How Your Leadership Affect Your Company’s Culture

Every organization has a culture. For some it is intentional and for some, it just is what it is.
When I think of culture, I think of how the world sees my organization. I also think of how the people inside the enterprise treat their work and the people they engage. A formal definition of culture is this: Organizational culture is the guiding operating system by which people interact and get things done.

I have always been very aware of culture. I am sensitive to the unspoken word, and how people feel has always been very important to me.  Despite this, I have in the past found myself employed in companies I didn’t fit into at all. I didn’t like the people that much and I certainly didn’t have fun. With my own companies, I decided that I didn’t want that to happen again.

For me, culture comes from these 4 things:
1. Strong leadership
It takes work to define the culture elements and a continuous process to keep the company operating by them.
Leaders are responsible for defining the elements of culture and the work to ensure that the company is leading by the principles that shape the organization.
2. Mission
The mission is the point of the organization. Every organization has a purpose. The reason “why the organization exists.” Leaders define how to take that purpose and make it bigger. It is about the impact on the community and the world. It can never be just to make money. Mission guides the future you are creating and how you intend to contribute to it.
As an example, London Medical Education Academy’s Mission is to “Make doctors better surgeons without harming patients during training by using cadaveric tissue samples for surgical skills labs.”
3. Vision
The day-to-day experience is the vision of the company. Vision paints a picture of what the organization looks like over a set time frame. JUNE MEDICAL uses a 2-year vision as part of our culture to frame the experience for each employee.
Vision tells the story of how the organization will look as it is in service to the mission.
4. Values
The values are guiding principles of the organization. Values become the tool by which each employee does their work and interacts with the people that come in contact with the company. It tells us WHO we are and HOW we are.

For my companies the values become the guiding principles.
Values become a central part of the company’s unspoken conversations. The key point is to make sure you are using values that really matter to the company, mission and vision of the organization.

One word of warning though….: Don’t put values on the wall, unless your values are visible in your work each and every day.

Unless you are authentic in your leadership, no Mission/Vision or Value statement in the world can help you build a truly winning team.

Work Life Balance is the hardest thing to get right

Over half of my followers on twitter consider Work Life Balance to be the hardest thing to get right. Interestingly, I completely disagree. (sorry sorry! Don’t leave, tweeps)

For me, it is very simple. Family comes first.

They have to. I love them. I would drop anything in a heartbeat if they needed me. And I know that there is never ever going to be an end of that To Do list at the office — it will never be emptied, it will never be completed, so I better find a way to get comfortable with never being “finished”.

So how do I not drown in guilt?

I decided to be okay with the choices I make. If I decided to be home, then I will not allow myself to feel guilty that I am missing the meeting/trip/congress (fill in your chosen one). There is no point, right? I have made the decision, and nobody is going to be happier because I am feeling guilty. And vice versa: if I am on business, I am on business. Kicking myself for being a bad mother isn’t going to make my kids love me more, or bring them any more fond memories.

Does it always work? Of course not. But it is a hell of a good step in the right direction.

Now, you are probably grinding your teeth and muttering that it is easy for me, I am my own boss. And you are of course right in that. But please don’t forget that I have the entire companys’ success to think about. When I was employed and screwed up, I could get fired. If I screw up now, EVERYONES job is gone.

Find a boss who gets it. And if that isn’t happening, come talk to me. Perhaps we can start a business together?

Dad before Awards

A little while back I mentioned how important it is for me to be nominated and rewarded with awards. As you may have seen, I have recently been shortlisted as Entrepreneur Of The Year 2017 by First Women, something I am immensely proud of.

There is just one problem.

The judging process works in such a way that the Finalists are asked to attend a judging session in London (this year on May 16th), to answer questions (not previously shared with attendees) in front of a judging panel.

And I can’t be there. I will be in Sweden, with my father whom I love so very, very much. He is not well (prostate cancer), and this will be a time when all his three children are there together for the first time in a long while (my sister lives in Mexico). So obviously, I am going to Sweden.

I thought about flying back to attend the interview, but my heart tells me no.  We will see what they say: if this means I am forfeiting my place as a finalist or not.

I wanted to share this for two reasons:

  1. Family ALWAYS comes first. Always.
  2. Look around. There will be SO MANY people around you who were never awarded a trophy of ANY kind. But they may be brilliant, amazing people, who just chose to put family before fame. Always give people the recognition they deserve for a job well done.

 

Frustrated and scared

Most things in my life I feel like I can control. I can master my companies, budgets, strategic plans, people and business relationships.

But my body is driving me crazy. I just don’t WORK! It makes me frustrated and angry, and I hate the feeling of weakness. I battle my health fairly constantly: one thing after another — if it isn’t an infection, is muscle pain, or a bad hip, or any other stupid problem. Most days I am so tired I am down by 9pm, and drag myself out of bed at 7am when the children wake up.

Now I am standing here with a heat pack on my neck, since I am so stiff I can’t really move. I have of course tried some stuff, but my point is I don’t HAVE TIME to go see a chiropractor or get massages or see doctors or do tests every month! Can you IMAGINE how much I would get done if I would just be strong and healthy?!

That being said, when I was younger I was very sick for many years, and I was in pretty bad shape. I am MUCH better now, and I know I should be grateful for what I have, and that it didn’t leave bigger injuries than this, but it is just SO frustrating to never be fully well.

Ok, rant over. Sorry. Back to budget sheet for potential new office building.

