So many times, in our business (and in life) we innocently believe that *relationships* will just happen without intentional effort on our part.  Nothing could be further from the truth … particularly in the culture you want to encourage with your team.

Now’s the perfect time to begin.

Two reasons that today is the best time to begin.  First, as a mentor of mine often said, “You don’t have to get it right, you just have to get it going”.  So true.  Don’t tackle the whole thing … pick a small piece of your culture (and therefore your relationship with your team) that you want to work on.  This is not the time to figure out every detail before you begin.  Show your team that you are interested in their ideas.  Show them that this topic and their opinion about it, are important enough to warrant your time and attention.

Second, by NOT figuring everything out ahead of time, you open the door to collaboration.  A relationship is a 2-way street.  Your culture will have more impact and buy-in from your team members if they have a voice in its’ creation … if they have a little skin in the game.  As the business owner, you always determine the tone and set the parameters.  But within those boundaries, brainstorming with your team members will bring some new ideas and perspectives to the table.

Role model what you want.

Ooh, this is a hard one.  Too often we only think about how we want our team members to behave.  But if we genuinely want a relationship of mutual respect and communication, we have to take the first step forward.  SHOW them how you want the relationship to look.  If you want everyone to show up prepared and on time for meetings … then YOU show up prepared and on time for meetings.  If you want disagreements to be discussed and handled without raised voices, then YOU show them how to have a discussion and handle a disagreement without raising your voice.  Pretty straightforward … but often hard to follow through.

Ask the right questions.

The goal is NOT for you to put together a perfect system for something and present it to your team, looking for approval and acceptance.  The goal is to work TOGETHER with them on defining your company culture as something that both you and they can agree on.  And you begin this process by asking questions, not by giving directions.

Ask questions about where you and the team are right now with one topic.  As an example, let’s use being at meetings on time and prepared.  How well does your team think they are doing right now?  Do they understand how this could be a problem?

Ask about challenges that get in their way as they attempt to show up on time and prepared.  Do they understand the value of showing up prepared and on time?  Dig a little deeper into how important this is to them … if it’s important to them at all.

Brainstorm with them some solutions or next steps.  Who will do what and by when in the next steps of this solution?  How will you lead them in taking action?  When will this topic be reviewed by the group?  Schedule it now.  Define the agenda now.

Practice and reward all the good stuff (even the tiny steps).

More often than not, progress is messy.  Be prepared for it.  Pay attention to their faltering first steps.  Encourage and support.  Keep guiding and redirecting your team members to keep them focused on the goal you agreed to with collaboration.

At some point, culture becomes a habit.  The journey of getting to the culture you desire is not always a straight line, and the journey may go slower than you would like.  Leadership requires a lot of patience … and an eye on the goal on the horizon.

Trust is an essential piece of the puzzle.  It’s something both sides will create as time goes on.  Trust doesn’t just happen … you AND your team will build it together.

So, what aspect of your culture will you start with?  Leave a comment and let us know which piece of the culture puzzle warrants a first attempt.  The sooner you begin, the sooner you will see some messy progress and be on your way to the culture (and team) of your dreams.