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Company Culture

11 Simple Tips To Improve Company Culture 

When defining the key ingredients for company culture, there are four pillars that will always guide you towards building a good foundation.

The 4c’s of company culture are:
1/ Campfire
2/ Competition
3/ Community
4/ Collaboration  

Here are eleven of Focus’ top tips to improve your company culture

  1. Agreed Principles & Approved Behaviours – the best companies understand the boundaries of each team and understand the principles that drive them forward and the agreed and approved behaviours are universally agreed are driving the people and company forward. Knowing that humans are designed to understand guidance (remember many believe rules are made to be broken) and boundary lines will help all employees from the least to most experienced.
    Key for success: review and update agreed principles and behaviours every six months
  2. Eat Together: Have a food you all can eat and eat together, whether in person or virtually. The connection that is made around eating at a campfire setting is priceless.
    Key for success: create this as a ritual
  3. Drink Together: Enable rotating “coffee chats” across the business, this should be randomised and connect colleagues from all areas of the business, including the “most senior and most junior”.
    Key for success: create this as a ritual
  4. Show & Tell: Create a company show and tell – enable departments to demo what they are working on, encourage departments to create games and interactive elements to explain what the department does and how they feed into the business
    Key for success: create this as a ritual
  5. Forums: Regular Forums focusing on show and tells – take it a step further than standups and recurring meetings, enable teams (not just departments) to show their work and demonstrate the value.
    Have this open to the whole company, these forums could be optional to attend for companies with over 350 employees; if you can record these, share and have a record on your wiki these drive companies to create connections, coach, collaborate and curate collectively.
    Keep for success: ensure feedback is provided (not opinion) and there is applause. Applause creates herding  
  6. Games: Create a company-wide game that teams are mixed up for, so they can compete against each other and build bonds with colleagues they rarely work with.
    Key for success: Small disposable games not touraments work best
  7. Captain: Use a captain system in meetings, rotate the owners of regular meetings and intros a captain who steers the meeting. This helps to remove HIPPO’s owning the meeting, it can remove status games, it helps to evolve individuals and places respect at the heart of the meeting. I have gone so far in buying a captain armbands and ensuring the captain wears the armband in each meeting. Visuals help, thats why flags exists, thats why unforms work, thats why adding ranks to uniforms exist, thats why captains wear armbands in sports.
    Key for success: Ensure everyone supports and respects the captain in every meeting
  8. Caring & Causes: Create a cause the company supports and creates squads to dedicated days to supporting the agreed cause. Awaydays supporting charity and non profit days are popular, curating how many of the team go together are important and varying how they can support is important. Connecting smaller groups of people to support these together is important, creating mini herds of teams drives movement within your business.
    Key for success: Report back with videos and images of the cause each herd supports  
  9. Storytell Failure: Create failure of the month storytelling – when failure is discussed and openly understood, companies can move forward and help a learning culture to develop and remove stigmas against failure. Companies who celebrate together in the good and the bad have the best company culture.
    Key for success: Thank the storyteller and engage with their failure  
  10. Unsung Heroes: Something that is rarely celebrated but should be are the unsung heroes in your business, the ones who go over and above the roles to ensure success happens, not just on projects but with developing and mentoring others.
    Key for success: Call out unsung heroes formally and informally
  11. Agreed Anthem: Have an anthem (a song, a sound or even a poem or film clip) that whenever played recreates a connection.
    Key for success: Refer to the athem and play regaulrly  

Best of luck rolling these out for your business, remember you can roll out some at a time to help start the ball rolling.

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Company Culture

Ten Common Misunderstandings About Good Company Culture

It has been brilliant to see company culture become such an important part of business, the business world is on the way to finally align company culture with company strategy

With that being said, there are important and common misunderstandings and misalignments that are important to call out and for people across your business to understand and then collaborate on to ensure these are addressed within your company. 

Staff turnover is not always a bad thing

Happy performing people will look to progress, whether this is in your business or with another business. Like most successful people, they will not want to miss another opportunity.

Mass staff turnover and original staff leaving are core signs there are deeper issues.

Keep an eye across the floor, especially keep an eye out for internal influencers leaving.

Company culture is built every day and is typically behaviour based.

It’s not just leaders and managers who create culture. Employee behaviours and actions when not being watched are as important as the guidance shown from senior titles.

Company culture has a heartbeat and will often beat faster or slower, if it beats in a specific direction for over a fortnight it is time to review.  Nothing should be left for more than two weeks. 

Categories
Company Culture Leadership

Political Intelligence – The Third Intelligence In Business

The 3 “Intelligence” States Within Businesses – Introducing Political Intelligence

There are two intelligence states we openly discuss across the business world currently, IQ (Intelligence quotient) and EQ (Emotional intelligence). 

The Simple Difference Between IQ And EQ? 

IQ is how smart you are, how you can learn from situations and develop yourself. IQ is typically about you rather than those around you. 

EQ is how good you are with people, in people first situations and how you enable and develop the people around you, professionally and how empathic you are towards their development. EQ is as much about you as much about others. 

These intelligence states are explained at great lengths, the issue with this is although both help you within the business world, the third state that goes unreferenced is political intelligence. 

