By Renie Cavallari

Q: What matters most in building a strong culture? 

A: Engagement. 

Q: What is engagement? 

A: At Aspire, we define it as the ability to build a fanatical commitment to your brand’s promise and company values. Your brand promise is the experience every customer gets from your product or service. Your values are how you get things done. 

When you have high engagement, people want to come to work. They understand how their contributions support the company’s success. They enjoy their jobs. Engagement is the emotional energy your people desire to give. The more they positively engage, the stronger your velocity. And, of course, the opposite is also true. 

Your culture in action:

 Here are a few elements you have to consider if you want your people to be fanatical about your brand and committed to how your customers experience it:

1. If you can’t make a business case to define, strengthen, and constantly fund the training and tools to sustain engagement, you won’t have a strong culture. All levels of the organization must be committed to the power and ROI of an engaged culture.

2. Who are your champions? You must have a voice, and it needs to be at a variety of organizational levels. The voice of your mission must be compelling to ownership, management, and associate levels. If you can’t get direct buy-in, then you haven’t made the business case to the audiences you need aligned. It is that simple!

3. If your leaders are not aligned, forget about it. If your top is not engaged, it will reflect on how the rest of the team engages. Leadership is a behavior, and they have to behave and demonstrate what this culture looks like, sounds like, and feels like. You can’t say it and hope that people just buy in. People decide if it is real based on what they see and how it feels.

4. Keep it simple. Your people have to be able to understand what matters most about the culture. I share with every new hire that I have three expectations:

1. Bring joy into the building – regardless of where that building is. Negativity is not productive or accepted. If you are not happy here, no problem. You need to leave. 

2. Be prepared to work your ass off on behalf of each other and our clients. Great work requires great effort, talented people, alignment to our client’s needs, and the energy to care deeply – especially when things are hard. Lazy people don’t make it past 30 days. 

3. Help clean up the mess regardless of who made it. Blame and shame is not productive. When you mess up, own it and ask for help. If someone else needs help, give it. We all have responsibilities, and we are always stronger when we have the compassion to help each other succeed.

5. Speak to your audience. Different people have different needs, wants, and expectations. For example, some people want to see their career path while others want to know how to make more money. The more you understand your people, the more compelling you can make your case on why they want to engage deeply.

6. What is your sustainability strategy? Culture is not a credo card or a poster campaign (though these can be powerful sustainability tools). If you want to keep your culture alive, keep it in the discussion. Think of it as an endless internal drip campaign.

The Lesson: Culture is more like a plant. You have to take care of it, talk to it, water it, fertilize it, change the pot when it grows, and make sure it has sun or whatever it needs (encouragement!). When you are fanatical about your culture, you will ensure your people are fully engaged, or how we say it at aspire: ALL IN.

Live All in, Renie

P.S. Need some inspiration and tools on how you can lead the way forward for your team? Sign up for the free Leading the Way Forward Podcast below. Each week you will receive one free lesson 5-minutes in length that gives you proven practical ways to take your leadership effectiveness to its next level.