Brian Horn, editor, Lawn & Landscape

I’ve written here about the Cleveland Browns a few times. Those past columns normally revolved around the organization being a dysfunctional and laughable mess for the past 20 years. But this season, the Browns won 12 games including their first playoff game in 200 years (it felt that long), so I will focus on something they did correctly and what you can learn from it.

In January of 2020, the team hired Kevin Stefanski as head coach, a position he’s never had. But once COVID-19 hit, he had to get to know his team through Zoom meetings, phone calls and text messages. This is not an ideal way to enter your first season as a coach in the NFL.

Nonetheless, it was the way many of you had to lead your company in 2020, and some of you may continue to operate by letting some staff work remotely, or report directly to jobsites, moving forward. The flexibility is a way to attract employees and it may be a way to save on the overhead costs of having an office. But it also may chip away at the culture you have built and that happens organically by being under one roof.

You may need to get creative on how to keep the culture intact with employees not crossing paths as frequently. As a way to get the Browns to bond, Stefanski used a tactic that was suggested to him by Virginia Commonwealth basketball coach Mike Rhoades, who learned of it from Texas A&M–Corpus Christi basketball coach Willis Wilson.

“Whether they are a face on a screen or someone you see before morning roll-out, employees and their engagement in your company can be the difference between being a winning and losing organization.”

Stefanski had players, coaches, executives and even the team’s owners, share their 4Hs – history, heartbreak, heroes and hopes. The exercise allowed individuals to learn something they didn’t know about someone else and identify similarities amongst themselves – similarities they may never have known existed were it not for the discussions.

Even if you plan on going back to pre-COVID operations, you should always strive to find new ways to improve your culture, and maybe an activity like this would work for you. If not, continue to seek methods to improve your culture, whether you find it in books, podcasts, peer groups, or any other vehicle possible.

Whether they are a face on a screen or someone you see before morning roll-out, employees and their engagement in your company can be the difference between being a winning and losing organization. – Brian Horn