An article I read recently suggested that a company’s culture is defined by a business owner’s personality and management style—adopting and often amplifying both the best and worst character traits of the leader. While I believe this is true to some degree, I also think we as leaders have the ability to make intentional choices which cultivate culture—the business version of nature versus nurture, so to speak.
As a leader, you evaluate risk versus reward in every decision you make, and you do so with a unique big-picture focus. You have developed instinctual responses to situations and choices you are faced with each day. If you have found success, you naturally come to trust your gut instinct to make decisions in an instant as a leader often must. However, there are times when stepping outside of that comfort zone and intentionally cultivating a culture embracing elements different from or in contrast to your personality or management style can result in new and surprisingly positive results.
“Tried and True”
You know what works. You have been through the school of hard knocks. You have grown your business through blood, sweat and tears to make it what it is today, and you have the war stories to prove it. Consciously or not, you believe your way is the right way. Why waste time exhausting other methods?
On the other hand…
Just as you learned from your experiences, your employees will learn from theirs. While you may believe you are saving time, money and headaches by directing their path, if they never get to test their ideas or learn from trial and error, you may actually be limiting their ability to contribute to your organization in the long run. Beyond allowing them to develop and increase their worth as an employee, you have the opportunity to invest in an employee who could be a real difference-maker in the long run. You may even find that an employee who has been given enough freedom to explore alternate ideas and approach tasks from another direction can inspire you and provide an innovative, fresh perspective.
In the early days of your business, cash was tight and a do-it-yourself approach was a must. Even though you are no longer in those early days, your self-reliant approach hasn’t changed much.
Something to consider…
Outsourcing may have been a luxury you couldn’t afford in the early days, but is it possible that your business is now at the point where the DIY approach is actually costing you more than outsourcing would? Outsourcing can allow you to focus your employee resources on revenue-generating efforts instead of asking them to be jacks-of-all-trades. Also, outsourcing tasks and responsibilities to experts who can handle them more efficiently and effectively can leave a positive impact on your bottom line.
The Comfort Zone
Instinctively, most people surround themselves with those in whom they sense familiar traits. Like-minded individuals often mesh better, especially in leadership, so it is natural that you would have built a team of people who know you, think like you and easily step in line with your vision. For example, perhaps you would never even consider hiring one of “those millennials” with their flexible workplace ideals and work-life balance expectations. Or maybe you view your business as a trendy, young, high-tech organization where an older, less-techy individual wouldn’t really “fit in” with your culture.
That which makes a person different from your norm may be what actually makes them the perfect choice for your organization. When you are weighing that risk-versus-reward, allow yourself the freedom to consider the occasional team member or decision that feels just outside your comfort zone. You never know what doors might be opened to you or new opportunities might present themselves through the addition of that new perspective or less conventional approach.
Note: Of course, remember that when it comes to hiring, you should choose the individual who best meets the job qualifications. Allowing factors like age or gender to influence your decision is strictly prohibited by law.
The next time you find yourself faced with an opportunity like the examples above, I hope you’ll be inspired to allow yourself the opportunity to evolve as a leader by stepping outside your comfort zone. As the saying goes, we all end up somewhere in the end, but few end up there on purpose. When it comes to company culture, every company has one. It is up to you to take the time and effort to develop your culture intentionally.
© 2015 Spirit Human Resources
Spirit Human Resources does not render legal advice and is not engaged in the practice of law. The materials and opinion in this publication are provided for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Materials might not reflect the most current legal developments and are not guaranteed to be a correct, all-inclusive or up-to-date explanation of the topics addressed. If you have any legal questions regarding the information presented or the applicable laws, you should consult an experienced attorney. Spirit HR’s services are not a substitute for the advice of an attorney.