are treated with slightly irony or humor rather than passive-aggressiveness or loud voices.

A great takeaway I took from Nicusor’s speech is about the importance of being grateful for what you have and for the ones that are near you.
I found it to be a really great way to promote appreciation which will positively impact the organizational culture and create a positive work environment and I plan to integrate this in our strategy, as well. And I also found that there are so many companies implementing this gratitude tactic in many forms, from a daily stand-up meeting for team kudos to morning pray events.

There you have it. We all have limited resources: time, money and energy, so it is important to implement Reward & Recognition programs based on tactics that we know for sure we’ll work and will return more value in the organizations we manage. As leaders, we have the magic wand to make our organizational culture stand out.

This is why, at AYG, we are actively working on an app that will become the HR department’s best friend: from feedback generation and satisfaction monitoring, to goal setting, rewards & recognition. You’ll just have to add your own Hocus Pocus formula and voila… you’ll see magic is real! Stay tuned! *wink*

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