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  • Writer's pictureKirby James

Virtual Business Culture - A New Normal

Arianna Huffington today posted that after the pandemic, things should not go back to normal because normal wasn’t working.

In parallel, Adam Grant posted about building business culture, remotely.

These two posts, by globally recognized thought leaders, paint a compelling picture for business leaders in a COVID-19 world.

How are you going to nurture, shift and evolve your company culture when some or most of your employees are not and likely will not be in the same place going forward?

The Power of Data

Like managing a balance sheet, intentionally adjusting or evolving business culture cannot be done in a vacuum.

“I know” or “I get” or “have a sense of” a business culture is not how you would manage finances.

Those impressions matter, yet data matters at least as much.

A quantitative measure of culture, as delivered by the OCI culture assessment tool, provides business leaders with data they need.

Combined with impressions, feelings, and that sense only business leaders have about culture is a powerful starting point.

What’s the New Normal for Your Culture?

With data and insights in hand, you will see a picture of your business. Is it:

* Too passive, with a lack of accountability, too much bureaucracy and / or too focus on approval and getting along over getting things done?

* Too aggressive, based on hierarchy, competition, a “perfection” mindset or use of power to manipulate people?

* Not constructive enough, needing more focus on achievement, trust, relationships, and self-development?

Whatever direction your culture needs to shift here are three areas of consideration to achieve the desired change while working virtually.

Three Ways to Build Culture You Want While Remote

Based on insights and advice from HBR and other powerful researchers, here are three things you can start doing right away to nudge your business culture in the direction it needs to go for your business to become even more resilient and thrive in a post COVID-19 world.

1) Meet virtually, only as needed and in smaller groups. Meeting for the sake of it demoralizes staff. It feels like “supervision” or checking to see if you are working. Meetings need purpose. If the purpose is to see how people are doing, it needs to be for that purpose.

Meeting in big groups, unless as a workshop, demotivates people. An “all hands” meeting with 10, 20 or more tiny video windows is not engaging, it is disengaging.

Yes, this means managers will have to hold more meetings with small groups. So what? A meeting serves to achieve a purpose. If the structure of the meeting cannot achieve the stated purpose, then do NOT do it that way.

2) Teach managers to be coaches. It has always been an illusion that managers “control” the work performed by their direct reports. Managers guide, facilitate decisions, encourage and problem solve but they never “controlled” anyone.

So, help your managers get better at coaching. All elite performers have a coach. If you want your business to excel, your managers need to coach it to success, not “control” it to success.

Educate, inform, and build skills on how to be a coach AND achieve the needed business results.

This is not an “or”, it is an “AND” requirement.

When managers are good coaches, they will build a more constructive culture because coaching is based on relationships, trust and encouraging self-development while pursuing achievement. A coach who tries to manipulate and “control” others always, always fails or only produces very short-term results.

3) Be transparent in communication. One side effect of the enforced virtual work pattern we are in, is that people are getting particularly good at figuring stuff out. Email, chat, phone calls, recorded video meetings and more leave a treasure trove of evidence.

Rather than locking down the ability to capture information (which never can be completely controlled) choose the path of transparency.

Transparency builds trust, neuters gossip and fosters a sense of shared experience. Not all information can be shared with everyone, always. Being more forthcoming and more transparent with information that can be shared and sooner will help to make your business culture more constructive.

A communication professor of mine once famously said, “the rules of secrets are twofold: either you are willing to bet your life no one will find out or that when they find out no one will care, otherwise just tell them now”.

Building culture virtually, for many businesses, has been a challenge they struggle to excel at. These recommendations will help your business do a better job at building a constructive company culture, faster.

Want to learn more? Check out our other materials, chat with us or reach out for a 1:1 Zoom, Meet or phone conversation.

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