When it comes to workplace culture, actions speak louder than words
As I reach 10 years at Howarths, with seven as Managing Director, I sense I am really starting to hone in on what in the business really matters. Perhaps having kids helps with that. I remember early on in my career, I got excited about turnover. A decade later, whilst I keep an eye on it, it certainly doesn’t excite me anymore. What does though, is people. I’ve learned through experience that not only does it bring me a massive amount of personal fulfilment to see the team at Howarths grow, develop and realise their potential, but it also makes crystal clear commercial sense. It’s very commonly said but also very true; a team of people that feel safe and happy, perform. And if your team performs, so does your business.
One or two bad eggs can spoil the vibe
I’ve learnt that building a people-centric culture is really difficult. We humans are unpredictable. It requires constant input, time, energy and leadership. There are many ups and downs, and it only takes one or two bad eggs to spoil the vibe. However, as with anything in life that is hard, the rewards are also plentiful. A strong, people-centric culture will be the gift that keeps on giving as everyone across the business benefits from it.
There are many people far more technically ‘qualified’ than me to talk about building a culture. However, with the support of a strong board, through trial and error, by learning as I go, and applying some good old fashion values and common sense, we’re continuing build a culture at Howarths which we’re proud of, and which, ultimately, plays a large part in our commercial success.
Actions speak louder than words
One of those old fashion values, and it is very much a cliché, is that ‘actions speak louder than words’. Many businesses nowadays proudly boast on social media that that their values include ‘openness’, ‘integrity and ‘togetherness’, but when you get on the inside, it is nothing like that. The words are merely for show. Perhaps some of their employees do live those values, but the missing link is that those at the top, do not. And to me, living the values, not just saying them, is the key.
As leaders, every time we go to work, we must act on the values that help build a people-centric culture. We must listen intently, set strong but fair boundaries, be consistent, be generous with our time (even if sometimes at our inconvenience), praise often, step back (sometimes against our natural instincts) to allow staff the space to try and be creative, resist blame, manifest a vision people can buy into and which is bigger than themselves, train our teams to grow, and ultimately, we must show faith and belief in the people we have teamed up with.
Creating a people-centric culture isn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination, and I personally have made (and continue to make!) mistakes. But overall, it is a challenge that is certainly worth taking on. For if you do, and if you can get it right in the main, you’ll soon take your business to the next level.