Growing Your Company Through Culture

Are you interested in growing your company?  

“Yes!”, you say, well your culture may be a critical component to enabling that growth.  Recently released research by the National Center for the Middle Market (NCMM) suggests that organizational cultures emphasizing “innovation and creativity, product quality, and creating a great place to work grow faster than other firms…”  Further, this research points to “top-down commitment, a clear set of values, and strong communication” as being necessary for creating and maintaining positive, high-growth organizations.

How can you grow your company through culture?

Let’s focus on one specific piece of this puzzle: Autonomy.  You may already be the kind of leader who empowers your people, providing what the NCMM research report refers to as, “guidance about what employees can control and what they can do versus what they cannot or should not do.”  Positive guidance and clear expectations are the hallmarks of leaders who grant significant levels of autonomy to their employees.

Why is autonomy so important?  In his well regarded, bestselling book Drive, Daniel Pink identifies three crucial elements to individual motivation:  Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose

  1. Autonomy – the desire to direct our own lives.
  2. Mastery — the urge to get better and better at something that matters.
  3. Purpose — the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.

When used positively, autonomy, mastery and purpose translate into higher levels of productivity, creativity, innovation, and discretionary effort – your employees will work harder and longer, and are better able to solve problems for you.  They also contribute to higher levels of satisfaction – among other things, your employees are less likely to leave your company for your competitors. If you’re interested in learning more about all of this, click this link to watch a remarkable 10 minute video summary of Dan Pink’s book Drive.  Now back to autonomy…  

Autonomy allows employees to act independently, to exercise freedom in their choice of actions. To reap the rewards of higher levels of autonomy, you’ll need to create the conditions for employees to succeed in an autonomous, empowering environment.  

Below are six ideas to get you started:

If you you’d like to inspire a more autonomous place to work, take tiny steps.  

Experiment with these ideas in small doses. Ask your employees to help you find areas where they would like to have greater freedom to act and work together to shift the choices for how things are accomplished to them.  Once each experiment is finished, check in with each other. Ask what went well, how did it feel for all of you, what did each of you learn, and how you might go about it in the future. As a first step, you can begin by taking an Autonomy Audit, using Dan Pink’s tool.

“Ironically, executives are more likely to try to change culture by training employees than by changing their own behavior,” says the NCMM research report.  There is substantial research, my own included, which points to executives, particularly the most senior leader of an organization, such as a President, CEO, or similar person, as having the greatest impact on culture.  No amount of training will matter as much as your actions! You have the greatest opportunity to be the change you’d like to see. Champion the culture and behaviors you would like to see in your own organization through role modeling, communication, setting expectations and holding your team (you included) accountable for the desired results and behaviors.

Stay tuned!  

We will continue to explore high-performance culture in middle market companies over the next few months.  In the meantime, if you would like to learn more about how 29Bison can help you create greater value through culture, click here and send us a note or give us a call at 215-337-3111.  We’d love to learn more.

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