Carsten Thiel is a businessman with more than two decades of leadership experience. He is CEO of the global biopharmaceutical EUSA Pharma.
In my 20 years of leading teams in the biopharmaceutical industry, I’ve come to enjoy the process of building a culture. First, it’s a fun intellectual challenge: How can you make these unique individuals with their own goals and personal goals into a unit that functions as one? But perhaps most importantly, by creating a strong team you are contributing to the ultimate mission of making a difference in the lives of others.
As a leader, part of your greatest impact comes from setting the tone for the organization. You can make the best business plans and hire the most talented people in your field, but I’ve found that no matter what industry you’re in or the size of the team you lead, all your hard work will be ineffective. without a culture to match.
In today’s rapidly changing world with increasingly saturated markets, modern society has placed a high value on traits such as individualism and competitiveness. However, I’ve found that when you build a culture based on these values, you end up with a stunted and unhappy workforce. Teams are less likely to collaborate with other departments or even with each other. Employees don’t feel safe or supported enough to point out problems, even if they have good ideas about ways to solve them. Faced with a culture that only rewards individual efforts rather than collective efforts, morale and motivation drop significantly for the majority of the team.
A caring culture
Instead, leaders should strive to create a “culture of care.” A caring culture is one in which team members are encouraged to act with general reciprocity: acting without expecting a favor in return, because the assumption is that they would make the same effort if their roles were reversed. While it is still recognized and even encouraged to have individual goals and objectives, the trust and respect in a caring culture helps people feel comfortable reaching out to their team members for support in achieving them.
In a culture of competition and individualism, the scales can easily tip in the negative direction. The power of a caring culture lies in the concentrated power of the concept as a whole. The goal is to create a culture where employees are genuinely motivated by the positive effect of gratitude rather than self-interest. This requires a comprehensive and holistic approach to culture.
The road to a culture of care can be challenging, but if you put in the effort, the result should be a stronger, more effective and more innovative organization for years to come. Below are some of the biggest building blocks you need to look at as a leader to create a caring culture in your organization.
1. Have an engaging mission.
At this point, having a mission statement has become standard practice for most companies, but just because you have one doesn’t mean it’s motivating or compelling for your team members. A simple but meaningful mission has the ability to unite a group of people with different positions, skills and goals under one goal. It gives employees a compass they can use to develop their own individual goals, and because team members know that each person’s goals are positioned to serve the overall mission, they will be more inclined to help each other achieve them.
2. Build trust.
This is one of the easiest to say yet the hardest to do. However, a trust-based work environment is crucial to building a caring culture. Look for ways you can build your team members’ trust in each other and make sure you move beyond superficial ideas. An organization filled with people who feel both trusted and respected by their peers is more likely to bring forward thoughtful and innovative ideas because team members know they can trust each other in the process.
3. Facilitate interpersonal connections.
Anyone who tells you that the workplace is not a place for socializing does not understand humanity. We are social creatures that have evolved to solve problems through collaboration, and facilitating personal connections in the workplace is an excellent way to improve morale and the aforementioned confidence. While you don’t need to know every detail about each other’s lives, getting together and discussing what’s important to individuals can help people better understand each other and work together more effectively.
4. Recognize and reward teamwork.
Companies often implement “Employee of the Month” programs to encourage individuals to put their best foot forward, but if you want to build a caring culture, look to programs that encourage teamwork. Instead of creating competitions where team members compete against each other, look for ways to recognize and reward joint efforts. In addition, try adding teamwork and collaboration to your employee metrics so it’s clear that how team members work with others is just as important as how they perform as individuals.
5. Lead by example.
If you should take only one thing out of this, let it be that as a leader you are responsible for the culture of your organization. Team members will look to you for advice on how to behave and interact with each other. If you want to build a caring culture, take the time to exemplify an attitude of general reciprocity yourself.
Virtually every industry is experiencing uncertainty right now, with pandemic shakeups, global turmoil and other economic factors creating instability that could prove detrimental to organizations with weak cultures. More than ever, building a team that can rely on each other can make or break the way a company navigates through challenges. An organization with a caring culture has the ability to overcome obstacles and drive innovation efficiently and with integrity.