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Culture: The Key Ingredient to Success When Working Remotely

Are your missions and values merely a marketing statement on your website or lost in your marketing materials? Is this just a checkbox on your company to-do list of ‘corporate things companies do’? During COVID, companies have been left with little choice but to work remotely, which in turn shines a spotlight on our mission and values if those values are not baked into the culture – reflected in failures in remote working. This might seem overly simplistic and likely overlooked. What does a mission statement have to do with the success of a remote team?

What many of us have come to learn over the course of 2020 is that it’s impossible to manage a team remotely and scale successfully without having your values well-baked into the company culture and a living, breathing part of every employee’s thoughts and actions. To quote my friend Zach Kamphuis at Commerce 7:

Consciously or unconsciously, values held by every team member determine their daily actions. Everyone’s daily actions determine our success. In order to grow, we need more employees to be more autonomous (otherwise as leaders we’d need to be involved in everything, which of course caps out with limited hours in a day). In order to give employees more autonomy, we need to be able to trust that they’ll act how we’d want them to act. In order to trust they’ll act how we need them to, we need to trust they understand and believe in our values and mission.”

Essentially, if our missions and values are ingrained into our company culture, then:

  • Employees understanding the values leads to employees taking the appropriate, value-based actions.
  • Employees taking the appropriate actions allows us to give them more autonomy.
  • Giving employees more autonomy allows our businesses to scale faster/more.

So how do we ensure the culture we take for granted, especially as it plays out day-to-day in the work place, is being translated to our remote staff and is kept at the forefront? From onboarding to tenured staff, from traditional work environments to remote, we’ll need to ensure our values are coming alive in everyday moments.

STEP 1: DEFINE your MISSION STATEMENT… if you haven’t already, or fine-tune it. What’s your company’s purpose?

  • Start with a Dream… think broadly and holistically about the future you want and dedicate all your energy to WHY.
  • Craft the Vision. Consider the measurable results you want to achieve. Make sure the metrics and measurements are specific enough to impact daily actions.
  • Ensure Alignment. A vision empowers your team with focus, energy and boundaries. As the author Jim Collins say, leadership is 1% vision and 99% alignment. Connect and communicate the team’s work to the impact they’re making.

STEP 2: DEFINE Your CORE VALUES…if you haven’t already, or fine-tune them. They should naturally come from the mission of the company. Who are you as a company? What are the fundamental guiding principles of your company? Core Values help companies to determine if they are on the right path and fulfilling their goals by creating an unwavering guide.

  • Company values need to be clear and easy to remember, so it’s best to have a small number of broad values: between 3 and 10 is ideal.
  • Some great ways of defining this are to list the core principles as statements that start with ‘We Always’ and ‘We Never’ or “Our Value is…” and “This Value is not…”
  • Consider these three key questions (blog from Kununu on How to Define your Company’s Core Values) –
    • What behaviors will the company value over making a quick dollar?
    • When is it appropriate to put the needs of the team above those of the customer?
    • When and how should the success of the team be rewarded as a team, and not unfairly rewarding those who just “appear” to be superstars?

STEP 3: WEAVE the MISSION & VALUES into EVERYTHING

  • Make them part of the hiring and onboarding process.
    • Pre-screen candidates not only for their skills and experiences but also for their fit with the company’s values.
    • Clearly define a strategy for onboarding from pre-hire to first day to 30 days and 90 days…and how these tasks and goals contribute to the mission.
    • Immerse new staff in values and mission – company blogs, sales processes, company systems, etc.
  • Continue to bring to focus the Mission & Values on an ongoing basis.
    • Physical: posted images and quotes that represent the mission and values (eg. posters on the walls in the Wal-Mart break room and the Sam Walton quotes)
    • Rewards: staff cash, incentives and other forms of recognition (peers, managers, public, etc.), compensation/bonuses, etc.
    • Performance reviews
    • Team: Monthly focus on a specific core value. For example, the first week of the month have a team meeting to discuss what the value means, and just as importantly what it does not mean. Each week, team members discuss how they lived the month’s value this month, where they fell down on it, where they saw another team/department live the value, where they felt another team member/department fell down on it, etc.

Author Patrick Lencioni urges us to make our values mean something: “Make no mistake: Living by stated corporate values is difficult. After all, it’s much harder to be clear and unapologetic for what you stand for than to cave in to politically correct pressures.” By doing the work, using our core values to guide our company, and making the values mean something, we can leverage the hard work into having a stronger, more autonomous team making daily decisions that move the needle forward.

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