By Kelsey Martin
Respect is the foundation of every successful company culture, and leaders need to embody the company’s core values to lead by example.
In a ranch-style culture, which relies on a strong work ethic and teamwork, every job is just as important as the next — meaning that everyone at the company must give 110 percent in order for the company to move forward. This starts at the top, and the CEO must establish the rules of respect.
How respect impacts team-building
So what does a respectful culture look like? One simple example is abandoning dress codes in the office. Leaders should trust their employees enough to do their jobs and dress appropriately without creating rules and regulations around it. If you hire the right people, respect that they’ll get the job done.
At Bristlecone Holdings, we foster a culture of approachability. Employees at all levels know the president, and he makes himself available for meetings with any employee if they so wish. And because our employees respect his time as well, they come to him with only specific questions that involve him directly.
We also provide as much clarity as possible within our organizational structure. Although we’re not a flat or holacratic organization, we try to be as flat as possible. We encourage permeability between teams, and we try to foster a sense of agency within each person.
Although holacracy doesn’t work for us, we do place a strong emphasis on trust. With this structure, every employee should feel that when they go to their supervisor or HR representative with a problem, that person will not only listen, but will also do something to help.
The effect on productivity and empowerment
Trust between employees and their managers also increases productivity and the sense of empowerment because leaders don’t need to micromanage. Micromanaging hinders creativity and problem-solving, which in turn hinders the company’s ability to succeed.
Research has shown that micromanaging hurts productivity, and employees who are given autonomy over their own schedules work harder and better than those who are under constant supervision.
We give our employees projects we know they can handle and let them run with it, providing guidance and resources along the way. Trust goes both ways in these scenarios: Leaders need to trust that their employees will get the job done, and employees need to trust that their managers aren’t setting them up to fail.
As a team grows, there are often culture challenges. We discovered that we needed more structure (which can be a hard sell in a startup) because our approachable culture actually led to hours of wasted time.
We ultimately implemented a system of partial structure, which was a blend of holacracy and traditional organizational hierarchy. The structure helped us avoid wasting everyone’s time because it created boundaries so that we didn’t get bogged down in unnecessary layers.
Our culture of respect has helped us grow as a company, and we have even bigger plans for 2017. We consistently measure our employee engagement, and we rank in the 93rd percentile in the Gallup Q12 survey results, which speaks to our company culture.
Implementing a culture of respect
Communicating a vision is more complicated than simply sending a memo and hoping everyone understands. Leaders need to be held accountable for their actions, as they’re the ones setting the cultural bar. There are a few ways this can take shape:
1. Make trust the law of the land: If you hire the right people, then everyone will be giving 100 percent every day to help the company succeed. That fosters an atmosphere of trust and honesty, and employees and managers alike are more comfortable talking about successes and failures.
In the case of failure, employees should be able to talk to their managers about what went wrong without feeling accused of anything. Trust that your employees are doing their best, and work with them to help them improve for next time.
2. Open up communication: Communication is always a challenge, and many difficulties and failures are a result of breakdowns in communication.
That’s why we start focusing on communicating our mission and core values as soon as an employee is hired, because we want to be as clear as possible about our organization’s vision as soon as they step in the door.
3. Exhibit the behaviors you wish to see: Finally, it’s important to ensure that leaders are walking the walk when it comes to respectful culture. Seeing is believing, and it’s easier to believe in a company’s values if you see leadership exemplifying those values.
Effective team leaders don’t just focus on core values — they also have a strong focus on goals, relationships, and results, which benefits both the company and its employees.
The openness and communication within our team are at the core of our success, because we always aim to implement changes as a team. As we continue to grow, we know our collaborative and respectful culture will help us get to where we want to go.
Image credit: Pexels
Kelsey Martin currently serves as chief people officer at Bristlecone Holdings, a financial technology company that builds proprietary technologies and machine learning algorithms to better serve consumers through smarter financial tools. Her combined knowledge of finance and data-based decision-making bolster her strategy in addressing the needs of a rapidly growing fintech company. When she’s not fostering teamwork, you can find Kelsey on a remote trail in the Sierra with her husband and her dog, Macy.