Resetting Your Culture A New Model for Engaging Your Team and Boosting Your Brand
By: Mike Ganino

Imagine you've been invited to a dinner party by a new acquaintance. initially, you aren’t sure what to expect—will it be a sit-down evening with jazz music echoing from the bose speakers? or will you be sitting at picnic tables strung around the backyard with a beer and the Spotify playlist set to yacht rock? or is it a crowdsourced potluck where everyone will find a comfy spot to nosh and chat? Will the vibe be social and raucous, or introspective and thoughtful? The dinner party is part planning and part execution, where the host is responsible for creating the conditions, and the guests are responsible for how they respond to them.

The culture of your business is just like a dinner party. It’s the feeling, the soul, the vibe and the unspoken rules that ultimately drive the way your team interacts. It is also the invisible force that drives your customer experience. The company culture IS your brand.

When it comes to company culture, the leader is responsible for some of it and the team is responsible for some of it as well. As a leader, it’s your job to invite the right people, get the lighting and music perfect, create the menu, and set the table. Your team, acting as the guests, are responsible for their response to that. You set the conditions and they react within them. In that way, you get the culture you deserve.

Culture is a hot topic these days, especially in the spa industry where filling open positions can be difficult, and turnover is high. A positive culture at your business will make it easy to recruit top talent, generate employee engagement, boost sales and create a buzzworthy brand regardless of the size of your marketing budget. You can’t wait any longer to start getting intentional about culture.

Getting Started
If we stick with our dinner party analogy, then the first thing that the guests experience is going to be the energy of the hosts. Are they in a good mood or a bad mood? Do they always welcome guests at the door with generous smiles and warm hugs? Are they formal and accommodating? Each of these different styles starts to create the culture of the event. The same goes for the people who lead and manage the business.

When I work with teams on improving company culture, we always start with the management team. This is the area that has the most impact for setting the conditions, habits, and values of your team. Having the desired management behaviors clearly defined and consistently executed is the starting place of all healthy cultures.

You’d be surprised at the inconsistency in management styles, behaviors, and values even within just a single location business. The culture of your business starts with how managers respond, act and behave. As you start to think about improving culture, start by documenting what’s expected of managers in a way that is clear, inspiring and measurable. How do you want them to respond to difficult events? What’s your approach to performance management? How much feedback do you expect them to give to the team
and in what way should that be delivered? Make a simple list of three to five key manager values, with three to five specific behaviors for each one.

Bringing People Together
Every good dinner party includes some form of prepping and planning—and the same runs true for your culture as well. This is where you start to get specific about the kind of place you are trying to create and start to define what that looks like so other people can help keep the party going. This is where you focus on your vision. It makes it a lot easier for your team to execute the big plan when they know what it looks like. Imagine your team is in a car and pulls up to a stoplight. They can continue ahead, make a U-turn, turn left or turn right. Each of those is a good choice—depending on where you want to go. For them to make the right choice, they have to know where they’re going; in order for your employees to drive the company culture in the right direction, you’ve got to have a clearly defined vision that properly sets the table for success. If you were to ask each of your employees to define what success looks like for your company, for your customer, for a great experience, for a good shift—would they all say the same thing? Or would their answers lead you in drastically different directions?

To get started with crafting a vision for your team, schedule 20 minutes alone outside of your normal day-to-day; grab a pen and paper; put a future date on the top of the page, like “end of this year” or “five years out”; then, start describing what your spa will look like at that point in time. Imagine you’ve hopped in a time machine into that future date and are describing what you see happening. How are people interacting? How are decisions being made? What things are going on in the business? How are your guests responding? What kinds of people are working there? What are they doing? Get specific about defining what matters, what you want to happen and what exactly it looks like if everyone is successful. Once you have this drafted, share it with a few people for feedback before finalizing it. The final version can be included in hiring and orientation information as a reminder of what everyone is working toward.

Letting Others Contribute
Each person who shows up to a party contributes in some way. Some of it is positive, some of it is negative. But each person has an impact. The same is true of your culture. Every person you hire, promote, keep and even terminate dictates what your culture is—and ultimately how your brand will be remembered. You have a big opportunity in tuning in to what is going on more often.

The easiest way to get started is by doing a short and simple survey that gives you a list of what’s working and what areas might need some attention. You can extract tremendous value even from the simplest of employee surveys. To get started, find a convenient way to survey your team and ask, “what do you like best about working here?” and “what would make it even better?” Use their responses to make some decisions about ways to improve your culture in 2019.

As you think about your plans for 2019, in what ways will you make culture a priority? Will you use the ideas above to create an intentional culture built by design or leave it up to luck? Make this the year that you create a culture that engages your team, creates a remarkable experience for your guests and makes your brand stand out.