So, you’re the leader. You need to set an example for others to follow. As such, you make sure you’re the first one in the office, you demonstrate how best to act with customers so your teams can follow suit and, importantly, you set the tone for what is acceptable around here.
All too often though, the weight of this responsibility can mean that even the most fun and edgy entrepreneur from the start-up days, starts to become corporate and serious as your business becomes larger. My advice? Do precisely the opposite and regress as far as formality goes, the larger you become.
The joy of owning your own business is that YOU set the rules. You don’t have to dance to the sound of someone else’s drum and, as such, can show your employees why it’s fabulous to work in such a liberating, entrepreneurial environment and demonstrate why your customers want to do business with your company, rather than your larger, more homogenous competitors.
Within my own business, The Curve Group, the biggest question I was asked by our employees when we tipped over the £10m turnover point and shared our plans for world domination was “how will we remain ‘Curvy’ as we continue to grow at such a rate?” We reassured them of our intentions, shared plans of initiatives we were investing in to secure our Curvy culture but the question still kept coming. Until we decided to stop talking and start demonstrating what we meant. Cue our superhero alter egos.
My business partners – Della Wolfe (aka Mrs Incredible) and Jeanette Ramsden (aka Super Girl) – and I (aka Wonder Woman), combined forces at our company-wide conference. We set aside our fears of looking like total plonkers and donned our superhero outfits. We high- fived everyone as we arrived and if anyone was in any doubt about our intention to keep our Curvy culture strong, it disappeared as we were prepared to not take ourselves seriously. Now please don’t misinterpret this by thinking that we don’t take business and our responsibilities incredibly seriously, as we do. But we really wanted to show our teams that being bigger actually allows us to spread the #Curvyway of doing things and allows us to impact more peoples’ lives, be superheroes for more customers and continue to keep the fun and personality well and truly alive.
So you’ve set the tone and demonstrated that it’s ok to laugh around here. Then what? Then you need to give your teams the tools and the unconditional support to bring to life your culture in a bottom-up way that you can’t possibly do from the top. One of our tools was to launch our CAPE behaviours – these provide structure around what it means to be a Curvy superhero but it is also the exact same structure that we base our client solutions around too.
All we asked was a simple question: how are you going to wear your CAPE every day? And the result was, and continues to be, quite simply humbling. By us asking one question, then completely stepping away from the actions, we have emails celebrating success and sharing how colleagues wore their CAPE that day, we have the CAPE awards and we have a self-styled Marvel team that run with fun initiatives across the company that change every week.
The list goes on and on and I couldn’t as a leader believe how they have taken the baton and run with it just because we demonstrated that firstly it was OK to keep laughing and secondly our culture is now in their hands to protect and shape.
The CAPE bit is simple (and by the way was invented by the team) and stands for:
A Laughter Matter
If you’re thinking that this is all well and good but only about one company, let me leave you with my five final thoughts that come up in research as to why it’s important that you don’t take yourself too seriously and you make your teams laugh:
1. Laughter dissolves distressing emotions and is proven to reduce levels of stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine
2. Laughing allows groups to bond together, work as a group better and act more generously towards each other
3. Laughter helps you relax and recharge. It increases energy, enabling you to stay focused and accomplish more
4. Laughter is authentic. Sure, you can fake a smile. And maybe a chuckle. But not a proper belly-laugh
5. Laughter attracts people – employees and customers to your business
So, if you are looking for a new 2015 New Year’s resolution – why not resolve to go the whole year without taking yourself too seriously and see what it brings for your business and its culture.