(Point is: if you’re well and strong, appreciate it!!!!)

Why it is important for me to be recognised with Awards

It is always flattering to be nominated or suggested for awards and nominations, and obviously, I would be lying if I told you it doesn’t boost my ego or confidence I am human; of course it does! But I want to share with you the most important reason why it is important for me to be recognised as a leader, as an entrepreneur and an innovator. It is much bigger than just me.

I come from a small town in Sweden. I grew up pretty uncertain about a lot of things, but I always had a strong (some would say too strong) sense of what is Right and Wrong. I could handle a lot of things, but I always struggled with unfairness, and with undeserved authority (again, some would argue any authority…). A lot of the times this would get me in trouble, as I was fiercely (and naively) fighting for what I believed was right.

I haven’t given up that approach, but I have become much smarter about it.

Winning awards does two things for me:

It validates what I am doing: I run my companies not just to make money (I haven’t taken an actual salary yet, and the small profits are reinvested in research, development and staff training), but to do good. My work with Direct Relief and The Fistula Foundations are two tangible examples (read more here).

It also gives me a platform to speak from. I have almost 10 000 followers on twitter, and a large network on LinkedIn. I have been asked for comments by The Washington Post, on CNBC, BBC and other media. This means that when the times comes for me to really make a difference, I can start with a very large network, and go from there.

There are also numerous other benefits: It validates the companies to customers and partners, it gives my teams a boost, it brings us tremendous joy to go to award ceremonies together (and win!). Obviously, none of the awards would happen without I, M, T, D, E, R, O, J, L, L, R and T, which they know very well: a leader isn’t a leader without the team who chose to follow her. And the fact that THEY chose to follow ME, is the biggest award a true leader could ever get.

THAT is the real reward.

…watching my team in a meeting…

I am sitting on the side of the room, watching my team. That’s what I do most of….I watch.

Usually I watch as someone else talks (watching while talking is not the same thing) and I learn so much. Who is comfortable, who is passionate, who is concerned. For me to keep an eye on words, tone, body language and side conversations, I know exactly when to lean back, when to step in, when to steer and when to keep silent.

I was asked this morning what my secret leadership skill is. Perhaps it is this: my geeky interest in communication, skills and strengths.

I wonder how much more I get out of my team, because I can immediately do what I just did: sent a little WhatsApp to my PM, as I watched him spending longer than expected on his iPhone 🙂

Most of the time I watch a finely tuned machine — based on respect for individual people and their strengths, interests and experience.  The way the group collaborates and communicates, often broken up by joking and laughter!

Here is how we got to that and what you could do:

  • Be clear on roles and responsibilities, and make sure everyone is appreciated for their personal skills
  • Balance the agenda to make sure you build in parts of personal development and growth
  • Self insight: not everyone is a great people leader: if you’re not, don’t beat yourself up. Find someone who is, and concentrate on what YOU are good at.

 

Are staff retention policies outdated? I say Yes.

“Let me know how you will find your next skills, and how you can continue to grow , inside or outside the company?”

I lean back to let her think, before I speak again.

I am having a development meeting with someone in my staff, and my question makes her frown involuntarily. That warms my heart, and I have to stop myself from grinning. I like when people want to stay!

I can see I need to remind her what it means to work in this generous and people focused environment, built on striving for excellence and constant improvement; I spend a lot of effort on making sure I get the communication right; encouraging people to learn from outside doesn’t always mean I want people to leave!

We are not your average company 

I get that it is not common to be encouraged to look both inside and outside for your next learning and challenge. I know it is certainly not what you usually get from a manager who thinks you’re a top performer, in a company you’ve been told you are highly appreciated. But we are not your average company, and we certainly don’t aim for average growth and development for our staff. I am an Improver, in its truest form, and that is highly visible in my relentless push for finding talent and then making it better, brighter, faster.

We are a fairly young company, and as such, each and every employee is tremendously impactful on our small and tight knit team. We are growing fast, which means there are ample opportunities to grow both in role, as well as move to a new position. We have more chances of providing new responsibilities internally than most other companies – we are lucky that way. However, in 2017, that means very little. Let me explain.

Don’t get laid off!!

It used to be great to keep a job your whole life. The goal was to never get laid off, to learn on the job and to be as experienced as possible – that was the best way to increase your salary. But all that has changed: technology and innovation drives faster much quicker than ever before, and the most effective way to raise your salary is often to switch companies every two years. It is no Ionger suspicious to having have more than 3 employers in a lifetime, and certainly the pure REASONS for working has changed with different generations. We are no longer satisfied with doing something we are capable of, we also want to do something we love. And that is exactly it:

I hire smart people. I hire people who are clever, hungry, eager and driven. And then I give them a carefully balanced mix of support and opportunity, tailored to the individuals personality. So then, the inevitable happens: they grown. And learn. And they love it.

Which is maybe why they want to stay, and don’t get me wrong, that’s awesome. But it may not be what is best, neither for them, nor for the company. Continued and accelerated growth is better, and we get that from people bringing in new thoughts and ideas, new viewpoints, new skills and experiences. If we can keep a great balance between harnessing the talent we have, combined with the new intelligence we get in, while continuing to support the learning we see, we will be a hot, magical melting pot of brilliance, where the love of growth, learning and progress brings out the very best in all of us.

In my companies staff retention policy has changed to staff returning policy. Give it a go. You might learn something new!