Corporate culture and how to scale it

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Corporate culture and how to scale it
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The word culture is currently used everywhere (politics, companies, sports teams). Many managers want to create a “Corporate culture" without understanding what a good culture is, which makes it difficult for people to follow.
And if you succeed in achieving the desired culture for your team, how do you keep it at the desired level after the team expands due to the growth of the company?

In this text, Mauro Alberto, Fullstack Developer at PIPECODES presented his research on company culture and approaches to scale it correctly.

Corporate culture

Image source: https://bit.ly/3rlnu5S

So… What is corporate culture?

According to the teacher, Jeffrey Rayport:

(Company) Culture is described as a set of values and beliefs that define how employees interact, solve problems, and collaborate with each other. Over time, teams learn how to overcome certain obstacles, patterns emerge, and this ultimately coalesces into common values and beliefs as work gets done.

So basically it’s not something you are, it’s something you do. And all the great cultures have a pattern, like a flock of birds. Connected, sharing information and vulnerabilities, pointing in the same direction, for the same goal. Culture is action. And these actions have to be carried out jointly by all the team members (regardless of the position they hold). Only in this way can we achieve the intended culture.

First, we will find out what kind of manager fosters the best culture and management. Then we focus on how to make work matter and how to emphasize personal growth together with valuing the employee’s work. And we finalize how the employee can positively influence the culture of the company where he or she works.

TYPES OF MANAGER’S

Managers are the ones who have the greatest influence on the company’s culture and can also be the decisive factor in the retention or departure of an employee from the company. Generalizing, we can say that there are two factors that managers should be aware of: whether the relationship between employees and the company/ manager is healthy or whether the company’s standards are fair along with the expectation the company has with the employee.
Taking this, we can say that there are four types of managers:

  • Removed Manager: A manager who is not around, so the standard and expectations are not going to be very high, but also, the connection is not going to be high either. People are going to be disengaged. People won’t feel valued. These managers should have left management 20 years ago or never started.
  • Buddy Manager: Low on standards, but high on connection. They want everyone’s approval, they want to be loved rather than respected. They don’t want to make spikes. This creates a sense of entitlement in people, who think they are more boss than the actual boss.
  • Controller Manager: Low on Connection, high on standards. Go to work, head down, and take off your slippers. Instead of side by side, the manager is always in opposition to the employees.
  • Mentor Manager: The sweet spot, which creates loyalty to colleagues. High on standards, high on connection. Creates respect. It is called mentor manager because every story needs a mentor (Obi Wan for Luke, Muten Roshi for Goku, Frodo has Gandalf, Katniss have Haymitch, etc.). These mentors connect the mentored to their dreams and goals and allow these characters to evolve. There has to be a connection between mentor and mentored.

Muten Roshi for Goku

Image source: https://bit.ly/3BZgZdH

By paying attention to these points and working in such a way that valuing employees comes first, it won’t take long before they become disciples and start spreading the word about how good it is to work in the company.

Making Work Matters
“I didn’t do enough to be here”, “My value is not recognized in this company”, “What is my fit on this team?

These are different thoughts, that have probably crossed the mind of some of you throughout your professional life.

Valuing and showing that the team’s work is important (and central) for the company is one of the main motivators. And how can leaders implement this? Raising salaries, promotions, or perks promotes momentary interest, but if you really want to fight this, you have to foster meaning at work on a personal level, not at a superficial level. Below, we have some conditions for creating meaning at work:

  • Direction: Guide people to do work that matters to them, that reflects their values and beliefs, and that makes their focus and energy worthwhile.
  • Safety: It’s not wrapping people in all cotton and keeping them comfortable. It’s about having a voice and having the security to talk about problems that may exist, without fear of reprisal.
  • Discovery: It’s great to be constantly learning. It is important for people to feel challenged, and although sometimes the situation seems impossible to overcome, thinking of ideas to solve the problem is quite motivating.
  • Devotion: We all have the duty of work, which comes from the obligation of having signed a contract. Devotion comes from the desire to be there for the company. And you only get that devotion by being authentic and caring.

Evolving at work is great, but when we can evolve as a person during that journey, it’s preferred.

How can a leader help and facilitate personal growth? How to facilitate?

  1. Patience and empathy for the process and for the mistakes that happen along the way;
  2. Focus on being interested, more than interesting. Listen;
  3. Be receptive to new approaches and work methodologies. We can all learn from each other, and we have so much to gain from it.

And how can we proceed in such a way as to value the employees and keep the employees who make the culture possible?

  • Vocal praise: An e-mail, a call, or a classic “good job”. It can do wonders.
  • Time off/ flexibility/ vacation days: Take days off when you need (always respecting business necessities). Tearing up the design of the nine-to-six workday and allowing the employee to create his own schedule.
  • Money: Studies have shown that millennials want purpose over money. But money always matters. Bonus raises, or gift cards, are fine choices.
  • Experiences: It can be a great way to create connections within the company. And the more personalized the gift/recognition, the more people like it.
  • Food: Taco Tuesday. Pizza Friday. Food is love. Working remotely gets tougher, but you can try to arrange variations like having a specific drink during a meeting, or the company sending a meal home and having a remote lunch.
  • Trophy: Coats, gold watches, you will always get the appreciation of the employees. Just like experiences, the more personal it is, the more impact they are going to have.

