What does it mean to be “winning”? Does it mean you’re successful every step of the way? Does it mean you make the most money over your competitors? Not really, at least not necessarily. Fostering workplace culture that is considered “winning” goes much further than your bottom line. It has more to do with developing and nurturing an environment that is conducive to forward-thinking, a successful mindset and a deep-down belief that you’re all in this together. If you can bring people who work for you together rather than segment them, you’re taking a solid first step.

Think about Google, JetBlue, Facebook, Apple, Disney…these are all companies that are well known for their coveted corporate cultures. Sure, they’re wildly successful, but there’s a really good reason, and that reason has everything to do with employees and customers that truly love those companies. Eighty-one percent of business leaders say a company lacking a high-performance culture is doomed to mediocrity, with fewer than 10 percent of businesses succeeding in building an empire, according to Entrepreneur.

Importance of Culture

So, why is culture so important? It will set the stage for everything you do from here on out. If you’re a startup, you may feel a bit intimidated and even terrified of this statement. But it’s true: from your hires to the way you run your daily operations, you have opportunity upon opportunity to set yourself apart from all the rest. How you treat your customers, for example, is a big chunk of that. Another big chunk? Your leadership. Leadership is about what you do rather than what you say, with a healthy company culture emerging as a direct result of a leader who understands how important company culture is to the sustained growth of the organization, points out Forbes. So, whether you run a startup out of your garage or you’re the CIO of a big technology company, get back to your roots and build a positive workplace culture right in. You can’t survive and thrive without it.

Tips to Fostering the Culture You Want

It doesn’t happen overnight, but there are ways you can integrate a positive workplace culture from the get-go. Here are some tips:

Learn from mistakes: Not just yours, but other organizations around you. Take those lessons, internalize them, learn from them, and know what it takes to cultivate success.

Align your culture with your core values: Who are you? What is your business all about? Whether philanthropic in nature or customer-focused, infuse your passion into the workplace to encourage creativity, collaboration, work hard/play hard mindset: whatever it is that drives you forward every day, foster that passion in everyone who works for you. Your brand will follow you everywhere. Make sure it aligns with your core values.

Insist on open communication: The ability to build honesty among your staff is built on communication. Talking with each other is key. Encourage your staff to come to you with concerns, and address those concerns quickly. Make sure everyone knows their opinions are valued.

Have some fun: From craft beer Fridays to company outings to team building exercises like rock climbing or wine tastings, there are many ways you can join your staff together in a common interest and let off steam at the same time. Connecting on a level that doesn’t involve work always brings people closer together.

Be a community of believers: If your employees don’t believe inherently in what you do or sell, they can’t fully back it. Place a big emphasis on internal communication and orientation, and you’ll see results. Sustaining a positive work atmosphere means you have to show your employees why the brand they’re promoting is so great.

Work together: Building a sense of community begins and ends with a solid team. Rather than segregating departments of units, promote unity through all levels of your company, from founders to management to executives.

Grow your culture: This isn’t a “set it and forget it” job. Fostering a company culture that will survive takes continual effort. Like a lawn without water, your culture will die a slow death if you neglect it. Give your organization the freedom it needs to thrive and evolve. Remember, you will see fluctuations as it grows. This is normal and expected.

Whether you’re the genius behind a cool startup, or you’re the new CIO of a long-established company in need of a change of vision, you have the power to establish a winning culture people want to be a part of.

Building Foundational Relationships

Having a cohesive unit in the workplace ensures team camaraderie and, ultimately, success on any project you may take on. “It takes a village” isn’t just a saying that applies to raising children. It also applies in the workplace, on every level of management. As the CIO, it’s your job to build, encourage and foster that camaraderie so that it infiltrates every sector of your team. That’s how goals are met, marathons won, and deals made. It’s about more than the end game, though. It’s more important to have a cohesive team working in unison like a well-oiled machine through every stage in the process. When a team is disjointed, any bump in the road could derail the train. When acting in unison, a team can weather any storm.

According to LinkedIn, employees who work in an environment marked by friendship and laughter will be more creative and less stressed, which equals higher productivity and increased innovation. In addition to that, collaboration in pursuit of a common goal bridges gaps and makes people feel more connected to one another.

How can you go about building team camaraderie?

Address conflict head on: Most people think that if they can just avoid conflict and keep the peace with other members of the group, they can avoid those uncomfortable disagreements that can damage a team. However, just the opposite is true. Conflict that’s not resolved properly will fester over time, causing far more damage to the team than if it were discussed head on earlier.

