What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about “company culture?”
Is it a workspace filled with bean bags instead of regular chairs? A startup that offers catered vegan lunches on Fridays? An office that features designated nap rooms and ping pong tables?
Well, contrary to popular belief, company culture doesn’t necessarily have to mean being cool or having a Google-esque office space. While amenities like these can be fun and nice to have, they’re not what makes up true company culture. In this week’s Conversations from the Corner Office, ID Plans CRO Seth Garber gets at the heart of what company culture means to him – and how you can build one you’re proud of.
SG: If I think about what company culture is, it’s not something on the outside but the way people feel on the inside about the organization they work for. Sometimes I think it’s about the things they share as well as what they don’t share. As far as the external component, it has to do with leadership’s ability to harness the feelings of team members and create continuity between those feelings to move company into a certain direction that aligns with the company’s mission, vision, and goals.
SG: When someone starts a new company, it’s something people think about. At first, there may be a tendency toward giving things like free lunches to begin creating relationships. As you drill down further, though, it becomes much deeper. Ultimately, there needs to be a balance between culture and finances that support activities like lunches, incentive trips and things that cost the organization money. But in actuality, there’s a lot people can do to build culture that doesn’t take any financial effort.
SG: First, you have to start with trusting your people. Companies spend a lot of time, or should spend a lot of time, hiring the right people, understanding them, knowing their skill sets and knowing what motivates them.
SG: Second, you need to earn people’s respect. Just because someone has a bigger title, there’s always the question of “Is that person respected because of their title or has that person done something to earn respect?” For me, when it comes to building company culture, I ask myself “Am I willing to get into the shoes of a team member to get the job done?” That’s the litmus test I use. My goal is to eliminate problems, and I will say “Let’s jump in and get it done.” I think I gain a lot of respect from my team members for that. They know they can count on me.
SG: Sometimes that comes down to tone and communication. They’ll say things like, “Here’s how we’re going to do this,” or “I don’t like that…” Those terms can hold someone back. Sometimes it’s just about thinking about how you’re phrasing things – you can get the same results by simply wording your requests differently. Also, giving credit is huge. When one of my team member accomplishes something, even if I had something to do with it, it’s more important to me to give that person credit than to take it for myself. It’s much more impactful.
SG: Always try to be compassionate to your team. We have to recognize everyone’s circumstances are different, and not understanding that can be a huge roadblock in building a company culture. We’re all human – we deal with death, divorce, children, taking care of aging parents. Sometimes that can impact an employee’s performance, but this goes back to step one in trusting you’ve hired the right person. If you trust them, and as long as you’re not being taken advantage of, it makes sense to give that person leeway when they’re going through a tough time.
One of the newer concepts that’s interesting is that as part of culture is the idea that people like to work in different ways. (See our blog post on a Results Oriented Work Environment) Some people want to sit on a couch wrapped in a blanket. Or they feel they can work better from home. Companies need to be respectful of that as long as their employees are working hard, and they should seek to find a balance. Maybe it’s sometimes working from home and then also coming into the office a few days a week. Here at ID Plans, we give that flexibility and it helps us be more successful. Another thing is that we let our people choose what computer system they use. Simple things like that can influence how someone works.
SG: Creating autonomy for decision making is huge. Historically, to make a decision as a mid-level team member meant you had to get approval from so many different people. There was a lot of red tape, and over time, companies have hurt their culture by not allowing autonomous decisions. Sometimes you just have to trust people to make the right choice, and it ultimately helps build better leaders. I’m notorious for saying “make the right decision.” It empowers our people and we get better results because of it.
SG: Take the time to understand where people want to go in their lives from a career standpoint. For me, I really want to understand where my team is at and where they want to go. If they come in as sales but they want to do my job as CRO, in reality, the trajectory isn’t that. But I’m here to encourage them to do best they can and work hard so they’re set up for opportunities here or with someone else. That’s pretty powerful from a cultural standpoint. My team members know they can come to me to help them create a personal development plan to get them where they want to be. That’s ultimately what I want to see – people working hard to achieve their own goals. There’s nothing better than that.
Looking to improve efficiency in your work? ID Plans can help. Let us show you how our innovative leasing and property management software can make your life easier – email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a demo.