How to develop a positive and profitable workplace culture

With attracting, and keeping, great staff one of the signposts of a successful business, CommsCon PR Leader of the Year 2016, Ava Lawler, reveals her secrets to building workplace satisfaction.

Ava Lawler headshot - newEarly in my leadership career I moaned to a manager about how I was feeling at work. I was stressed, tired and discouraged by the challenges I was facing.

In response he gave me one of the most frustrating, but helpful pieces of advice. He said: “If you don’t like it, change it.

Many years later, the advice seems so obvious now, but still entirely relevant – not only to me and other business leaders, but for all members of a workplace.

Sure leaders drive a workplace culture, but all participants shape it. So if you want to smile more and live in, or lead, a more positive workplace environment here’s some advice on how to make yourself and others happier.

Make friends and influence people

A socially connected workplace keeps people for longer. We are social creatures and thrive in environments where we connect positively with others.

man cant hear you listen think stock

It’s easier and more rewarding to be a good leader if you genuinely care about your team and their happiness. Frauds are easily spotted in today’s workplace so consider your team as individuals and take their dreams and challenges seriously.

Leaders can foster a supportive environment by leading through example:

  • Create time to converse with conviction about every individual’s career goals. Proactively listen, understand and respond authentically to their needs
  • Ensure your HR systems allow for persistent goal setting, open feedback and performance reviews
  • Encourage and reward people who support others

Everyone wins in a supportive environment, so if you are not a team leader but you want to work in a happier environment here’s what you can do:

  • office couple talking ThinkstockPhotosBe a friend, reach out and connect with others. It will make you both happier.
  • Foster a positive, solutions-oriented approach. If you, or others, have a complaint, don’t bitch about it. Always take an issue to someone who can solve it. If an issue is not solved to your liking, don’t dwell on it. Find a way to move on and focus on what you can control.
  • Help others and ask for help when you need it.

Sense of purpose

Everyone needs a sense of purpose; without it we lose our way and become demotivated. Studies have shown that when people are contributing to a higher purpose, they are likely to have a healthier outlook on life and be more resilient to stress. In the best case, an organisation will ally with employees in ways that help them fulfill their personal purpose while also working towards the organisation’s vision.

The key to unlocking a shared sense of purpose is by involving employees with the vision and strategy. One of the ways we do this at Weber Shandwick is by getting everyone involved in setting our plans every year. The process kicks off at our annual offsite event and we openly share progress at informative quarterly update events.

If you are a team member and would like a greater sense of purpose in your work then there are a couple of things you can do:

  • Be clear on your own personal vision and values
  • Seek clarity on the organisation’s vision, business strategy and organisational goals
  • Take initiative. Share ideas and volunteer to get involved in the work that excites you.

Building trust Machines building trust-word think stockDo what you say you will

Trust is the foundation of all successful relationships. According to business management expert, David Maister, there are four layers to building trust: Integrity (I trust they care); Intimacy (I am comfortable sharing); Reliability (I trust they will do) and Credibility (I trust what they say).

Integrity, Intimacy and Credibility can all to some extent be built through conversation. However, they are all lost if there is no follow through.

To build trust, both as leaders and employees, we must:

  • Always speak and act with authenticity. Know who you are, what you believe in and behave accordingly – consistently.
  • Demonstrate openness and transparency. Be open-minded and honestly share progress and concerns.
  • Follow through and do what you say you will. Demonstrate commitment, be accountable for your actions. Set clear, realistic expectations and meet them.
  • Don’t bullshit. No-one is expecting you to be an expert at everything so don’t be afraid to defer to others. However, you need to have credibility and expertise in something. Know what your specialist skills are and continually build on them. The learning should never stop

cheering woman on the streetCelebrate and reward

Success breeds success and everyone likes to be a winner. Acknowledging and rewarding the behaviours that build both your business and your culture will energise your workplace. These rewards can be small, private or grand, public gestures – it doesn’t matter which – as long they are genuine, consistent, appropriate and frequent.

Optimism is infectious and gratitude is always appreciated. So a leader who can clearly communicate their vision and plan and then reward both the small and larger steps that lead to progress will be enthusiastically supported.

We try to both systemise and surprise with our rewards here. We have quarterly Weber WOW Awards that recognise outstanding achievement in a number of set categories, and we also have spontaneous ‘surprise and delight’ activities, to spontaneously reward all employees for their continued hard work.

Ava Lawler is the managing director at Weber Shandwick Australia


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