Thinking about work culture

three persons sitting on the stairs talking with each other
Photo by Buro Millennial on Pexels.com

A few years ago I had coaching to feel more comfortable in my skin as a leader, something I’ve written about in this blog. One of the things I did was look closely at the value I added to my team. I’ve always been an editor and content/creator and was happy to defined myself by this role. But what sort of manager and leader was I?

Pretty quickly, I saw that I made an obvious contribution to the culture of our team. This is something that you can do at any level. Simply having a few nice people on your team can make a difference to life in the workplace.

But ideally, culture is something that leaders and CEOs think about and take steps to create and preserve.

In June I went to Women of Silicon Roundabout 2019, a conference for women who work in tech. There were a number of great talks and events, and one that really stood out was by Riya Grover, who co-founded the Feedr, an office catering platform with a difference. Her talk was called Define Your Culture Blueprint to Hypercharge Growth: Why It’s Important from the Start.

Riya, 29, left investment banking to start up Feedr. This was a common theme at the convention, where CEOs of start-ups left successful corporate careers out of a desire for values-based working lives.

Riya thinks these are three vital ingredients for a new business: Mission > Values > Culture. They build on each other, and they’re interlinked: She defines culture as an expression of a company’s values.

“In a business with a strong culture people know why they’re doing something, employees are aligned in choices they make, and the right people are hired.”

“Make culture part of your hiring process. Hire for fit, train for skill,” she said. “Can they give you examples of exhibiting the types of behaviours that will fit in your organisation? Are they excited by your vision?”

Feedr has their values on posters around the business, as well posters that describe what high-performing behaviours look like and why they’re important. I’m about to run sessions with my team on our ways of working. These were defined years ago to spell out what high-performance and best practice looks like for us. As I revisit them this time, I’ll be thinking about this session, and particularly our values and culture.

My additional thought about culture is that you can aspire to a certain one, but individual team members add the colour and character to a culture, often in ways that will surprise you (in a good way). So make room for this, and be ready to welcome it.

This plays into another definition of culture from Riya’s talk, as “a blend of values, beliefs, rituals and myths that companies develop over time.” It’s worth saying that culture in teams within large corporations like the one I work at will likely be different from the culture of a start-up.

One of the more heartwarming things I read relating to team culture was this blog post by the Gov.uk digital team, written when they were hiring in 2016. I’ve referred to it over the years, particularly when we are onboarding new staff. It’s well worth a read:

It’s OK to say what’s OK (written by Giles Turnbull)

If you have any thoughts about work culture, I’d love to hear them. To bring things back to Riya Grover’s talk, she closed her presentation with these four tips. I hope you’ll find them as useful as I did:

Values and culture should stem from mission
Make culture part of your hiring process
Work to create an amazing work environment
Put your values in writing

Feedr describes itself as a curated online marketplace of 100+ healthy and artisan food vendors changing the face of corporate office catering and workplace food delivery. Follow on Instagram at @wearefeedr

 

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