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My business journey was full of ups and downs but one of the lowest points in that journey was realizing that we had a toxic culture in the business and I didn't know how to fix it until I did. You see, we were losing staff left, right, and center and hemorrhaging money too. Something had to change - but what?

I realised that when leading a team, it's really important to show that you care about the people that you lead. You see, leadership is about growing the people around you. I didn't learn this lesson straight away - in fact, I was about 10 years into my business journey when I learned that I needed to look after my team in order for the team to look after my clients that meant the clients would look after my business. So I want to share with you today how I went about showing my team that I cared about them.

It started with an initiative called Leadership Lunch. It was an opportunity for me to sit down and have lunch with all of my 100+ team members and to hear from my team what was going wrong in the business. But unintentionally at first, it allowed me to share my WHY and also the vision for the company in a way we hadn’t done before. I hadn't realised it straight away but what this did was that it made my team members buy into my WHY and understand that this was the WHY of the business too. The vision too and made them more engaged and invested in our goals and what we were wanting to achieve. We had shared our vision, mission and values previously but this small act made it come alive for my team. The Leadership Lunch also allowed me to learn about their WHY and their lives outside of work. What I didn't expect were the amazing stories that came out of those discussions. Learning about abusive upbringings, homelessness or amazing sports achievements painted the people in a new light for me and ignited a caring in me for each one of those members. You see when someone feels cared for they will care back but it starts with you as the leader. There is no better way to build highly effective culture in an organisation than when everyone feels cared for - right from the cleaner to the business owner. Something magical changes when people feel cared for and their commitment to the success of the business (and for you) increases significantly. And so does the retention rate.

I often say that life is a mirror and when I was trying to make sense of our toxic culture in my organisation, not for a second did I think that this was a result of me. But when looking in that mirror now, and with the benefit of hindsight, I now know that the culture of the organisation was a direct reflection of the culture of me, and the only way to fix that culture was for me to fix myself first. I thought that people would care about my business because I paid them a salary, but what I needed to do was to let them know that I cared about them - and genuinely cared about them and their lives outside of the business.

So if you are struggling with culture issues or staff retention, take some time and get to know your team and let them know that you genuinely care about them and see productivity soar and your people happy in the workplace – trust me, it makes a BIG difference.

- Robin Olivier (ActionCURVE NZ)

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