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:
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?