Colin D Ellis
Leadership | Culture | Success
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Four Easy Culture Improvements You Can Make Today

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a team of 2 or 200, your culture matters, with McKinsey finding in a review last year that ‘Shortcomings in organisational culture are one of the main barriers to company success.’ 

Culture is the thing that most executives and senior managers talk about –particularly when they get their engagement scores back – and yet, there’s often little action to address some of the ‘norms’ that afflict most organisations.

I say ‘afflict’ because most organisations don’t take cultural evolution seriously. It’s seen as being too hard, is the first thing to go when something else is deemed to be of greater importance or only addressed when peers and competitors are implementing the latest silver bullet.

The companies that I work with on my Build Your Tribe program don’t do this. They have decided to make culture change a priority and start with some of the most obvious things, which I thought I’d share with you.

These things don’t need money or permission, they need courage and resilience because once you decide to stand out from the crowd and do what’s right, you’re immediately seen as a ‘lone nut’ (to quote from Derek Sivers excellent TedTalk) or ‘maverick’ and that’s hard to maintain in an office full of conformists. But persist you must. Find a similar group of mavericks (top guns, if you will) and bond together to keep each other honest. Once you implement these things others will follow suit and before you know it you’ve started a movement, for cultural good. 

These four things are the most common issues I find when I start working with new clients, so I’m going to make an assumption that they’re issues for most organisations… here goes:

  1. Stop having 30-minute or 60-minute meetings – The Atlassian You Waste A Lot of Time At Work survey last year found that over 31 hours per month are spent on unproductive meetings and you know this to be true. Most of this time is tied up with the fact that you’re too lazy to change the default time setting in Outlook. You should master the 20-minute and 40-minute meeting because you rarely need longer than this. Better still have 17 or 41 minute meetings. Sure, it might seem weird to other people but you’re simply thinking more about how much time you actually need rather than lazily making it 30 or 60 minutes. Oh and make sure you run it exactly (and I do mean exactly) otherwise the problem still persists.
     
  2. Make time to celebrate success – Dr. Gert-Jan Pepping, Sport Scientist and lecturer in Human Movement Sciences at the University of Groningen, found that ‘The more convincingly someone celebrates their success with their teammates, the greater the chances that team will win’. The teams that I felt most connected to throughout my career were those that dealt with poor performance and prioritised celebrating success. Whether it was a new contract being signed, a team win, a project milestone being achieved or the arrival of a new baby we never missed an opportunity to bring the team together and talk about what went well in order to get there. Except for that last one, we didn’t need those details, just that the parents and baby were doing well. Celebrating success not only keeps people together and engenders a growth mindset, it also builds continual momentum and puts a smile on people’s faces, which brings me to number three…
     
  3. Laugh more – nothing says ‘we’ve got an awesome vibrant culture’ like hearing lots of laughter. Not only does it have personal health benefits (stimulates organs, relieves stress, improves moods), it’s also proven to aid creativity in teams. Good natured banter should be encouraged as should sharing amusing videos. If you wanted to go one-step further you could have bad joke Friday, have a comedy movie night or hit up a comedy club together. Jokes from the latter could keep you going for weeks. Oh and of course, everything has to be in good taste and not demean or victimise another human being. (Though if you have to be told that, laughing more is the least of your worries.)
     
  4. Stop sending email – I told you these would be easy. I went for coffee with a manager of mine in New Zealand one morning and he complained about the number of emails he received. ‘Pete,’ I said (not his real name, his real name was Tim) ‘maybe you should stop sending them.’ I asked him to try it for one week and have a 15-minute (maximum) chat with the person instead, which he did. He instantly halved the number of emails he received. Easy! One other thing that also worked for me to reduce the amount of time people were trying to waste in my inbox was to set up a rule to send all emails I was cc’d into, straight to a separate folder (which I called ‘arse covering’). I had another rule to automatically delete BCC emails. They are just sneaky and we should never give people encouragement to send them by reading them.

And that’s it. You can do them all right now and you won’t regret any of them. Cancel your next meeting and use the time to set yourself up for success and put your team on a pathway to a more vibrant culture. Oh and if you feel someone would benefit from this blog, feel free to forward it on to them! Just don’t CC them in...