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Five Things We Learned About Creating A Winning Workplace

I had the privilege of attending the Inc. Leadership Conference last week with our Talent Architect, Tanya Lacourse — three days of fantastic speakers and equally awesome attendees, all coming together to discuss what makes a winning workplace and why it’s so important to truly care about your employees.

And where better to hold an event like this than the great state of Texas? (Side note: Being in Texas to see the Mavs win it all was amazing for this longtime fan.)

Why were we there? We were fortunate enough to be one of 50 US companies to receive the 2011 Top Small Company Workplaces award (we ranked 6th!) so we wanted to see what this was all about. We wanted to know what the other 49 companies were doing that made them an employer of choice. We wanted to know how we can get better. And, let’s be honest, it was a really good excuse to eat some amazing BBQ, BBQ so amazing that I need to give them a plug. Coming from a Texan, that’s saying something.

So what did I learn?

It’s about the people

No matter what industry you’re in, you’re really in the people business. You have PEOPLE in your organization helping build, maintain and sell products or services to other PEOPLE. Seems basic, but so many companies forget this concept. Nothing should be more important to a company than the people inside it. Not even your customers.

At Dyn, we LOVE our customers, but we still put our employees first. Sound crazy? Southwest Airlines subscribes to this belief, so if it can work for a $15 billion company in a cutthroat industry, it can work for you. Stop treating your people like liabilities and start treating them like assets. Winning workplaces put their people first and by doing so, see amazing profits.

“Chicken Little must fry” – Tim Sanders

You know that person who loves to play Devil’s Advocate all the time, trying to help the team? They lack creativity and aren’t helping you at all. They’re just finding wordy ways to say they don’t like your idea, but they don’t have a better one. And they’re scared. Way too many people are scared to fail. While nobody likes to fail, making failure avoidance your number one objective leads to mediocre products. Winning workplaces trust their people to take risks, so don’t be afraid to do the same.

“Conflict is a good thing and consensus is a four letter word” – Patrick Lencioni

Far too many teams and companies put their desire for consensus ahead of their desire for success. It sounds crazy (because it is) but it’s true. Most people have a fear of conflict, because they don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. They hate the idea, but love the person so they don’t want to be open about rejecting the idea.

Over time, though, the person sees that nobody listens to their ideas and eventually feels like the people don’t like him/her personally. So they just give up. Fear of conflict leads to lack of commitment. Conflict is a good thing, if it’s built upon trust. It also leads to innovation (buzz word!).

“Most teams are out of alignment” – Steve Kimball

Your mission, vision and priorities are what your business strategy is based on. Your management team(s) have spent hours upon hours developing your strategy and it’s great! One problem: only 5% of your employees understand your strategy and you’re not alone. 98% of teams aren’t aligned, meaning at least one person doesn’t know what they should be doing.

How on earth is this happening? Two reasons:

1) We make strategy too complex. While there might be a number of variables that affect your business, you’re not in the neurosurgery game, but your strategy may seem just as complicated. Keep it simple, stupid! Make it easy for your people to understand the goal.

2) Overcommunicate the strategy to them. Communicate early and often, to the point that everyone is a little tired of hearing about it. Sounds like a bad idea? In reality, you can never overcommunicate, so don’t worry about that. People need to hear something at least seven times before they fully understand and believe it. Communication is probably the most important and most underutilized tool you have.

“Your team wants your emotional commitment” – Stan Slap

The number one thing that any team or organization wants from its people is their emotional commitment. When people are emotionally committed, they will do whatever it takes to help the team accomplish their goal. Without emotional commitment, they become emotionally detached and simply go through the motions, never willing to do anything that’s not specifically in their job description. This is why it’s so important for companies to put their people first. You must take care of your people in order for them to care enough to take care of the company.

All of this is why it’s important to become a winning workplace. It’s about the people and the people will help you find your profits….and maybe some great BBQ along the way. What’s worked for you in creating a great workplace? What hasn’t? Tell us below.

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