What Makes a Leader: Creating the Culture

Paul Stillmank | April 8, 2014

Reposted from Forefrontmag.com

An environment employees want to work in makes for better leadership opportunities, according to 7Summits CEO Paul Stillmank

American business mogul John D. Rockefeller once said, “Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.” As Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of 7Summits, a social business solutions provider, I am keenly aware of a leader’s role in moving a team from good to great. Being a leader isn’t just about having a team to lead; you also have to determine where to take them and how to get there.

One of a leader’s most essential roles is to create his or her team’s environment—the physical space, the company culture, a clear understanding of the end game, the best way to work together, and so on. A well-defined environment makes for a high-performing team and allows them to thrive and grow as individuals. A team that understands and embraces where the company is going and is empowered to take you there ignites a culture that employees thrive in and competitors envy.

Hitting the Books

So how do you create an environment and culture like this? At 7Summits, we do a lot of reading. Good leaders must never stop reading and learning—it’s difficult to inspire our teams if we are not inspired ourselves—and sharing this knowledge and recommending resources is also important to creating culture. I was delighted when our team launched an internal book club to better ensure that we are getting value from the ideas in the books we read.

“Mastering the Rockefeller Habits” is one of many business books that has informed the 7Summits culture and permeated our environment. We take the three pillars from the book to the extreme, using them to shape quarterly priorities, rhythmically make progress toward goals and structure reporting on essential data about company performance.

The pillars are as follows:

  1. Priorities. Part of successful leadership is not only leading your team, but also empowering them to take the journey themselves. Get all team members on the same page by reinforcing a common priority. Our main priority is advancing our vision, represented by internal projects that we call “rocks.” We have five Vision Statements that underscore five rocks and five rock teams, made up of employees from various departments, each quarter. I love rock teams because all employees are encouraged to use their talents and passions on projects outside of their typical job duties. Rock teams are a great way to encourage cross-department innovation.
  2. Rhythm. Maintaining goal alignment and driving accountability is easier with frequent checkpoints. 7Summits employees participate in daily, weekly and quarterly meetings to check in, give updates and address roadblocks on their rock projects. If a project is stuck or a client issue surfaces, our teams stay behind to solve it on the spot.
  3. Data. Leaders must provide consistent feedback so team members can adapt quickly and make more informed decisions. It’s a good idea to have a single, critical number that relates to business performance and that everyone understands.

Goal: Being Fully Networked

Above all, 7Summits is a collaborative company. One of the benefits of being a company that builds online communities is that we can use them for our business as well. These powerful technologies extend our work environment virtually and allow our teams to engage at a national and global level. Our company culture, quarterly goals and rock teams all come to life on our social intranet. Being a fully networked company from day one should be a top priority for business leaders so they can shape the environment they want and fully unleash their teams’ capabilities.

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