How Leaders Create a Thriving Culture While Working Remote

Corporate culture and discipline illustrated by office subjects in strict order

Culture has always mattered. It impacts performance, engagement, retention, and employee satisfaction. However, culture has never been more critical than it is right now. 

The idea of “culture” has been misused and misrepresented, so let’s level set on what “culture” really means. “Culture” comes from the Latin word “colere,” meaning “to cultivate.” I define company culture in Building the Best as, “The shared beliefs and values that guide thinking and behavior.” 

A leader’s job is to ensure their culture promotes effective thinking and positive behavior regardless of the circumstances. 

John Eades

Right now, a vast majority of companies and teams are working remotely. The list of companies who have made announcements of a fully remote workforce for the rest of the year is long and includes huge tech giants like Zillow, Apple, Google, Dropbox, and Twitter.  

With culture being the shared values and beliefs that guide thinking and behavior, staying remote makes the continued alignment even more challenging. Here are just a few of the reasons why:

  • Distance between team members
  • Limited opportunities for effective communication
  • Distracting priorities
  • Conflicting attention

Like most challenges, the payoff of success is great. If you want to build and develop a thriving culture while leading a remote team, lean into these four strategies:

Safety First

Before anyone can perform at their best while working remotely, they first need to feel safe and protected. Since Covid-19 puts a wrench right into physical safety that previously existed, we are going to focus on safety in two critical areas: 

  1. Job Security
  2. Psychological Safety 

First, while no job is 100% secure, it’s tough to create a thriving culture if people are worried about their job. At best, you can define the reality of the current economic impact on the business to provide transparency and candor. Second, employees need to feel psychologically safe enough to share ideas and feelings without fear of any repercussions.

Unity Even While Physically Apart

Feeling like you’re part of something bigger than yourself feeds productivity and innovation. The hardest part of remote work is the natural siloes, loneliness, and general separation it creates. While Zoom and other technologies help the cause, it’s not the same as sitting shoulder to shoulder with someone and rolling up your sleeves together. 

While there is no magic pill, nothing creates unity like achievement or working through a conflict. All the virtual coffee breaks or virtual happy hours in the world put together won’t help a team come together like a team coming together to achieve a common goal or overcoming a struggle.  (Pro Tip…Use a tool like Peoplebox to define OKR’s and measure them with a remote team)

Your job as a leader is to create clear short-term team goals and make every team member aware of their role in helping achieve that objective.  

John Eades

Positive Beliefs and Reinforced Values

Beliefs drive your actions, and actions drive results. If your team’s beliefs are optimistic and positive, good things will continue to happen. Positivity is inspired from the top-down, and it’s contagious. One of my favorite ways to do this with a remote team is to make a video like this:

Once you have the positive beliefs reinforced on a day in and day out basis, remind yourself and the team often about your shared values (the fundamental beliefs you hold to be true). If you haven’t reminded your remote team of your values, set up a culture meeting next week to reinforce them. If you don’t have your shared values defined, that meeting is a great time to do so. 

Elevate the Energy

Energy keeps your team going and impacts the intensity and speed at which people perform. High energy yields high performance.  

Since you have probably already been on three or more video calls today, you have seen your people’s body language and facial expressions. Were they excited and ready to attack the problems they are responsible for solving or were they lethargic?

Leaders set the team’s energy and are responsible for elevating energy when it drops. 

John Eades

Use strategies like a Maximizing mantra or a reward the team would care about to help elevate the energy.  

Closing

Building and strengthening culture is part of your job as a leader. Since remote work is here and here to stay, it’s time to get serious by evaluating the safety, unity, positivity, and energy that exists today. 

Take the Free Leadership Style Quiz? Join over 45k leaders and discover your current leadership style for free.

Download the Leading Remote Teams Toolkit for free Here.

About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company making virtual training easy and effective. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of  Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success and host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

3 Secrets Chick-fil-A Leaders Know About Culture That You Should Too

Whether you love them or completely disagree with them, you can’t deny Chick-fil-A’s meteoric rise to the top. Just look at your newsfeed. People cannot stop talking about their impeccable customer service or the fact they make more per store than any other fast food restaurant and they are closed on Sunday.

I’ve fallen victim myself and am obsessed with studying the organization to glean leadership lessons companies of all sizes can learn from. Recently, I went on a tour of their headquarters (Chick-fil-A calls it the Support Center) and my expectations were exceeded more than they have been in any of their restaurants. Here’s what I learned:

No ordinary Corporate Support Center

Six years ago, Chairman and CEO Dan Cathy had a vision of giving Backstage Tours with the goal of delivering an authentic storytelling experience inspired by the history, culture, and values of the company. 

Within the first 30 minutes of the tour, our group was escorted to an area where the Executive management team gathers for their weekly meeting. Instead of just a peek through the door, we were invited in to hear from Cathy himself to learn what the management team was focused on (scaling company culture) and why the company started the Backstage Tour. Before we left, Tim Tassopoulos, their COO stood up and addressed us, “Without you, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do, so thank you.” Then the management team proceeded to give us a round of applause. What other company would do something like this?  

Practices worth applying in your own business

1. Collaborative Work Spaces

Chick-fil-A has spent millions of dollars renovating to create more open workspaces that foster collaboration between teams and departments. Only 25% of the company’s employees have assigned seating and everyone is encouraged to utilize the entire campus.

Mike Hazelton, the SVP of Supply Chain Operations told me, “The work that happens at the Chick-fil-A Support Center is innovative and collaborative, and we wanted the office environment to reflect and foster that thinking.”

Chick-fil-A surveys the staff after each renovation and the results have been positive with engagement, collaboration and productivity increasing each year.

