Developing Your Business Culture Using Flashlights and Mirrors

Developing Your Business Culture Using Flashlights and Mirrors

Written by Kevin Martlage

In previous articles I have written about using flashlights and mirrors to help develop your personal leadership skills and the leadership within your organization. The concept is simple and helps you review leadership ability by using two different tools: a flashlight and a mirror. The mirror is used to help you see and reflect on those things as the leader you are doing to grow, sustain, or detract from the impact you are making on your team and organization. The flashlight is used to help those you are leading see a unique perspective or point of view when it comes to their ability to help grow, sustain, or detract from their leadership ability and impact. As a leader it is important that you are using both to help enhance your leadership, while also leading and coaching your team to enhance theirs. Using the two tools together can help you and your team grow while building trust using intentional communication which are both fundamental building blocks of any supportive and successful business culture. 

To build a successful business culture using flashlights and mirrors you must first identify what a good business culture looks like so you can then assess how you are supporting or detracting from those goals. Throughout my 30-year career I have had the opportunity to collaborate with some amazing teams and in some amazing business cultures around the world. As a leader it is difficult for me to pinpoint exactly what made one business culture better than the other, however, there are common themes that seem to stick out when I think about the ones that were most supportive. If I were to hold the flashlight up to all the business cultures and environments I have worked in during my career the following strengths would be evident:

  • Roles and responsibilities were always well defined 
  • There was clarity around what is wanted or needed from each other
  • There was an elevated level of trust among all parts of the organization
  • Everyone pursued solutions that were mutually beneficial
  • People did what they agreed to do 
  • Information was timely
  • Communication was open and honest
  • People admitted to and took responsibility for their actions
  • There was timely and constructive feedback
  • There was proper and appropriate confidentiality
  • I felt empowered and trusted to make decisions within my scope of responsibility
  • I was asked for my input when appropriate
  • I had access to training and development
  • Values and principles were followed 
  • Opinions were shared constructively and never negatively

If you look at the items listed they can be combined into the following themes:

  • Shared Values
  • Intentional Trust
  • Transparent Communication

As a business owner if you can hold up your ‘culture mirror’ and say that you are actively living up to and supporting your personal and organization values, are building trust with your team, customers, and stakeholders, and doing so with clear, consistent, and transparent communication you could probably say your business culture is supporting the growth of your organization. In addition, if your employees can say the same thing about you and the organization, you are heading in the right direction. If you cannot say that regarding all areas, that is OK, it just means that you might have opportunity to gain experience in those areas as a leader and organization. 

If you do not have your business culture identified or outlined as an organization, that is OK. However, I would strongly recommend that you take time to identify what good looks like and the specifics of your culture that you are trying to build and support. There are many ways to do this including looking into the New Heights Package offered by Arborisk Insurance or to take the free Culture Assessment being offered this month. Both will provide you a high-level perspective on potential areas for business culture enhancement. Whether or not you do either, it is important to start to discuss, build, and document what good looks like for your organization. 

Once you have built your ‘business culture mirror’ by identifying what good looks like, it is time to bring out the flashlight and see what specifically is enhancing, sustaining, and detracting from your culture. The easiest way to do this is to simply ask your employees. Ask them their thoughts on how defined and effective they feel the business culture is in your organization. You can develop your own questions or use some of the following questions to begin the conversation:

  • What do you feel are our core values as an organization?
  • Do you feel supported in your personal and professional development? 
  • Are there any areas of the organization you would like to find out more about?
  • Do you feel like my communication to you is effective?
  • Do you feel like you are properly informed regarding the direction of the organization?
  • What are you enthusiastic about within this company? Do you feel supported in that passion?
  • What are you passionate about outside this company? DO you feel supported in that passion?

There are hundreds of questions you could ask, but the most important thing is that you are asking them to help shine the light on opportunities and specifics of what is important to your employees. As these conversations continue, you will start to shine the light on those areas of opportunity where you can further align your leadership approach and business culture with the expectations of your employees. Through frequent, transparent, and intentional communication you will also build trust among the team and within your organization which will help to ‘power the flashlight’ as you continue to identify, build, and assess the right business culture for your organization. 

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.

Remember, Peter Drucker once said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” What are you doing to identify and develop your business culture as you provide your organization the opportunity to advance and surpass the strategic goals of your team?

Tom Dunn

Growing Your Company With Trust

Growing Your Company With Trust

Written by Kevin Martlage

This month we are focusing on the culture of your business and how you can continue to work towards developing and providing a supportive and nurturing environment for your employees, customers, and those your business serves. So far this month we have discussed the importance of a strong business culture and its positive impact on the success of your team and company. We have also discussed how intentional and transparent communication can build trust which is the life blood of any successful company and team.