Introducing PQ – Political Intelligence

Being political and playing the game can be dismissed by many people writing best practice guides, however: 

Political Intelligence is arguably the savviest intelligence to have and develop. 

PQ is about understanding which skills you have to use when you need large scale change, when you need to apply pressure, when to navigate difficult colleagues and combative behaviours of fellow managers and executives. 

Some of the best advice you will receive in your career and on your development track is to learn how to play the game and know how to influence those around you. 

An essential skill to master: 

When to use IQ, when to leverage EQ and when to apply PQ. 

PQ is an unfortunate byproduct of the business world, however, PQ is critical: 

  • If you are a high performer, 
  • If you are on the ‘fast track’
    or 
  • if you are an experienced senior manager and making progress within your business or looking to move onto your next challenge. 

Experienced executives are hardened to political intelligence, they have experienced first-hand or very often learn from being on the receiving end of PQ. 

When PQ is used, it is critical to understand the difference between personal PQ and professional PQ, this comes from experience and applying EQ blended with IQ. 

Hybrid PQ

In the near future, when asked what makes a great hybrid leader, we will have to be frank as a leadership team, being politically intelligent is going to be a core skills pillar to have and then develop their team around them to become politically smarter. 

Many execs do not (necessarily) love the political games and being victims of their colleagues’ political intelligence but the more experienced you become the more you have to develop your PQ.  

Play The Game

As answered in our anonymous career advice column, is playing the game necessary? playing the ‘game’ and being politically savvy are important skills you have to understand and develop. 

When applying PQ into your workflow and developing in your team, something that is essential to keep in mind is how to understand when this creates a negative subculture within your business. For all those who apply a negative PQ (this is common), you will need to know how to address and fix a toxic work culture.  


In the coming weeks an activity to undertake is to score yourself in a professional SWOT, apply the three intelligence states IQ, EQ and PQ and rate yourself out of ten and then develop the three intelligence pillars.

Categories
Company Culture Leadership

Why Sports Clubs Are Using DNA Documents and Team Trademarks As Guiding Principles

Over the past few months, we have seen large companies request staff to return to the office, to a hybrid work environment and suggest culture is impacted by proximity (proximity bias), mere exposure effect and the Allen curve

Whereas professional sports at large has been working throughout lockdowns. 

For front line workers, teams have had to work in brand new and unique conditions, pushing them to record levels of anxiety, fatigue and unfortunately in many cases burnout. 

Every different work environment and industry have had various stress and anxieties to deal with throughout the pandemic, for many it has been a forcing function.  

Enter Agreed Principles

Here at Focus one of the core recommendations, we provide to any business of any size is to have leadership principles. Guiding and agreed on principles that everyone across the business follows to know they are making the right choices and to empower them to make the right decision. 

Recently Rugby league club Leeds Rhino’s stripped their captain for “behaviours not aligned to team trademarks”. 

For many this would seem unusual, trademarks is not a phrase commonly used and sports is typically a winner takes all business and typically captains and stars of the team tend to be given special dispensation vs the rest of the team. 

This is great leadership from the club, poor “leadership” from the ex-club captain. 

Leadership principles are a brilliant way to align management teams and hold yourselves accountable. 

What Leeds Rhinos did here was suggest their club and their beliefs are bigger than any player and their behaviours have to be aligned to their agreed principles. 

New Zealand Rugby has some brilliant rules for their players including:

  • No d*ckhead rules – The All Blacks New Zealand rugby team motto 
  • Sweeping the sheds – leaders clean and tidy the locker room
  • The principle of ‘Whanau’ which translates to ‘our family, our friends, our tribe.’

DNA Documents

We have also seen football clubs like Hibs reference their DNA document, what they want their DNA to be so their staff and their players can understand what it means to at Hibs. 

This also acts as a guiding document and informs some of their most important decisions, especially when to comes to buying players and negotiating transfer fees. 

Company culture is most often the behaviours when no one is watching and the glue helping to make the right decisions for the company. This is where DNA documents and team trademarks really help keep accountability and actionable. 

Guide Behaviours

Businesses big and small need to go over how to be successful, what behaviours are rewarded and those which are not. Creating an agreed guide is essential in the way we working particularly with the move towards the hybrid office and guiding the next generation of leaders within your business. 

Actions You Apply Within Your Own Business

  1. Create your own guiding principles for your business – requires business leads and HR
  2. Create a DNA document of who you are, what you have been and where you are headed – requires the leadership team 
  3. Create leadership principles where you show what leadership is and how you are accountable – requires the leadership team 

Five Related Resources 

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Company Culture hybrid office Leadership

July 19th – Time For Leaders To Lead

Important Leadership Tips For Returning To The Office 

Your teams will be nervous about July 19th, there will be many who look forward to the old normal, there are many who are used to this normal and enjoy working remotely, and there are many who expect a hybrid office approach.

Here are the leadership tips to follow to ensure smooth sailing for July 19th – back to the office day.

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Company Culture hybrid office

The Future Of Work Keynote Presentation

I recently was a keynote speaker for the online Future Of Work Conference.

