When you have a remote team you cannot just install Ping-Pong tables and vending machines to encourage the formation of a company culture. Instead you have to find a way to bring people from a variety of different locations and cultures together to buy into the company culture that will best serve the business.
Here are seven steps you can take to install a business culture that will improve productivity, loyalty, and customer satisfaction.
1. Define Your Culture For Yourself
You cannot put anything in place unless you first understand what type of culture you want your remote team to have. The more specific you are in defining your culture, the more success you will have in its implementation.
The best place to start is with a list of values that are important to you. This list will be specific to you and your business. Make the list as long as you want. Some values you may want to list include:
• Customer centered
• Not afraid of feedback
• Open communication
• Shares ideas freely
• Meets commitments
When you are building a culture you are really creating an operating system for your business. The culture will be what team members turn to when they need to make a business decision. You want this operating system to be simple. If it is too bloated it won’t work. This culture, or operating system, will help employees make the right decisions even when you are not available to answer questions or provide feedback.
2. Create a Short Mission Statement
The list of values is for your eyes only. Giving your remote team a list of 25 values will only annoy or confuse them. The basics of your business culture need to be simple so that they can easily become second nature.
You need to transform your list into a brief mission statement. Don’t panic. You don’t need some massive three-page declaration of what your business is about. An ideal mission statement for remote teams will be one to three sentences long. The shorter the better.
That means you will have to pair down your list of values to no more than five. Three or less is optimal.
Write a few simple sentences that explains what you and your company value. This will be something individual to your business.
Some sample mission statements are:
• We are passionate about making sure clients are thrilled with our services. We deliver on time every time.
• We accept feedback to improve the quality we deliver to our customers. We depend on each other and each of us is dependable.
• We share ideas and mistakes openly. We communicate about potential problems and we help each other improve the overall quality of our services.
Your mission statement is not something for your customers or clients. It doesn’t need to be on your website. But, it should be a part of your communication with your team. The more you share it and talk about it, the faster everyone will realize how important it is.
You should ask everyone to commit to accepting the mission statement.
3. Evaluate Team Members Based on the Mission Statement
You already know that you set the agenda for your team and your business. If you are serious about establishing a particular culture you need to hold everyone accountable for following the principles you laid out in the mission statement.
You should evaluate your team members based on the mission statement. Depending on your personality, this can be formal, informal, or a mix of both.
If you hold regular reviews with your team members, make going over their compliance with the mission statement part of that process.
If you have a more informal management style, you can mention the mission statement in your regular communications. Praise a team member that spotted a mistake, even if it was outside of their area of responsibility. Praise a team member who communicated about needing a deadline extension early one. Remind a team member of the importance of being dependable when they miss a deadline.
The evaluation does not need to be harsh, but it does need to happen regularly with all team members if you want the new culture to take hold.
4. Have Brief Virtual Meetings
People are social animals. We pick up on body language and tone of voice. Communicating strictly by email or instant message limits the amount of information you can share.
Holding brief virtual meetings where everyone can at least hear each other, and ideally hear each other, will help everyone feel like they are part of a common cause. It is easier to feel loyalty and empathy with people that you have seen and talked to.
The meetings do not need to be long. But, even short monthly meetings will change the culture of your remote team. They will start to feel and act more like a team.
These brief meetings are also a great time for you to emphasize the values in your mission statement.
5. Use Best Team Members to Recruit
Your culture will only be as strong and your team members. When you need to add to your team, look to the members of your team that perform the best and who best exemplify your business culture to help recruit. Chances are they know people in their networks who are just like them.
The new recruits will naturally look to the person who brought them in for clues on how to act as part of the organization. Having your team members be your recruiters will help strengthen your culture and ensure that it is engrained in the way business gets done.
6. Trim Team Members Who Refuse to Buy In
Despite your best efforts, it is possible that not all of your team members will buy into your new culture. You have to trim these members from your team as soon as possible. Allowing doubters to continue on undermines your authority and can act as a cancer that attacks your culture.
You cannot function as a team if you are not all united in your mission. Letting people go is never fun, but it is an essential part of running a vibrant business that is built to outlast you.
7. Have Team Members Evaluate You Based on Mission Statement
One of the best ways to show that you are serious about the culture is to make sure you are modeling the values you are teaching. Allowing your team members to hold you accountable for following the mission statement shows them that you are serious about the culture, that you are part of the team, and that you aren’t asking them for anything you are not willing to do yourself.
When you let your team members evaluate your performance you are also allowing them to grow closer together. This closeness will result in your business culture becoming second nature to everyone.
We would love to hear from you. What values do you think are the most important to instill as part of your business culture?