As we grow, I’ve noticed that some of our team members encapsulate our culture in a great way.
Other team members have areas of improvement.
As someone who cares so much about the company I feel like anything that goes wrong is ultimately my fault.
With that in mind I decided to write this article so we have a healthy culture as we expand.
A great influence on how I think of culture is in this book “What You Do Is Who You Are” By Ben Horrowitz, we are also influenced by “Good to Great” by Jim Collins.
Some of the ideas below I was clearly influenced by Ben on, others are my own, read the book to figure out which are which 😉
One thing to take note of before we dive into my tips: “value” can seem like a loose word, in his book Ben Horrowitz says that “code, principles or practices” are better than values. Most businesses water values down and they come off as mere platitudes.
To me a code, principle or practice are the essence of values, so I still call them that today, it may be best to not call your company’s values “values” you may call them something more important such as a code depending on your position.
1. Leadership Needs To Live Your Values
If leadership doesn’t follow your culture then people will start slacking. It’s like if your parents tell you to go to sleep on time as a kid, yet they stay up late, it will feel like a betrayal.
Just like anyone else, people learn more from what you do than what you say.
Does a perfect culture exist? Of course not, but striving for perfection is what we really should do, otherwise people will start getting complacent and settle, especially the leadership team.
How do you know you’re living your values? You can make sure you clearly define them and make sure other people hold you accountable.
We all have biases (I would know 😉 ) so it’s paramount that you have an accountability system for things that are important to you and culture should definitely be one of them.
2. Build a Culture Scorecard
How do you score your culture? Look at your company’s performance as well as the behavioral characteristics of everyone. It’s more than if you make money, are people behaving in the way that you intended? If not then it’s time to adjust.
“Your culture is what it is” – was a quote I heard that seemed lackadaisical to me.
Then…when I pondered on this I started agreeing, that the things you already are, that is the only thing the culture can be.
People are VERY HARD to change, so instead, we strive to emphasize those things we resonate with in ourselves. My partners aim to bring out and make sure these are instilled in our hires as well.
3. Make sure you know your #1 value and WHY
What is your organization’s top priority they should never forget? Because people will, I know I have, that #1 value is what helps everyone remember why you do what you do.
How do you find this number 1 value? Well that takes an internal conversation, we had to have this quite a few times to get our values down. These are the things you already are.
At our company the number 1 value is care. It’s NOT an easy value to follow, I’ll give you my hardships. How do you take care of yourself, WHILE, showing someone else you care? You have to be both considerate of yourself and them, you need to speak through action and not words, you need to be consistent. When stressed you have to take a deep breath, calm down and focus on the long term.
How do you follow capitalism, which undoubtedly values competition with close and far competitors willing to poach your team members, blatantly lie to you, cheat, steal, copy, etc, while STILL doing good for everyone and not letting yourself take a step back or denigrate them?
PS for more detail, check out this video Ben Horrowitz created on management, which I feel represents of caring in management:
Are you sure you want Care to be your number 1 value?
It’s a hard value to follow for me for sure, but well worth it.
It’s because I have been blessed to be given a lot. This is why care is important for me, I get energy out of being a giver.
This means not worrying about the temporary bottom line, but thinking long term.
We value caring because someone that really cares will build something that lasts, it just so happens that those who aren’t ethical have a much harder time thinking longer term and by default they may profit temporarily, but in the long run they forget that money multiplies over the years when you let it compound.
The only sustainable way to let money compound over years, you need to think long term for that.
We’re lucky that being ethical and making a lot of money can actually be powerful.
4. Make Sure Your Values Are Practiced Through Consistent Actions
I’ve delved into it a little above. You need to follow your values through clear actions, this is what people understand, not just what you say and write.
A company needs to make sure their values are practiced. So develop clear practices of your values.
We’ve strived to do this by representing them in our company communication channel Discord (However we definitely need to make sure we do that right.)
We also make sure everyone announces their top focus everyday. A top focus that is well throughout shows that you care.
If your focus isn’t thought through well then people will think you don’t care as much as you may.
The other thing we do is have a company values meeting every monday and do a weekly raffle for anyone who filled out our raffle form (thinking of making this mandatory?…hmmm will have to talk to my partners on how this will impact the culture).
The hard part with being too strict on every aspect of your culture is not everyone is gonna follow it, if you’re too subtle then no one will listen.
So what do you do? Have at least 3 or 4 best practices that are never broken.
Pushing people because you know they’re capable of more is what can help you and them grow. The hard part is you need to push team members, but not so hard that they break, this is what makes a great manager.
5. Hire For Values First
Candidates will never perfectly embody your values because they’re not you.
However, I do think you should grade candidates on how closely they come to your business values.
This is one of the hardest things to do because you never truly know someone, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it though. This is why we have a values test.
A values test reveals how closely aligned a candidate is with each value in your company.
Value test examples for us:
Me: Did you get to do any research about our company before this interview?
Me: Sounds great tell me more
Candidate: well ummm…urgh…(not really giving me anything besides generic answers)
Me: Thanks for applying, we’re not a fit. We look for people that are really deliberate with their career path and do research on their companies. Let me know what your questions are about this position and how it’s been going, we can save ourselves some time and call it after that.
In the example above (which has happened multiple times), the candidate doesn’t fit our values so I’m clear with them.
Instead of just leaving the interview I do still give them tips on how to get hired for the position they seek and how they can improve overall.
Why? Because we still care even if they don’t work here. This is how strongly I believe our first value to be. I try to live them every day.
Anyways, I hope you appreciated my ideas on how to build your culture. At the end of the day, the bottom line is you have to be intentional with it, you can’t force it and you should consistently keep it top of mind.