The future of work presentation was created to help businesses consider the future of work and the future of their business.

This presentation should act as a guide and inspiration on how to rethink your current approach and lead your company and lean into the future.

As a huge advocate for hybrid work and the hybrid office (aka an arena), many businesses are requesting their staff to return to the office at least 3 days a week (including Apple & Google), with this in mind, the presentation enables any version of hybrid to work.

The key message of the future of business

Business is going to be culture first.

The Full Future Of Work Presentation

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Company Culture Leadership

Lessons From Apple’s 3 Day A Week Return To The Office Situation

Apple recently wrote to their employees and suggested they were going to be rolling out a three day work from the office rule to start in September.

With the ever-evolving Covid landscape, Apple is now moving September to October’s plan to hybrid work, something to keep in mind Apple is certain locations have seen staff come to work 3:2.

Tim Cook (the Apple CEO) suggested in an internal memo that most employees will be asked to come into the office on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays.

Many tech firms have landed at three days per week back in the office. This shows how important to the business is that internal collaboration, proximity and secrecy plays vital roles to the business.

Apple’s Past Leading The Future?

Apple is a product company and is notorious for secrecy, keeping their tech projects top secret and reducing any leaks is their primary objective.

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Company Culture Leadership

Do OKR’s Damage Company Culture & Performance?

OKR’s have been a staple to startups and large companies for close to a decade. Executed right and they create a framework for teams to understand what is required to be successful. 

What Are OKRs

OKR’s are Objectives and Key Results that attempts to bring collaboration and goal setting across businesses with alignment at the centre of setting the objectives and the key results for the business. 

Setting Up OKRs To Succeed 

The issue is everyone uses OKR’s differently and this creates friction from how they are used vs how they were used previously. 

Bad OKR’s

When OKR’s are executed badly or in some cases wrongly, OKR’s divide people, teams and objectives.
Typically what happens is OKR’s go from aligning teams to misaligning the moment they are rolled out. Early and often buy in critical.

Categories
Company Culture

How To Fix A Toxic Work Culture

How To Fix A Toxic Work Culture

How do we fix our toxic company culture is the most common question I am asked by any manager or exec of a company when it comes to company culture work and workshops. 

There is nothing worse than working in a toxic work environment or having toxic colleagues. 

As a manager or HR manager, it can impossible to manage, but as a colleague, it will take a toll on your performance and mental health. 

There are many versions of toxic company culture, every company has a variation or a different level of negative to toxic company culture. 

A negative environment can start from tiny behaviours, it can surface when colleagues do not get on or when the business can start to struggle and a blame culture starts, it is essential you understand the start of the issues and how they manifested within your business. 

If you list the traits of a toxic culture almost everyone will supply you a number of words and a few actions that are toxic. Keeping a record and centralising is a great first step in diagnosing the issue. 

This will also highlight the issue of company culture and behaviours within businesses. It means different things to different people. 

It is important to know from the start of the process: It is rare that every employee within your business will consider the culture to be toxic, this is not to say it is not, it highlights how important the subcultures and the culture is to some and not others and why some people are heads down and happily “just do my job”. 

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Company Culture hybrid office

Prepare yourself and your HR team for difficult conversations

Since the start of 2020 we have seen a number of business changes, one important area that has not changed as much as normal is hiring and natural staff turnover. 

As we see more vaccinations and confidence come back into economies, we will see large numbers of staff reconsider the roles they are in, their role within their team and importantly within their organisations. 

We have seen in 2021 that many people are living in the better the devil you know, we are about to see this change. 

Change Is Coming

This is where business leaders have to start internal conversations around the management team table, around the exec table and bring in human resources to start preparing for the influx of difficult conversations around staff members wanting to explore their options and for some receive offers from other companies and in some cases staff leaving for complete career changes.

Get Ahead Of Turnover

If your department or team has seen turnover, do not expect this to end, action the following:

  • Gather intel
  • Create a market overview
  • Understand how the market has evolved for your department and their roles
  • Consider how you and your business will approach talent retention and career development for each staff member individually.

This period is essential to understand the motives behind wanting to leave or a desire to improve their skills and where you are placed to assist. 

Learn From The Market & Other Companies

In recent conversations; poor company culture, lack of career development and weak company strategy have all been areas raised as to why staff have wanted to leave.

In other conversations, something that many businesses have ignored is the requirement from the teams for hybrid and flexible working from home.
Do not allow your inflexibility in shifting to the hybrid office or making important tweaks including introducing hybrid perks

Not A Normal Time

This situation is something a manager or department lead experiences throughout the year, however, with summer approaching and changing landscape, we will see a rush for talent.
We will likely see more investment made into company developments and into key growth departments and more roles becoming available, more recruitment companies contact staff and headhunters going through teams and approaching them for an alternative role.

Prepare Yourself & Your Future

As a manager or department lead it is imperative to have discussions around headcount and knowing if you are likely to lose someone you will be able to replace and reshape your team. 

You will likely see more change than you want but it is essential to be ahead of this wave of change and be able to reduce any anxiety around headcount and if you are in a position to hire a way to show your plan and lead from the front.