Respect the differences of your team: Everyone brings something unique to the team dynamic. Not everyone will be good at leading a meeting, and not everyone will be good at strategizing. The important thing is that every team member brings his own strengths to the table. As the CIO, it’s important for you to recognize the value each person walks into that conference room with. When you value a team member for his strengths rather than weaknesses, this bolsters the strengths of everyone else in the room.

Let each team member own their portion of the project: Every project, group and team needs a leader, that’s a fact. However, when that leader tries to own every aspect of the goal and has trouble trusting others or delegating tasks, the rest of the team feels under-valued, under-appreciated, and under-utilized. Delegating properly means you are giving a piece of the project away to each team member, entrusting them to follow through and own that portion of the responsibility. Your team members will then feel like they’re integral to the outcome, rather than just a cog in the machine.

Involve the team in something other than work: Team building begins with people, and when you foster that basic desire to learn about one another and motivate one another, you can expect much better results when it comes time to actually work. Forget the competitions that pit employee against employee to achieve the highest sales for the month. One way to do that is to involve your team in some kind of office goal, such as a health or fitness plan. Give each member of the team a step tracker and reward the person with the most steps taken each month. A simple goal…a clear objective…a healthy way to encourage team work…often this is the ice breaker that allows you to bring your group together.

Break out of the norm: Teachers do it all the time when their kids need to get out of the classroom setting and into an adaptive and interactive learning experience: they take a field trip. Your team needs a break too. You don’t always have to hold stifled meetings in the board room. Take them out for coffee, treat them to lunch, or suggest a casual meeting outside on a nice day under a shady tree. Sometimes a change of scenery can go a long way toward re-charging everyone’s batteries, inspiring a new line of thinking, or sparking a creative idea.

Celebrate successes: Just like winning a race you’ve been working hard for with a few of your peers, sharing team successes on a project that benefits the company is just as important. Foster this sense of connection and commitment between peers after facing a common challenge, working together to achieve success, and coming out on top. Sharing those stories and recounting how everyone overcame obstacles to achieve the desired result is a huge boost to morale.

In the end, it’s all about bringing positivity to the team and fostering an environment of open collaboration, says the Harvard Business Review.  As CIO, you can achieve that by:

  • Maintaining responsibility for colleagues as friends.
  • Supporting one another.
  • Avoiding blame and forgiving mistakes.
  • Inspiring each other’s work.
  • Emphasizing the meaningfulness of the team’s work.
  • Treating everyone with respect, gratitude, integrity and trust.

Remember: it doesn’t matter how smart, talented or driven you are, says Inc.com, your organization’s success ultimately rests with your ability to build, nurture and inspire a great team.

Maximizing time is a one of the keys to success for busy leaders. For those who are struggling with time-management, here are some tips for time-management effectiveness:

Utilize Transition Times

If you’re like most people, there’s a lot of down time in your life that you could be using, but aren’t. This time might refer to when you’re waiting at the doctor’s office, taking the subway into work, or even waiting for water for your tea to boil. Maximize this wasted time by using it to make lists, prioritize your daily activities, send emails, or make the call that you’ve been putting off.


Make a Priority List

Successful leaders not only know what they have to do in a day, but they also know how to prioritize those items. Make two lists: one of all the things you have to do in a day or week, and one of all of the to-do items that are most important to you. Then, set up a time-management plan that prioritizes the things that are most important to you. Once these are scheduled, fill in free time with the other things to be accomplished.

Delegate Tasks

Most leaders get to where they are by being Type-A personalities that want to do it all. And while being a go-getter certainly helps you get farther in life, learning when to delegate and disperse tasks out is also a key part of time-management. For more menial tasks that don’t require your expertise, allow someone else to get it done for you. Whether it’s answering emails or putting together the menu for your upcoming fundraiser, you don’t need to—nor should you—do it all.

Focus on the Short-term

Sure, long-term goals for yourself, your business, and your family are all important. But in order to reach those long-term goals, you’ll need to establish some short-term ones, too. Setting short-term goals allows you to focus your time specifically on these, maximizing every spare second. Achieving small goals on a daily basis will help you move you towards the direction of reaching your bigger goals.

Eliminate Time Wasters

We all have them – those things that we really don’t need to be doing, but do regardless sans any personal benefit. This might include using social media, playing a game on your smartphone or tablet, or doodling on a notepad out of boredom. To help you with your time-management skills, identify the things that you waste your time on. Then, either make the decision to eliminate these time wasters entirely, or schedule a part of your day that’s dedicated solely to them. If you choose the latter option, make sure the amount of time that you schedule is reasonable, and that you don’t participate in your time-wasting activity during another part of the day.

Time-management can be difficult, but is one of the many keys to optimizing success for busy people. To start maximizing your time today, utilize transition times, make a list of your priorities, delegate tasks, focus on short-term goals, and eliminate time wasters from your day.