What is company culture? According to good old Wikipedia, “organizational culture is the behavior of humans within an organization and the meaning that people attach to those behaviors. Culture includes the organization's vision, values, norms, systems, symbols, language, assumptions, beliefs, and habits. Organizational culture affects the way people and groups interact with each other, with clients, and with stakeholders.”
Building a healthy company culture is one of those “a lot easier said than done” processes. It defines the environment that you’re in everyday, for the majority of the day. So it’s probably not surprising that if people don’t feel good in their immediate environment, the work they’re outputting might reflect that. Even more, it most likely affects their personal lives as well - if they come home grumpy, it can rub off on those at home too. Building a strong, healthy company culture doesn’t happen overnight, but I’ve pulled from my personal experience at CONSENSUS™ to give you some ideas on how to start:
Set the Example: Lead from the Front
Our CEO, Garin, talked about leading from the front in his previous post: "Be willing to get there early and stay late with your team at the end of the quarter to close those deals. Lead the charge by showing your team how to hunt for and bring in those difficult, but important, large deals. Get into the fray. Get on the phone and coach. Don’t forget how to sell and expect your team to do it for you."
Behaviors conducive to a strong company culture have to start from the top level. Avoid falling back on the “take my advice, I’m not using it” motto. Not only does it not provide guidance for your team, it also shows them where the “cut-off” level on motivation lies. They can only be as motivated and as productive as you give them the ability to be.
At CONSENSUS, we have a company-wide meeting every Friday. This meeting includes (usually in order):
- nerf gun contest
- discussion about what we’ve all pulled from our reading of “The One Thing” book
- talk from each department about what we’ve achieved this week
- company-wide talk about what our focus is on
- break-down of what each department should be focused on in order to keep our company-wide focus
Garin facilitates every meeting and it’s a great chance to get back on the same page as him and the rest of our departments. It’s easy to get engulfed in your specific work, but these meetings help us keep the big picture in mind. It also gives our teams a chance to be acknowledged for the good work we’re doing, which helps drive the motivation to keep on doing it.
Be Transparent: Give Honest Feedback
One of the coolest experiences (in my opinion) I’ve had at CONSENSUS happened while standing in line at Subway with my manager, Matt. I’d recently started working at CONSENSUS and we were talking about my interview and what we’d both been thinking before and after it. It was such a breath of fresh air to get an honest and clear understanding of what he was looking for and how “upper management” thinks.
It's important to be transparent when critiquing a co-worker's work. That’s not suggesting you blurt out the first thing that comes to mind, but think before you speak. Put yourself in their shoes and think about how they will interpret what you're saying. Telling someone you like their work simply to avoid hurting their feelings, or rudely critiquing someone’s work, will only inhibit your company’s ability to improve and grow.
But communicating in a respectful way about how you feel has many pay-offs: they will get a new perspective on their work, they will learn that you are a trusted resource, their work will improve, and it will build the quality of your relationship when they know you're being honest with them.
Acknowledge Life Outside of Work
CONSENSUS runs a program called “Great Life” that does 2 things:
1. Gives you a monthly budget towards a health or happiness goal (i.e. buying equipment to try rock climbing or covering a gym membership)
2. Asks you to set a very specific health or happiness goal that you want to reach by a very specific date (typically within 3 weeks)
I used my budget to sign up for the Dirty Dash (a mud run) that I’m doing with a bunch of other co-workers. It gives me something to look forward to and, having never done an official “run” before, I’m excited to push myself out of my comfort zone a bit.
The purpose of setting a very specific timeframe for achieving a specific goal is to basically show ourselves that we can do it - and the feeling of reaching a goal is really satisfying, motivating and confidence-building. Part of “Great Life” is documenting our new adventures through taking pictures - which we share at team meetings and on our social media pages. It also helps the rest of the world attach a face and image with our name.
Plan Social Events
Taking company time to give employees a chance to bond outside of work is awesome. We’ve had a company BBQ, a company hike up Mt. Timpanogos and are scheduled for running the Dirty Dash mud run in a week. These events are scheduled on typical work days.
So what does that communicate to me? My company genuinely cares about my mental and physical health. They want me to feel good about my life and my goals, so they’re going to help me do that. They care about getting to know each other and building a healthy work environment.
As I type this up, sitting at the desk that I picked out, in the chair that I chose, because CONSENSUS insisted that my workspace represent "me", I feel lucky to be part of this culture. I’m proud to share it with the world.