Thought Leadership

Creating Synergy: Cultivating a Strong Company Culture

by David Deitz

Organizational culture is the single-most important aspect in any organization’s success or failure.

On the surface, a thriving culture means happy team members who enjoy their jobs and believe in the mission of the company. But the precise components—and how to achieve them—are a bit more ambiguous.

This blog will do its best to examine company culture on a more granular level.

For starters, culture takes on the look and feel of the organization’s leadership. The adage that “everything rises and falls on leadership” is certainly true when it comes to culture. What and whom you represent as a leader is what will organically be born out in your company.

For a quick personal example, at Birchstone Residential our guiding North Star is our “people first”mantra. So, the importance of hiring and retaining leaders – and associates at all levels – who reflect and champion this mantra is paramount. We look for our cores values to be engrained into the very fabric of our team members’ DNA. We believe that fostering a safe and healthy environment should be at the heart of an organization’s foundation, and at the forefront of every decision – large or small.

Naturally, organizations have different sets of goals and a wide-range of employee bases, so a one-size-fits-all culture strategy doesn’t exist. But here are a few general thoughts to consider in quest of building a robust culture in the modern multifamily world.

Identify Your Current Identity

To truly identify who you are as a company, you must take an honest assessment of your organization. Do this by seeking feedback throughout your organization and asking the tough questions, such as: 1) How would you describe our current culture as a company? 2) What core values does our company reflect through the organization? 3) If you could change one thing about our culture, what would it be?

Asking identifying questions can trigger a true reflection of who your company is and how people perceive it. If you don’t like what you hear or there seems to be a disconnect between what you believe and what the associates are saying, it may be time to realign your identity as a company, and thus, your culture.  

For example, if you can claim to be a “people first”organization, but it rings hollow in the organization, and the actions of the company don’t demonstrate it, it may be time to reassess. A quote from author John C. Maxwell still rings true today: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.“

As a leader, your actions and words must show your associates that you do care. If your actions and words do not match up, your associates often can read the discrepancy from a mile away. In that case, it’s time to adjust or run the risk of continuing to erode the foundational trust of your associates. 

Focus on Inclusivity

While gender and ethnic inclusivity is undoubtedly critical, that’s not what this section is about. In modern times, with many associates working remotely, it’s difficult to make sure associates feel as included as usual in a shared environment. As such, you have to be extremely intentional about being inclusive, with collaboration being much more challenging if you can’t be in the same room. This might be the biggest shift in the leadership world over the past year. 

Start by asking the tough questions: 1) How can we as a company create an environment where our associates feel included and connected on a daily and weekly basis? 2) What steps can we take to keep people engaged while enabling them to be open and honest with us in their feedback and perspectives? 3) How can we celebrate people in this challenging COVID environment while staying true to ourselves and our culture? 4) What tools or resources are in the marketplace that we could deploy to ensure as much inclusivity as possible?

The Different Challenges of Startups vs. Existing Firms

With many startups in the industry, some leaders have the opportunity to build their culture from scratch. Others are joining an existing organization and have a chance to reshape and redefine themselves. Both can be a challenge.

With a startup, the challenge is finding the right people for your team that will allow you to champion that culture and cultivate it. At a stable organization, aiming to redirect or change an existing culture can be a cumbersome task. In that case, you have to identify precisely what you’d like to change and have honest conversations with yourself and your team members about your vision. It can be a challenge either way, but either scenario starts with having the right people on your team, then asking the right questions.

Culture might not be easy to define, but teams and companies that possess a thriving one certainly reap the benefits. When you can create unity within a team, the potential for synergy is unlimited. Organizations can accomplish amazing things when people are passionate about one another and buy into the future of the organization and understand how they can personally contribute to the success.

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