Building Safety (Part 4): The Business Steps

In the previous blog post we talked about the personal steps you can take as a leader to build safety and a better culture. In this post we are going to look at the business steps. When I do personal business coaching in Houston and personal business coaching in The Woodlands the bigger challenges to building safety come in the business steps.

Why? The business steps determine the quality of person you bring in the door and ultimately employ. You can bring in people who meet the experience and education qualifications, yet if they are not willing or good at connecting, it will be a never-ending challenge to build a safe and good culture.

The first business step is to be absolutely focused on your hiring process. This is the gateway to bringing in the right people or those who are not a fit. And this alone, can bring you long-term success or failure. I had one company as a client that grew rapidly and as a result became less meticulous in their hiring process. Where before they hired people for management positions who were likeable and qualified, they settled on a different course during rapid growth. They hired people who were qualified but not necessarily likeable or connectors.

These managers have to work together to address problems, resolve audit deficiencies and other problematic situations. To say the least, getting these people to collaborate and work together has been a challenge with limited success. People who work for these managers no longer feel safe. No one wants to take the risk of an independent thought for fear of reprimand, or in the case of a couple of managers who are very insecure, being fired, because the managers see their intelligence and problem-solving approach as a threat to their leadership.
Here’s the second business step. Let’s say you have a very good hiring process. You are still going to have some bad apples. Sometimes these occur when a company grows and as a result an employee’s responsibilities change. The employee is a good person but cannot adapt to change. Therefore, they become a liability to the culture. Other times, we just make mistakes in the hiring process. Regardless, the worst thing to do is not act. As a leader, people expect you to look out for their welfare and safety. Bad apples do not create a safe environment. Get rid of them.

The third step is not one that every business can do. Create spaces that maximize interaction. As a business coach, I encourage companies, when possible to rearrange an area or an office to where there is the potential for more interaction. Increased visibility adds to the potential for greater contact and more connections. Very often, it is those unexpected encounters that lead to meaningful conversations. Office design, where possible can help this.

The fourth business step is to make sure everyone has ownership. In short, everyone must feel that their voice can be heard. In businesses that encourage the personal development of their employees, it is very hard to develop if you don’t have an atmosphere that encourages and wants your input. The only way you learn, and grow from what you learn, is to take the action to put your thoughts out there and to see what the response is. Businesses that create a safe place for this to happen increase their employees’ sense of ownership, their feeling that they matter and their loyalty.

One other point to consider as a leader. Be human. Show that nothing is beneath you. Ray Kroc who founded McDonald’s was meticulous about picking up trash in the office that had missed the waste paper basket.
Follow the business steps above and show your humanity. When you do you will be taking the necessary steps to building a better culture.

Building Safety (Part 1)

As a personal business coach in The Woodlands and also in my business coaching in Houston the first thing I must do to build trust and rapport is to create a culture of safety. This is true in collaborating with and supporting individuals and groups.

Whether it is the small business owner, a large corporation or individual clients my primary goal is for them to feel safe. If you don’t feel safe you will always minimize your sharing of what is going on that needs to be addressed. In other words, without safety, fear rules. And when fear is your guiding force, whether it be in your business or personal relationships it will ultimately lead to difficult situations because it promotes a lack of trust.

In organizations, this lack of trust creates a culture that will stifle creativity. Why is this important? The only way to remain relevant as a company, a team or organization is to embrace change. When there is a lack of trust and fear dominates people are not willing to change. They think that if they change and don’t do things in a new way correctly, they will be held back professionally or at worst, be fired. Cultures that are punitive are not safe. In this type of atmosphere self-improvement or group improvement is very challenging and as a result, the creativity to bring about change is virtually non-existent. Creativity happens in the area of how to survive, not thrive.

The second thing that happens when the culture is not safe is that efficiency will start to diminish. If there is “Holy Grail” in business, it is a focus on efficiency. When I speak with some of my fellow business coaches in The Woodlands, the topic of efficiency almost always comes up. Yet, in a culture that is not safe, efficiency ends up being sacrificed.

How? I am reminded of a client I had who does international manufacturing of “widget” (a made-up name) devices. These are produced in plants around the world as well as Texas and several other states. A new leadership came in that was very authoritarian in its implementation and leadership. Everything was about the bottom line. They decided to cut back on the frequency of maintenance on the manufacturing equipment. They also reduced the capital expenditures budget for new equipment to keep up with the changes in the industry.

The result a year into this was higher maintenance costs, more downtime, more overtime to meet the orders because of equipment breakdown and delays and worst of all, a loss in sales. The employees no longer felt safe because they did not have the tools or resources to do a good job. And, when things did not go right, they were reprimanded for lapses in production that were caused by the new culture of scarcity and threats.

Building a safe culture in your business and personal relationships will allow you to embrace change and stay current or ahead because you can be creative and efficient. Without safety, creativity and efficiency are sacrificed on the altar of survival and an ongoing fear that things are going to fall apart.

Culture: When One Plus One Equals Five

I have observed in my in my practice of personal business coaching in the Woodlands and also in business coaching in Houston that certain concepts become the major focus of the time. Time management was big and coming into its own in the 1980’s and 1990’s. You just weren’t with it if you hadn’t taken a time management course. And, time management is still just as important today as it was back then.

Today, much of what I encounter has to do with company culture and how it is either helping or hindering a company. Culture comes from the Latin word cultus, which means care. Culture at its highest level has a clear purpose as expressed in the vision and more importantly, the vision statements.

These statements are more than just words. They define a purpose and a way to get there that is bigger than any one person. It gives the individual something to belong to and helps form a sense of team and cohesiveness. Culture sends a number of signals of how we belong to something. And when we belong to something as a teamwe can do greater things than if we siloed ourselves off and did it alone.

This is where one plus one equals five. This is where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. When it comes to culture, I become more of a personal development business coach in the Woodlands with an emphasis on self-improvement business coaching.

In order to have a geometric progression in growth, efficiency and effectiveness a team must feel safe. This allows them to be creative. The members of the team must feel like they belong. And, the individuals in the team must focus on their personal development or self-improvement. Why? Seldom will whatever we want to achieve individually or as a team exceed our personal development.