It might not be feasible to renovate your workspace, but you can find ways for more collaboration between employees. If you’re remote, set up dedicated time on your team’s calendar with a Zoom conference to collaborate and use the collective experience to solve problems.

2. It’s Not Just the Customer Experience

You’re most likely familiar with Chick-fil-A’s world-class customer service at their restaurants, but did you know they use that same level of service with their employees?

“We take great care in creating and providing an enjoyable experience for guests, operators, restaurant team members, and staff. When planning our new office space, we mapped out a “day in the life” for a Chick-fil-A employee as part of our utilization survey,” said Hazelton.

This approach is perfectly in line with another success entrepreneur Richard Branson approach said, “take care of your employees and they will take care of your business. It’s simple as that.” Turn your attention to not only to how customers experience your products and services, but also give attention to your employees’ experience each day.

Become an experience company for both your employees and your customers. Be radical about mapping out these experiences because it’s one of the few things that impossible for the competition to replicate.

3. Employee Perks that Matter

Many organizations provide perks for their employees to increase retention and employee engagement. Chick-fil-A takes this to a new level. They provide lunch every day to all of their corporate employees at no cost. Providing lunch is just part of their culture of care and generosity, they also provide on-site child care in a state-of-the-art facility. The cost? Only $10/day.

While I understand this doesn’t fit in the budget for most companies, skip the free beer on tap and focus on the perks all employees care about. Things like employee development, wellness programs, leadership development, flexible work schedules, and additional vacation days. Highlight these perks to attract new talent and retain the great talent you already have. 

Chick-fil-A’ proved to me culture is not only of the utmost importance; it starts at the top, but it’s proven by its people.  

What Level is Your Company Culture? Join over 5k leaders who have discovered what level of company culture exists your organization. Is it toxic, deficient, common, advanced, or elite? Find out here for free.

What’s Your Leadership Style? Join over 40k leaders and discover how well you are leveraging love and discipline as a leader and find out your current leadership style for free.

About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company which exists to turn managers into leaders and create healthier places to work. John was named one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace and was awarded the 2017 Readership Award by Training Industry.com. John is also the author the upcoming book Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Successand host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

The Most Powerful and Often Overlooked Element of Feedback

Two Female Friends are Having a Conversation While Having Coffee

One of the most cringe-worthy sentences of all-time has to be, “Can I give you some feedback?” I bet you just heard one of your horrible boss’s voice in your head. Apologies for the PTSD. Looking back now, the title of this article should be Feedback: the most overused business phrase.

I’m not here to bash feedback as a tool. Feedback is, in fact, a critical part of every leader’s role. Every great leader uses these crucial conversations when standards aren’t being met. The very best leaders also leverage accountability as a tool for praise and recognition when standards are met.

But most leaders spend so much time figuring out what they are going to say and how they are going to document the conversation that they forget about the person on the receiving end. They may worry about how the other person may react (in relation to themselves), but never about how the other person feels.

Being able to empathize with the person on the receiving end of feedback is critical to how they will receive the feedback, and more importantly, what they will do afterward.

The goal of giving good feedback is to inspire self-reflection, a change in behavior, and professional growth. If empathy isn’t part of the equation, the person on the receiving end will put up walls to protect their ego and block all those “good intentions” from catapulting over.

Have the courage to have difficult dialogues, but at the same time have the empathy to understand what the person on the other side of the conversation is going through. It will change the dynamic of the conversation.

Join the Next Ultimate Leadership Academy Want to become a better leader? Apply to participate in the next Ultimate Leadership Academy. A virtual training program that includes, the EO 360° Assessment, live webinars, and one-on-one coaching. Learn more here.

Your Company Will Suffer Without This Mindset

Young frustrated businessman with smartphone working in a modern office.

Don’t you despise the response “let me ask my manager”? This type of behavior doesn’t happen if an organization has a culture of empowered employees and leaders who elevate others.

In this short video, I share a great example of my experience at Chick-fil-A where one of its employees was empowered to make a decision where the information was. Chick-fil-A is known to have an Elite Culture.

What LearnLoft has found from our research is distinct differences in the characteristics of some organizational cultures vs. others. There are 5 Levels of Company Culture (see image below):

Elite cultures are the best of the best. These are highly connected work environments from the C-Suite to the lowest level employees. In Elite cultures, words and phrases are powerful and are used all the time to the point where they become habits. 

Here is the best part, every organization or team has the ability and capacity to be an elite culture. Just know changing cultures takes a lot of time, energy and effort but in the end, it will be well worth it.

Free Company Culture Assessment Discover what culture level exists within your organization for free.

Join the Next Ultimate Leadership Academy Want to become a better leader? Apply to participate in the next Ultimate Leadership Academy. A virtual training program that includes, the EO 360° Assessment, live webinars, and one-on-one coaching. Learn more here.

Why Measuring Employee Engagement is Pointless (Unless You Do This Too) [VIDEO]

Organizations spend so much time (and money) measuring employee engagement. The challenge is, they then do little to nothing to truly IMPACT engagement after the survey.

Want to make a difference today? By focusing on your core values, you can make the biggest impact. Core values are the fundamental beliefs your organization knows to be true.

This short video takes less than two minutes to watch and will give you tips for creating meaningful core values that leave a lasting impact on your employee engagement.

 

How does your company culture measure up? There are 5 levels of company culture. Is yours elite or toxic? Find out with our free culture survey and get your results immediately.

What’s Your Leadership Style? Join over 35k leaders and discover how well you are leveraging love and discipline as a leader and find out what leadership style you are for free.