A few months ago, I listened to a very successful CEO talk about how he rapidly grew his organization. He said, “With every decision we make, I ask, ‘Will this maintain or grow our culture?’ and if the answer is no, it’s not the right decision.” Culture can be a tricky thing, even in the best of times. To maintain a positive culture that drives results, leaders need to constantly nurture it. Throw in a global pandemic that completely turns our work life upside down and the need becomes exponentially greater precisely when we are most distracted.
But positive culture in this environment is not optional – it’s necessary! It’s up to every leader to ensure company culture is resilient in hard times. If you’ve been pushing thoughts of culture aside during this emergency, it’s not too late to reverse course. Here are three strategies you can implement immediately:
- Foster meaningful connections.
According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 77% of employees list relationships with coworkers among the top drivers of engagement. For most employees, the ways they once connected with their peers have been massively disrupted. To help continue to build personal connections, set up opportunities for them to connect informally. Our Chicago office has a weekly Zoom happy hour where someone organizes a silly activity and the unwritten rule is “No work talk.” Other ways to connect might include “drop-in” office hours on your calendar for direct reports to schedule time to talk or regular connects with your peers to compare notes.
- Focus on strengths.
Think about how you feel when you spend even just a couple of hours a day on something you are good at. Focusing on strengths has been shown to increase productivity, reduce stress, and boost energy – all things we need right now. Work with your team members to help them identify areas of strength (or have them take a strengths assessment like this one) and brainstorm how they can use their strengths during this crisis. Then celebrate when you see those strengths in action!
- Connect to a higher purpose.
During a crisis, we tend to focus on the task ahead and not the bigger picture. But, it’s important to remember that all our employees are doing something more than “just their job” right now. Help your team members build their own purpose statements and understand how they personally support the organization’s purpose. Provide a channel for your people to share stories of their impact and regularly check in to make sure they are clear on the contribution they are making.
Whether your team is actively working on the front lines or doing their part by staying home, whether they have never been busier or are just trying to stay afloat, the load feels heavy on all of us. But your role as a leader remains the same: building a culture that enables your team to feel engaged and connected.