If you work in finance, you know things aren’t going to be all sunshine and rainbows all the time. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to put up with being in a toxic hell pit forever.
At the end of the day being a good MD means managing a team that brings in money. That’s pretty straightforward: your team’s performance is your performance. But how an MD goes about getting the most out of their team can have long-term impacts. The cutthroat MD can probably get a team to perform, but there is a cost to that approach. Fostering a more positive environment, on the other hand, can go a long way towards attracting and retaining top talent…but is much harder to pull off successfully.
So the question becomes, can you have the best of both worlds (good work culture and good performance)?
Creating a Good Work Culture as an MD
Before getting into the details of how to boost your workplace culture, it’s important to take a quick look at why you might want to in the first place. Sure it sounds good, but when business is about the bottom line, “sounding good” isn’t always that important.
What IS important, is the people that make deals happen. The more talented, driven, and experienced the people, the more everyone benefits. And how do you get the best people? A) more money, and B) an attractive work environment. To put it simply, creating a reputation around having a good work culture means you’ll have an easier time drawing top-level people, and as we just established, top-tier workers equal top-tier earnings.
Having a desirable reputation brings options, and aside from maybe the Cheesecake Factory menu, lots of options aren’t usually a bad thing.
What Does “Good Work Culture” Even Mean?
“Good” can mean different things to different people. But generally speaking, there are some fairly universal things the “good” companies establish in the workplace. The term work-life balance is often thrown around as the biggest, but let’s be honest, that’s gonna be relative when it comes to IB and PE. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be good relative to others, and if word gets around that it’s relatively better, people will start to notice.
Building a Better Workplace
If you’re looking to build a better culture, it’ll take more than bringing in donuts every once in a while. It involves setting up changes that can establish a reputation, and doing that means creating a few specific goals.
- Bring in (and Keep) the Best. Running a successful team is infinitely easier when you have capable and trustworthy analysts and associates. Part of that means avoiding, or even cutting any team members that poison the workplace with toxic behavior. Remember, good work culture is a long-term goal, and building it with people that fit that culture will make it infinitely easier to attract similar types down the line.
- Encourage Collaboration. Sure, finance doesn’t necessarily breed a buddy-buddy mentality, but that doesn’t mean everyone should hate everyone. Whether it’s encouraging people to work together on projects when possible, or even making sure there is an inviting space for people to eat lunch and interact (rather than staying tucked away at their desks all day every day), encouraging some level of positive interaction and collaboration will go a long way boosting the workplace.
- Know When to Let Off the Gas. Big firms across all industries fall into this trap where if you aren’t working yourself to the bone, you aren’t performing. Not only is that not true, it can actually have the opposite effect. Long nights and endless hours are bound to happen, but if you can isolate the heavy weeks to when it’s absolutely necessary, your team will be able to bring their A-game when it matters most.
- Remember, Your Team is Made of People. Super obvious, sure, but IB and PE aren’t known for their emphasis on people management. While the demands don’t change just because you run a less toxic ship, it’s still important that as an MD you occasionally remind yourself that everyone around you is, in fact, still a person. Just because you’ve mastered the art of avoiding showing weakness, doesn’t mean the volatility of the industry doesn’t wear on people. When stress is (extra) high, try and spot if someone on your team could use a little help (or even just a quick pep-talk).
- Take Care of Yourself. One of the most common causes of toxic workplaces is toxic leadership. MDs set the tone, which means if you neglect yourself, things are likely to spiral in the wrong direction for the whole team. If you focus on your wellness, you can help your team do so as well, and while finding the time can be difficult, the return on investment of staying mentally and physically sharp is not something to underestimate.
Don’t Let Your Company Fall Behind
If you’ve made your way into a leadership role, it means you know what it takes to excel at the positions you took as stepping stones to get where you currently are. That also means you probably had experiences with things you felt should be changed but weren’t in the position to do so. Well, here you are, so make those changes.
And don’t just limit changes to things you went through. Stay connected with your team, and be open to changes the upcoming generations would like to see. And along that same train of thought, don’t let everything get outdated to the point of no return. Easy example, unless you’re already using CapLinked, there’s a very solid chance your current VDR sucks. Setting up a winning culture takes time and energy, but switching your VDR is a quick and easy win.
Cyrus Grant is a writer from Southern California with a background in content marketing, dispute resolution, law, and politics. When he isn’t writing he can be found deep-diving into the latest technology trends or simply spending time at the beach.