What if Everything You knew about business culture was wrong?

Written by Kevin Martlage

The ArboRisk Thrive Team has dedicated the month of July as Culture Month. Throughout the next 4 weeks we are going to be providing you with insight and information regarding how you can build a supportive and thriving business culture within your tree care company. However, we are not just going to talk about any business culture, we are going to discuss building a business culture that will significantly impact your employees, your customers, and your ability to identify what you are leaving on the table regarding productivity, communication, trust, and impact.

I want to challenge your thinking by asking you a question, what if everything you knew about your business culture was wrong? More specifically, if I were to ask you how you would describe your current business culture, what would you say? Do you know what a good business culture looks like and if so, is your perception of ‘good’ in alignment with what your employees would say and feel is important? Those are some tough questions to answer especially if you are running a busy tree care company that is focused on getting the work done and providing great customer service.

My guess is that you would probably answer those questions by using a few key responses like, “we have a great culture” or “my team knows I am here to support them” or “what’s a business culture?”. All those statements are very common things I hear as I continue to work with clients, in all industries, regarding building a supportive and thriving culture. To be honest, what good looks like for your company may not be what good looks like for your competitor down the street, or a tree care company in another state. Your business culture is unique to your team and your company and is grounded in your leadership approach and style. However, there are a few key things that need to have intentional focus placed on them if you are to truly advance the business culture of your company.

Over my 30-year career, I have had the opportunity to work in, help build, and support some of the best business cultures on the planet. In contrast, I have also worked in, help build, and support some of the worst business cultures on the planet. As I reflect on what made the best cultures the best and the worst the worst, one thing always comes to mind and that is alignment. Alignment is something that is so critical to building a supportive business culture, it is typically the root cause of what is causing all disruption when I am hired to work with a company to enhance their culture. Alignment is also why I challenged you with my first questions about what if everything you knew about business culture was wrong. Typically, alignment is not the first thing that comes to mind when someone is asked to describe their business culture. Usually the description is around communication, trust, support, impact, etc. While those things are certainly important, it is the alignment of perceptions with reality around those things that is critical if you are to define and advance your culture.

To illustrate my point, let’s look specifically at verbal communication. Verbal communication is certainly important if you are to keep your employees informed, provide them with feedback, or simply talk with someone while you are on the job site. It is also critical as you continue to build relationships with your team members, so they feel supported and engaged in the business. Without verbal communication, it would be nearly impossible to interact with each other effectively while you complete a job, and it would be difficult to provide great customer service as you try and figure our exactly what the client has hired you to do regarding their trees. I would assume that we could all agree that without verbal communication, your job as tree care owner, being a supportive leader, or being a crew member would be very difficult.

Regardless of my point about how communication is important, you could still figure out a way to communicate through written communication, sign language, gestures, or emails. Luckily we can communicate with our team almost instantaneously through verbal interactions, face-to-face meetings, text messages, cell phones, and emails so typically communication is not a problem. However, how do you make sure that your intended context about what you are communicating is received exactly how you intended it to be received? How do you ensure that your team understands the same reality that you are talking about? Are you providing enough context and information to ensure your team is on the same page? When your reality is being perceived differently than how you intended it, that causes disruption due to misalignment.

Another way of looking at the importance of alignment can be centered around the last big decision you had to make as a tree care owner. Any successful owner would go through the proper steps to ensure that decisions regarding the company would be the right ones. This may include a financial analysis, a review of risk vs reward, and a determination of how much of a positive impact the decision may have on the company. That is just common practice as you continue to grow and advance your company that you started and have nurtured for all these years. So, after the decision has been made and you progress with making it happen, has your team always been on board with that decision? Have there ever been times when you thought you had made the best decision ever, only to find out that others did not feel the same? Perhaps, you even had to reconsider your decision after already making it because there was push back from your team that you had not considered.

If you reflect on those instances where maybe a decision was not received as well as you thought, I can almost guarantee that the negative response had something to do with alignment. Specifically, the alignment of your reality and the “why” behind your decision and the other person’s perception of what the decision should have been. Additionally, I bet once you realized there was push back, you tried to defend your decision to show them your thought process and to convince them it was the right approach. Wanting to be right is basic human nature. No one wants to be incorrect or proven wrong, so how as leaders do we ensure that our intention and the “why” behind what we do and how we support our team is aligned with what our team thinks and believes is being supportive?

The reason alignment is so crucial to building a supportive work culture is because when reality and perception are not aligned it causes lost productivity and lost time because we are trying to “figure things out”. Alignment is also important because as leaders we need to always ensure that the perception of our employees is in alignment with what good looks like in their mind and what we want to provide. We can have the best work culture outlined and in place while being the best leader on the planet, however if our employees do not feel the same about what’s important to making a supportive work culture or your ability as a leader, you will never reach your team’s full potential.

During the next three weeks we are going to challenge your perception of what a supportive work culture is like. We are going to introduce you to a few concepts that will significantly transform your team, your culture, and your business. These concepts have been taught and proven effective in global fortune 100 companies, family-owned companies, church groups, athletic teams, and some of the most dysfunctional teams you could ever imagine. The first concept, Mischief, will be the topic of next week’s article. Mischief is all about the alignment of perception and reality and how, as a leader, you can intentionally provide context and meaning so that the path forward can be trusted. Our goal is to provide you with some unique insight and awareness that will allow you the opportunity to make some choices on how to advance your team. We look forward to taking you on this journey and appreciate your commitment to your team, your company, the industry, and the impact you as a leader can make.

If you are interested in learning more about how to identify, build, assess, and nurture your business culture, please feel free to take our culture assessment which can be found at the following link:

Company Culture Assessment

Once completed, a Thrive Consultant will review the results with you and develop a high-level action plan of next steps. 

For additional help with growing your company, contact a member of the ArboRisk Insurance team! If you’re looking to improve upon your communication skills or want to help one of your key team members develop personally, sign up for the Thrive Leadership Development package today! Additionally, if you find it difficult to find or keep quality employees, check out our Thrive Hiring & Recruiting Package.

Tom Dunn