12. The internal culture of a small and medium sized team

Entrepreneurship is more than just leading a business – it is also headed towards leading people and teams that gravitate towards the same goals and values. As seen in the previous material, it’s important that your team is guided by the same values and has a similar mindset – that's how they can perform at their best and stay engaged.

Many organizations have been impacted by the pandemic in areas that were vulnerable even before of its start – things that were overlooked worsened and came to surface in the very unstable first months of 2020. People felt overwhelmed by issues that could have been fixed before a crisis started, piling on top of uncertainty and fear. Organizations became unstable, objectives unmet and dissatisfaction grew. Some people chose to change their jobs and reflect upon the things they want and need. And a great number of them could have been foreseen and fixed at the right time.  

As a founder, you will need to keep an eye on these aspects. But let’s see, what is a leader? “A leader is that person who can make up realities that don’t exist yet. Is that person who will get similar-minded people on his side and head together with them to the same direction, with the same energy and purpose”, says Magor Csibi. 

Here are 3 very useful & practical rules of human interaction for entrepreneurs:  

  • Make the other person feel important, but in a genuine way. A leader, an entrepreneur is that person that wants to do things, that has a lot of ambition. Usually, it all comes with being in the spotlight most of the time, but a good leader knows how to share this spotlight with others as well, how to make them feel like they belong too and share this feeling of being important with them.  
  • Ask questions, don’t make requests. A good leader surrounds himself with people who know those things he doesn’t. In this case, a leader can motivate his people by asking questions, and not telling them what to do or giving them instructions. This is the so-called “micromanagement” that most leaders end up doing in their teams.  
  • Respect the opinions of others. Avoid saying “you are not right”, even when the other is saying something you don’t agree with. We will further state a technique to help you achieve this balance.  

Objectives vs behaviors 

Any company has a vision (split in a mission, strategy, objectives and then tasks for each member of the team), that help reach the business’ goals. If your vision and all the elements are very well defined, but you still don’t reach your goals, then you should identify some behaviors that are maybe not in synch with it.  

Alongside the mission and the objectives of the company, you should always consider having similar values with your teammates. Values then determine beliefs, which determine certain approaches, which in the end, determine certain behaviors. That’s why leaders should always be connected to the whole ecosystem of their business.  

When someone’s personal values don’t interfere with the values of the organization, his/her performance is negatively influenced, and that person will probably leave the organization at some point. That is why people need to have their values, beliefs, behaviors and actions reconfirmed by the leaders they follow.  

What are those elements that you should keep an eye on in your company?  

There are 3 areas to consider:  

  • The structure (fluxes, working norms)  
  • The culture (attitudes and behaviors)  
  • The vision (the future of the company) 

These 3 areas are affected in times of crisis:  

  • The structure is damaged (fluxes and working norms change)  
  • The culture is overrun (the attitudes and behaviors are suddenly overrun) 
  • The vision is not clear (which determines an unknown future)  

What are those steps to consider to help you have better control over these aspects? 

Start with a few questions:  

  • What can we do to reimagine the vision?  
  • How can we remodel the organizational culture?  
  • How do we settle for our organizational culture? 

This exercise is useful both in times of crisis, but it also contains elements that every leader should keep in mind and turn to at some point, to check if the vision is still the same or if it needs to be reorganized.  

In terms of organizational culture, you need to “translate” the new vision and culture aspects. Unfortunately, as times are changing, we cannot communicate the same as before, and most of our interactions are now online, which makes it even more difficult. 

What should your priorities be? Caring about your people, first and foremost, as true leaders should be authentic and encourage their team to trust themselves more (instead of doing micromanagement and control everybody). On a more personal level, they should focus on their team’s overall wellbeing (physical and emotional), then the wellbeing of their peers and only then, think about results.  

How to adapt your organizational culture and leadership style to the new reality  

It's clear to see that the way we work drastically changed throughout the uncertain times the COVID-19 pandemic brought to the world. Along with all the changes each of us got to experience, we can clearly see how the way we lead (ourselves and our teams) also faced some changes in the process and it’s obvious that we also need to adapt to the structures of our organizational culture.  

This whole crisis echoes in everything people, organizations or companies do every day. Unfortunately, adapting requires a lot more flexibility, but at the same time, leaders that facilitate it.  

Where to begin so you can fully understand the situation in your organization?  

Begin with analyzing all the factors influencing your day-to-day working habits – also consider including those which negatively affected the company's activities even before the crisis. Here are some questions to help you begin:  

  • What are those factors that affect the organizational culture, the structure and the results? Are any of these factors determined exclusively by the crisis or are there some existent issues that the crisis emphasized?  
  • Are there any conversations that you avoid at this point?  
  • How can you rebuild your business?  
  • What are those aspects that might need some “refreshment” and how can you rebuild them? (Include here those processes, habits that you can work well without) 
  • What are those uncomfortable messages and efforts that you can talk about now?  
  • How can you enhance the resilience and resistance of your team?  

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