Trust is present in almost everything we do as a tree care professional so why is it not always a critical consideration in our approach with our teams and our company? When I think about trust in the tree care industry, there are numerous things that come to mind. For example:

  • Climbers have TRUST in their climbing equipment that the manufacturer made it safe.
  • Our customers TRUST that we have a level of knowledge to ensure we properly take care of their tree.
  • We TRUST that our customers will pay us the amount of money agreed to in our accepted work proposal.
  • Our customers TRUST that we will do the work to the best of our ability and according to the work order.
  • Our crews TRUST that as owners we will provide a certain framework and resources to do the work we are asking them to complete.
  • We TRUST our crews to do the work with a high level of safety, accuracy, and professionalism.
  • Climbers TRUST that the person who might be belaying their rope will not let go!
  • Climbers TRUST that their review of a tree and their equipment before using SRT will ensure their safety if they follow the proper procedures.
  • Tree Care Owners TRUST that Arborisk will have their best interest in mind as they insure their company.

Trust is evident in everything we do regardless of if you are a climber in a 50-foot oak, the ground crew member clearing and chipping brush, or the owner of 5-person, or 500-person tree care company.

There are also examples of trust in our personal lives which is what we probably all think of first when we hear the word trust. I am certain you can probably identify a negative situation which had a root cause of trust being challenged or not being present. If you review that situation close enough, I can almost guarantee that if trust was present the situation would have been resolved more efficiently while helping to continue to build the foundation of trust for any potential future situations with that person. You could also probably agree that trust was challenged in that situation because both sides were not on the same page or made up their own “story” about what was going on.

Bottom line, without trust we are left to our own mind and resources to try and figure it out, to tell the “story” and to protect ourselves, which can lead to confusion, lost productivity, and misalignment among our staff, colleagues, friends, and family. 

So why then do I call trust the life blood of any successful company and team?

The reason trust is so vitally important to success is because without trust, you are enabling your team to get sidetracked as they try to understand your decisions, question your intent, protect themselves, or simply feel comfortable about being on the same page with you. In extreme circumstances, a lack of trust can even help foster resentment and the need to be defensive and always right which ultimately takes away from collaborative progress and success of the team. 

Building Trust is sometimes difficult for organizations because it must be intentionally built over time. Much like a personal relationship or friendship, it takes work and intentional focus on providing the context, intent, and insight regarding your thoughts and approach. Whether you are interacting with a friend or a member of your team, trust is always on stage, and either being built or broken depending on the situation and conversation.   

There are numerous ways to build trust among your team and within your organization. However, there is one thing that can kickstart your journey of building trust. You must first start by looking inward as a leader to understand how you are impacting trust within your own company. To do this, I would recommend asking yourself these questions:

  • What “stories” might my team be trying to figure out?
  • How can I always provide a great experience of understanding and collaboration for my team?
  • What are some things that I may be questioning? Chances are my team is too.
  • How is a lack of trust impacting the productivity of the company and team?

By looking inward, you can then start to identify some key areas where you can adjust your leadership approach. These adjustments, while unique to you, should be centered around the following:

  • Always ensuring you are providing transparent and intentional communication
  • Providing information designed to help eliminate the need to “make up their own story”
  • Communicating your intent by providing the desired outcome and reasons behind your decisions

Providing insight in a transparent and intentional manner, will allow your team the opportunity to build trust with you because they understand the intent and reason behind your decisions, communication, and direction of the company. You are helping to eliminate the unknown and offering a collaborative approach to the direction of the company.

A culture built on trust will help to empower you team to make sound decision without the fear of betrayal or misunderstanding. Trust will also help to create a team that will be focused and aligned on moving the organization forward instead of being consumed by trying to answer the unknown or making up their own stories or direction. Trust is certainly difficult to build, and it takes times, however the return on that investment will pay dividends that will help to build a foundation for your company that is both sustainable and flexible.

As you build trust I guarantee it will become the X factor regarding your organization and be the secret sauce that takes you to the next level, helps to retain your employees, and streamlines your operations. This will ultimately help you enhance your ability of being the place where everyone wants to work, and your customers want to do business with. Thus, making Trust one of the most important ingredients to the sustainability, success, and growth of your company.

For additional help with growing trust within your company, contact a member of the ArboRisk Insurance teamIf 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.

As part of ArboRisk’s Thrive family, we are also offering a FREE business culture self-assessment to help you begin to identify some ways in which you can continue to enhance your company’s culture. The assessment is extremely easy to complete and will take you less than 5 minutes. Following the completion of your assessment, you will receive a summary of recommended areas of impact to consider as you continue to enhance your company culture. 

Tom Dunn