How to actually build a great corporate culture…
Think back to some of your fondest memories with co-workers or teammates. Was it during a losing stretch of games, a down round of fundraising or a lost sales cycle? More than likely not. I’d like to offer my perspective that great culture is built around a team successfully executing against a common goal.
Too often today I see posts about how great culture is having tons of inclusion meetings, random office benefits like nap pods or high end snacks or even a corporate manifesto with buzzwords like “authenticity, creativity, collaboration” as corporate values. While these are important, they often times are positioned as the means and not the end. The distinction is important. These are byproducts of people rallying together to work towards something bigger than any of them, and successfully executing the plan. When people win together they break down barriers and become more comfortable around each other. When they become more comfortable with each other they collaborate more efficiently, are not afraid to branch out and be creative and are able to be who they really are.
An effective anecdote to make this a bit more real: we’ve all come across the jokester in the office or on a team. They love to crack jokes, inject puns and playfully poke fun at others, nothing wrong with that. Two scenarios I’ve found interactions with this person in, try to tell which one the jokes were not well received. We have been successfully executing a project for months, everyone is chipping in and during a weekly sprint review he/she cracks some jokes. Second scenario, the project is way behind schedule, a few people (but not the jokester) are pulling their weight and he/she comes into to the sprint meeting cracking jokes and trying to be funny. Which one is well received and which isn’t? Of course the latter, the collective winning and success makes everyone appreciate the humor in the first situation, and in the second they resent the person for a. not doing their job and b. injecting humor into a situation where no one is happy.
Culture is not about making everyone feel nice or included. It’s about clearly defining an objective and vision and executing against it. The “feelings” are a byproduct of like-minded individuals bonding over shared a shared success. What are we trying to accomplish? What do we need to do to achieve it? Companies do not exist to help their employees self-actualize! Define deliverables and outcomes, execute against them (equally) and the team spirit will follow.