Last Friday, for the n’th time we held our yearly company meeting and the night before got me thinking about the journey of this magical world we call Where2GetIt.
There have been many times during my leadership of Where2GetIt, that I have sat in my office and thought… how do I change, influence or improve our company culture?
That thought may have been the driving force behind why I decided to turn Where2GetIt into an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan). Essentially meaning Where2GetIt is not solely MY company-but that of the great people who work here everyday. It was a great moment, and I am deeply proud to share that with those who have dedicated years under my leadership.
As a leader of a company, these thoughts cross your mind endlessly- and as the leader of an organization you should not ignore them, defer them, or make them someone elses problem to solve. Do not get me wrong, it is not a problem to be solved by one, culture is created from within. It starts both at the grassroots level and from the top. When you can get your organization to do that- you have won… but it is not the end.
Culture, is not something that is achieved. You are in the pursuit of culture. An endless effort to maintain and sustain. Here are my top 5 reflections about the pursuit of culture, giving you some insight as to how W2GI has maintained a culture of innovation, humanity, and responsibility.
#1 Lead from Within: Take the journey
They say the longest journey you will ever make is that from your mind to your heart. At Where2GetIt, that journey is the one I have made it a point to take.
With our HQ in Anaheim and an office in Chicago and others scattered around the US- it is important to me that the entire W2GI team comes together at least once a year. I love taking advantage of the time we all have together to engage with the team and hope that when they hear me speak I inspire them. Yes, I may have a powerpoint with pretty slides but that’s not all. I open up about failures, be transparent about what keeps me up at night, what I’m thinking about the company they call home for 8-10 hours a day.
Yet, every time I get up there, I ask myself: Is this too much? Is anyone buying any of this? Am I coming across as authentic as I know I am? That’s always a core fear, right? Being misunderstood. Age ol’ battle between image and perception.
But as I have tried to tell the W2GI team, failure is okay as the act but not as the concept. You can fail, but should never stop trying to fail. One day you are bound to get that yes/you did it/great job/ you nailed it/ bravo!
Leading from within, means leading from the heart. It means knowing when to say no or yes, sorry, I understand, and I got you- together, we will make it.
#2 Life Hacks: Love what you do. Do what you love.
Why should anyone have to wake up and do routine. Why not do creative? Why not do innovation? Why not have fun at what you do and who you do it with? Everyone should. I’ve realized over the last decade+ that the best employees are the ones who love, and I mean love, what they do. You read that and thought- duh. But really, has it always been that obvious?
For me it has not always been as obvious as it sounds. It was not obvious that when people were hired into the company their resume did not equate to them being outstanding employees. You should ask yourself how you are searching for talent because that is an important part to maintaining and building your company's culture.
How are you scouting for your talent? You’ve sized up their skills and accomplishments but has that piece of paper given you what you need to also assess their character and passion? I am more interested in that part of who you are. I’m interested in knowing if that passion can spread to the rest of the W2GI team. I choose talent, but most importantly character, passion and will beecause that, I believe, cannot be taught.
“The moment you wake up morning after morning thinking you don't want to come into work- don't. Maybe it is time to move on.” My team has heard me say this repeatedly, so what does this mean? It means that if you no longer enjoy what you do, how you do it, who you do it with, it may be time to move on. Moving on, does not always mean leaving W2GI, if there is a mutual fit we see and our employee sees somewhere within the organization that fits the new directions someone wants to go to-why not?
Most recently, we have pushed employee programs which were set up to help advance them with their career and personal goals.
#3 Company Vision: Is it alive?
First of all, do you have one? If you do not stop reading. Meet with your team and create one. For those of you who do have one, do you embody it? Do you believe in that vision yourself? If you do not and know it, guess what… those around you also know it. Above all, something I have learned over time is that leading by example is the best way to create vision enthusiasts.
So you embodied your vision and you lead by example yet, still, you find that there are people who do not buy into it. Is this your fault? Do you have the wrong vision? Not necessarily… it has just become a lot easier for you to know who fits the culture you are trying to cultivate. It has also become a lot clearer for those kinds of people to know they do not want to be part of your culture. It’s okay, the reason someone hates you, is the same reason why someone else loves you.
#4 The Team: Yes, you need one
As an entrepreneur, I have always figured out the answers- sometimes alone most of the time that with a team. When you are part of an organization who wants to grow and has great ambitions, a ‘one man band’ does not cut it. As a leader you need a team. A group of people who you can trust. Who trust you. I am proud of the team I have around me, has it been an easy road? Never, but I knew it was never going to be. Just like any other relationship, and this is what it is, it takes work, time and dedication. I advise you to also know when it is time to move on. If they (or you) have given up on the relationship, it is time to move on.
#5 Measuring Success: Can you?
Let me tell you that if you are not in it for the long haul, then you might want to reconsider your strategy and intentions. Culture is not something that can be easy tracked or measured, it will take time manifest. Those studies about how productivity and employee satisfaction improved as a result of culture are true, be patient and let it take hold. Are you being consistent?: that is the best measure you can track. Are you?
Your culture is not where you’d want it to be and do not want to try to change it because you think it is impossible. I’m possible- that is what I told my team. Know your organization is too. Remember, culture is not an end, it is a constant journey. You are in the pursuit of culture.
I am in pursuit of culture. I am in pursuit of a better workplace for my team and believe an environment is key to their success. We have invested significantly in creating one which thrives off of creativity and openness-it is definitely a perfect imperfection. As a work in progress I am okay with that, the point is to keep going. Keep going, we will.