Building a great culture is like building wealth -- ideally, you start early and then keep going. But, what if you realize that your culture needs a lot of work after it's already established?
The answer is that you can still make the leap from an average culture to a great one. Here are four ways to do it.
1. Confront the brutal facts.
Your company culture is poor or just average. Once you allow yourself to take an unfiltered look at where you are, the solutions you must implement start to reveal themselves. On the opposite hand, however, sugar-coating the truth will only encourage you and your team to wait and see whether things turn around. But, you're not actually fixing the problem then. The only way to fix the issue is to admit you have one.
2. Don't just address the problem children.
Instead, start with finding the keepers among your employees. When transforming a business culture, it's obvious you need to address, and in some cases, remove the wrong people. But, it's just as important to hold onto the right people.
If your culture is weak, the people who are your ideal culture fits are likely frustrated. Ironically, the people you value the most may be the most challenged by the current state of affairs and could have one foot out the door. By addressing the culture leaders, you can reassure them that changing the culture is a top priority and reinforce your belief in them and their value to the organization. You also can take this as an opportunity to enlist their help in developing a strategy to improve the culture.
Related: 50 Rules for Being a Great Leader
3. Have a heart-to-heart conversation with the cultural misfits.
If your organization's culture isn't strong, then it can be a self-fulfilling prophecy, as anyone who joins a company will start to mirror the actions and values that the majority are exhibiting.
To combat this, paint a clear picture of where you see the culture headed. You'll excite most of your employees, but you'll also give the rest an opportunity to decide whether the new direction works for them. If these people decide to stay, focus on progress and not rapid change. Any overnight makeover likely will revert back to previous form when stressed.
If the culture misfits successfully close the gap, even if just incrementally, you win.
4. Promote, promote and promote some more.
If having a world-class culture is important to you -- and it ought to be -- then culture must be one of only a few main concerns. The actions, values and behaviors you desire for your company must be talked about at every chance. In fact, you should create opportunities and reasons to discuss culture where they didn't exist before.
Truly transforming a culture is never an easy task. However, it is arguably the most impactful move you can accomplish when building a long-standing, healthy company. Address everyone -- from the good fits to the bad -- and then shout from every rooftop about the culture you want to build.