3 Ways Leaders Foster a Positive Company Culture

It’s not enough to simply define your culture, mission and values; you have to work by them. Here’s how leaders have fostered a positive company culture.

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At a growing business, your culture, mission, and values are vital to establishing a strong company identity. But it’s not enough to simply define them: remember that you have to work by them, too.

Your employees often look to you to lead by example. Showing your dedication to these elements of your business not only benefits your current workforce, but sets a strong foundation for future growth. Here’s how other leaders have fostered a positive company culture to inspire their employees.

3 Questions to Help Develop a Positive Company Culture

Culture isn’t formed overnight. Consider the questions and advice below to shape your own perspective on what makes a strong culture.

What role does culture and mission play in growing our business?

As a growing company, mission, values, and culture all seem like projects that you can focus on later on down the road. While they may be important, there are more pressing matters, right?
Justin Moore, CEO of Axcient, argues that culture should be considered early and often because it drives the success of your company from day one:

“Look, when I’m five employees, I don’t need to invest in that culture stuff. I need to focus on product. I’ve got to get the product right. Then, I need to focus on sales strategies. This stuff can come later. The problem is that, even at a startup, you do have a culture and a values system, but you may not be in control of it. “It’s easy to go off and only think about product and sales and marketing with all the pressures you have as a CEO, but make sure to make time for culture. Make time for values. Make time for creating an incredible place to work, which has ruthless focus on a mission. Get everyone aligned.” – JUSTIN MOORE , CEO, AXCIENT

Tool Tip:Culture Amp is one of the few platforms out there tracking and tackling culture initiatives. It allows you to survey your team and then offer data-driven actions in response to the results. Knowing what your employees want and need puts you in the driver’s seat of your company’s culture, so that you can focus on alignment.

37% of non-management employees say they know what their organization stands for and what separates it from its competitors. – GALLUP STATE OF MANAGER REPORT (2015)

What role do our founders play in creating a strong culture?

As the founder, you are responsible for many aspects of your company’s success. You set the rules, build the tools, and, like it or not, set the tone for how your current and future team members will work together. How should you think of this central role you play in the formation and maintenance of your company’s culture?

“Companies tend to reflect everything about them—their personality, strengths, weaknesses. So when you start defining culture in an intentional way, first look at yourselves. If you’re not a founder, look at your CEO and the people who were there at the very beginning. This might sound obvious, but to a lot of people, it’s not. Regardless, self awareness (or awareness about your founders) is a really good starting place. It brings up a handful of helpful questions that can be useful in thinking about the DNA of your culture. Fundamentally, it’s an exercise in self-awareness.” — MOLLY GRAHAM, FORMER MANAGER OF CULTURE AND EMPLOYMENT BRANDING, FACEBOOK

Tool Tip: When you start growing in numbers, consider doing AMAs (ask me anythings) at all-hands meetings or via Hipchat in order to make sure that all your employees know where the company is headed and have the opportunity to voice feedback and questions.

52% of software engineers are likely to accept less money to work at a company with great culture. – GLASSDOOR SURVEY (2014)

Everyone values transparency, but how transparent should we really be?

Telling your team members the details of every meeting might feel like transparency, but isn’t very efficient or prudent. What is transparency, and where is it really vital? How do you find and draw the line between transparency and information overload?

Matthew Bellows, CEO of Yesware, advocates for a radical form of transparency, but limits the transparency to opening up relevant and useful information:

“With meetings, email and other channels, we push out a certain level of detail about what’s going on with the company. Beyond that threshold, it’s not efficient and probably not effective to share more. But anyone can come at any time and pull information out of me or the rest of the executive team. We have an explicit understanding that if the topic is too sensitive, we can just say, ‘That’s a personal issue that I really can’t share with you.’” — MATTHEW BELLOWS , CEO, YESWARE

Tool Tip: Tools like Dropbox and Google Drive make it easy for employees to put all their shared docs in one place. You can put all your relevant company information, like Bellows suggests, in a single folder so that all employees can read it on their own time.

50% of employees report that a lack of company-wide transparency is holding their company back. — FORBES (2014)

This article is an excerpt from The People Ops Playbook: 20 Questions to Help Leaders Tackle Top Employee Challenges. Download the full guide for more questions and advice from leaders who’ve been there, plus more tools and stats to help build your case for change. 


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