What is the role of the employee in implementing and maintaining the company culture?

Don’t get the idea that it is only the managers who have the job of creating and maintaining the company culture. All the team have to be rowing in the same direction and have knowledge of how the company wants the culture implemented.

So what are the behaviors an employee should adapt to help the company achieve a healthy corporate culture:

  • Fostering a good team atmosphere: As the team grows, it is important to understand and accept the differences and similarities of others. To balance skills, but above all, to work with companionship and honesty.
  • Learning mindset: It is very important when you are building a company from scratch to have a learning mindset. You can even have decades of experience, but if you don’t give the junior a chance to speak, you will create a repressed environment where people don’t feel comfortable speaking up. This come hand in hand with…
  • Sharing knowledge: Don’t be afraid that your new colleague will steal your promotion or the affection of your manager. By passing on all the knowledge you have about the application or area of expertise, you will demonstrate that you are a person who is sure of your worth and has high self-esteem.
  • Be a handy person: Although you have your job description, try to think about other aspects of the company where you could help it grow. If the company dies, don’t say to yourself — I did my part, it wasn’t my fault-. Don’t think you are not qualified for that task. Take a chance and talk with your manager/boss.
  • Go through the uncomfortable: Suffer the inconvenient moment and speak your mind. Like food in teeth or an open fly. The person will always know that he had the fly open at the end of the day and think how many people have seen it. Be a hero. Hold on for the 5 seconds of an awkward moment, and you will feel the appreciation from the other person. On the company side, By having those kinds of actions, your colleagues will know that you will always be frank with them.

Now that we have the tools to build a good culture, how will we be able to maintain it as we scale the company?

The challenges of scale

Business is going well, and customer acquisition continues to increase, and on top of that, Mauro have been reading quite a few articles on Medium on how to create and maintain a healthy company culture. The next path is already mapped out and everyone is thinking the same: scale.

So what does scale mean in business, and how do we do it without burning the culture?

In business, the definition of “scale” is to increase revenue at a faster rate than costs. Businesses achieve this in a number of ways, from adopting new technologies to finding “gaps” in their operations that can be streamlined. Businesses that are able to add revenue and increase operational demands while maintaining the same costs — or even lowering costs — will be able to scale successfully.

Tony Robbins.

Be aware that we are not talking about company growth. Quoting again the expertise of Tony Robbins:

Growth refers to increase revenue as a result of new business acquisitions. Growth also refers to secondary occurrences that happen due to this acquisition: hiring more employees, expanding office or warehouse space, and so on. Growth typically results in even losses and gains. Scaling, on the other hand, means finding ways to grow more efficiently, so that your gains outpace your losses.”

So what we should do to be able to scale in the best manner and maintain your organizational culture?

  • Hiring for Quality, Not Quantity: When you get into a rapid growth phase, sometimes it seems easier to hire just anyone. By adding a person who doesn’t have the vision of the company and a specialized skill set to help the company grow, we can subtract profit by adding a person who doesn’t match the rest of the team. Hiring people who are aligned with your mission, allows you to successfully scale the culture at the organizational level, and allows you to lessen future pain.
  • Maintain focus: As we scale, it is easy to get distracted, but we have to fight the urge to add too many things. The goal is to solve the customer’s greatest need. Stay focused on the big picture and the work that will ultimately drive success. If you start losing focus, this will destroy the sense of certainty.
  • Don’t try to make all the decisions: It is important to discover and develop leadership. The CEO/ Manager can no longer make all the decisions. If you try, you will become the bottleneck of projects and the development of your employees. When creating a new subgroup of managers, the founder should know there’s always a V-curve. Initially will get less efficient, but as the subgroup makes mistakes and learns, it becomes more efficient. This kind of attitude shows the team that the manager trusts his team.
  • Focus on inputs, instead of outputs: It’s easy to describe the outputs — desired culture — with phrases like “passion,” “teamwork,” “excellence,” and “proactivity,” but the major focus has to be on the inputs, the actions, what enables you to form, create, and deliver a culture.

The challenges of scale

Image source: https://bit.ly/3CmssFD

To conclude:

Culture is simply a shared way of doing something with a passion.” 

Brian Chesky, Co-Founder, CEO, Airbnb.

Corporate culture is one of the pillars of a company’s success, and we hope after reading this article you can identify some topics that you can apply to your team, your company, or even yourself.

As the company scales, we have to be very careful not to throw away the whole process that has been done. Be selective in hiring, and above all, trust your employees.

And finally, we thank Mauro for his excellent contribution and article. It is undoubtedly a relevant topic, and one that all companies and managers should address!