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. 

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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.

9 Great Leadership Lessons Learned in 2017

With another year coming to an end, it’s a great best practice to look back on the previous year to learn and grow before heading into the new year. That’s exactly what our team did with 52 episodes of the Follow My Lead Podcast.

Regardless if you listened to every episode (kudos) or you didn’t listen to a single one (boooo) here are 9 of the best leadership lessons we learned.

Listen to the full episode here or on iTunes.

1. A person who is humble, hungry, and smart adds value to a team in any environment – Pat Lencioni

2. Great leaders believe in their people and hold them to a high standard – Jon Gordon

3. Values are developed by what you reward, recognize and talk about- Howard Behar

4. The single greatest people skill is an authentic interest in another person Bob Burg

5. Leaders create the culture that drives behavior which produces the results- Brian Kight

6. Build a company you truly want to work for one that loves and serves people – Casey Crawford

7. Make decisions to become the person you aspire to be- Jimmy Collins

8. Transfer belief to your kids every day “You are going to do great and mighty things” – Bob Beaudine

9. Great leaders want decisions to be made where the information is – David Marquet

About the Author John Eades is one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace. He is the CEO of LearnLoft, host of the Follow My Lead Podcast and author of F.M.L. Standing Out & Being a Leader. He has set aside 20 speaking opportunities in 2018 and there are only a few spots remaining, learn more here.

Southwest Passenger Unveils the Most Important Part of Company Culture

Southwest Airlines has modeled what a great organizational culture looks like for decades. One of the pillars of their culture success is values. Values are simply, principles and standards of behavior.

Former Starbucks executive Howard Behar told me on the Follow My Lead Podcast, “values are developed by what you reward, recognize, and talk about.”

Humor, or as Southwest calls it their “fun-LUVing attitude,” has always been a value they reward, recognize, and talk about.

A Southwest Airport gate in New Orleans provided the perfect setting to show their core values lived out to perfection. When a Southwest employee required everyone who asked a question to sing, one fearless customer took them up on it.

While the video has gone viral because of the brilliant singing performance, there are some bigger lessons at play around company values:

Talk is cheap.

Defining the values of an organization or team is important, but it’s not nearly as important as living them out. I love the story about a time when former Southwest CEO Herb Kelleher received an email complaint from a customer about flight attendants using humor when describing their safety protocol in the event of a water landing. Instead of giving away free flights or apologizing for his employee’s use of having a “Fun-LUVing attitude,” he wrote 3 words back to the passenger, “we’ll miss you.”

If you don’t define values they will define you.

It’s easy to assume employees or team members know the values of your team. Unfortunately, it’s a mistake because people have different principles or standards of behavior that they deem acceptable. Defining them for in your organization provides a definition of what good looks like. If you haven’t already, take time to define them, then communicate them all the time.

Greed can be a value.

I haven’t come across a company or leader today where growth isn’t a top priority. While that is important, a growth mindset only fixated on money can produce behaviors that hurt or jeopardize good core values. If the focus is on growth, reward, recognize, and talk about the process or behaviors that produce the results, not the results themselves.

This article originally appeared on Inc.com

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About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft and host of the Follow My Lead Podcast. He is also the author of F.M.L. Standing Out & Being a Leader, and is passionate about the development of modern professionals. Follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

The Value of Values

It’s always been important to me to have good values, and I try to show them by making good decisions, giving to others, and sharing my talents. As human beings, that’s just what we are supposed to do, right?

Well, what about businesses? Can businesses have values that that make a difference in the world and propel them to higher levels of success? I recently saw a quote that says:

“Corporations don’t have values, the people that run them do.”

The truth is, an organization’s core values aren’t based on the executives that run it. An organization’s core values are based on the collective values of all the employees that work there.

A great example of this is the NBA franchise the Detroit Pistons. For those of you who are unfamiliar with basketball history, the Pistons were the laughing stock of the NBA during the 1979-80 and 1980-81 seasons with a combined win-loss record of 37-127. In order to turn things around management knew they had to focus on values – specifically values that had a more aggressive and defense style of play. Over the next decade, the organization brought on people like coach Chuck Daly and players (Isiah Thomas, Bill Lambier, John Salley, Dennis Rodman, Joe Dumars, Rick Mahorn and Adrian Dantley) who had aggressive, hard-nosed, don’t-back-down-to-anyone attitudes. The organization eventually went on to win back-to-back NBA Championships in 1989 and 1990 and became known as the “Bad Boys”.

While I am not advocating for your business to take on the values of the “Bad Boys,” I am saying values are extremely powerful and necessary tools for any business.

Here are three reasons why company values are so important to long-term success and growth:

Acquiring the Right Talent.

Hiring for team alignment is more important than hiring based on skill. Yes, skills are important but they can also be learned and developed. Your organization’s values should be the driving force behind any hire. They will let you know if you are hiring someone who will collaborate with and add value to your team. If open communication is something that is important to you, ask interviewees specific, scenario-based questions about how they communicate.

Creating Culture.

I recently saw retired Krispy Kreme CEO, Jim Morgan speak. When Jim took over as CEO in 2008, Krispy Kreme was nearly bankrupt. The organization was already as lean as it could be, so Jim started rebuilding the culture. In order to rebuild culture, everyone in the business had to buy-in on WHY Krispy Kreme was in business. He hosted a company-wide meeting to come up with a new mission statement. That mission statement is what drives the business culture everyday. Here’s what they came up with and it’s still on their website today: “To touch and enhance lives through the joy that is Krispy Kreme.” In 2008, Krispy Kreme was trading at around $1.00 and today, it’s nearly $18.00!

Delivering Amazing Customer Experiences.

We are in the “customer era” which has elevated every business’ need for great customer experiences. Yes I said GREAT. One example of customer experience every company can relate too is customer service. Customer service is a great weapon to use against the competition. If values are a core part of an organization’s customer service model, it will be show. Customers value things like honesty, humility, and listening skills. If you can exemplify these things better than your competition, you will win the hearts of your customers.

It’s important to note, these three reasons build on each other. If the right talent is hired because of their alignment to your values, your culture will improve, and that culture will creating employees who are intrinsically motivated to create great experiences for your customers.

Having learned from my successes and failures, I implemented employee expectations and values that guide and drive our team everyday. Here they are:

Every Employee’s Expectation and Values at LearnLoft, which we termed I.C.E.  

  1. Inspire. It’s everyones job everyday to inspire our clients and each other to become the best version of themselves
  2. Be Creative. We spend a lot of hours at the office so if you are going to be away from your family and hobbies, its paramount we all are as creative as we possibly can be. Everyone has the green light to try new things and have the permission to fail with those new ideas.
  3. Educate. We are in the business of education, so everything we do is centered around education and helping others to higher levels of performance.  Having a mindset of education is paramount.

So the question you have to ask yourself is, What values guide your organization or team?

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John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft and Host of the Follow My Lead Podcast. He is passionate about the development of people. He writes, and speaks about modern leadership and learning techniques. You can find him on instagram @johngeades.