Creating an innovative, positive culture where employee value and collaboration are keys to the success of your company is difficult in today’s shaky economic and political world. Yet, in many of the best companies, this is what successful executives focus on achieving — creating the best environment for their employees. When you look at Fortune’s “100 Best Places to Work,” these companies are frequently the most profitable because they perform better for their customers and clients.


Corporate culture equals performance
There isn’t a corporate leader who doesn’t stay up at night thinking about their team and how the company’s environment affects both the workplace and their company’s reputation in the market. Seven of the top 10 most common “sleepless night” issues for CEOs are employee-related concerns — performance issues, firing or laying off an employee, tough hiring decisions, HR confrontations, team member conflicts, peer discord, and the potential loss of star performers.


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Core values that motivate
Your company should have common values. Whether these values are to have fun and make money, be the industry leader, or create the best widget, you need a commonality that inspires employees and leads to company success. It’s important to have regular meetings to check on your company’s alignment, and to verify that employees are working harmoniously to prevent company disorganization.


Communication is key
It is well known that the late Steve Jobs created a culture of responsibility by hosting a series of weekly meetings that set the tone for Apple. Jobs had weekly meetings with his executive management team to discuss results and strategy, and to review nearly every important project in the company. In a 2008 interview with Fortune, Jobs stated: “Simplicity breeds clarity…Every Monday we review the whole business. We look at every single product under development. I put out an agenda.”


Smart leaders should always check in with their organization to evaluate their employees’ interest in, knowledge of, engagement with, and dedication to the common values and goals of the company.


Know the business
Every employee in your company, from the receptionist to the CEO, should understand the business.  It’s not only about understanding processes and spreadsheets but what you stand for, and how you are evaluated in the marketplace by your clients and competition. How do you get support for new ideas and get things done within the company? In addition, how do you get recognition and support for your teammates and colleagues?


Don’t assume that everyone in your organization knows the company’s value proposition or business objectives. They have to be included. You should be asking them their opinions, and most importantly, you need to listen.


Be the example
If you’re serious about teamwork, you will need to get rid of status symbols that induce statements such as: “I’m more important than you,” “I have more power than you,” and “Do as I say but not as I do.” Save perks for your personal life, not your work life. Keep your ego in check by regularly, systematically, and objectively checking with your staff. Big egos have no place in a good team. Make sure fairness is a living value in your organization.


Cultivate innovation
Innovation is not just conceiving the idea. Innovation is putting the idea into action.

Whether you’re referring to the innovation of new products, new services, new strategies, new opportunities, or the re-designing of old processes, systems, and structures, innovation is the key to moving forward.


Your goal is not only to discover what your customer/client wants, but to deliver better service and value than the competition. Always advance your product or service to ensure that your competition doesn’t get the jump on you.


Laugh — it’s good for the culture
If you are a dull company steeped in tradition, the word “fun” may not be used often to describe your workplace. If you are a more innovative, creative company, “fun” may well be part of the daily language. Make fun at work more than just acceptable. The fun factor should not solely be driven by management — it should come from the employees and the teams themselves.


Regularly checking in with people is a great retention strategy that opens the doors of communication, enables the flow of ideas, and ensures continual innovation.


Share the rewards
Sharing the rewards is a topic that has been well researched. Suffice it to say, if people have a share in what they produce, they will be more committed to better, faster, and cheaper production and surpass the competition. When each employee genuinely believes they own a seat at the table, nothing could be more powerful for an organization. There are many models to base your reward-sharing program on — the key is to base it on total team performance not just individual performance.


Make everyone a leader
One management maxim is, “The speed of the group is determined by the speed of the leader.” Another saying — which sits on the desk of Ted Turner of CNN and TBN — is, “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.” Your goal is to encourage everyone in the organization to lead in such a way as to empower and liberate, not to control and suffocate.


Your goal is to develop motivating, ground-breaking business leaders at every level of your organization to optimize the potential of your business model. A great business model without an inspired staff is a swimming pool without water.


Whether you look at the fastest growing companies, Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For,” BOSS’s “Best Employers” list, or some other research data, the message is always the same: Focus on developing better workplaces and people will work better in them. When you build better workplaces, you get superior business results and superior business returns.


Erika Weinstein is co-founder and president of Stephen-Bradford Search.

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