Creating or Shifting a Company Culture In 3 Steps

Founders are often tasked with creating a company culture or shifting mentalities that are already deeply engrained within a team. When you’re first starting out, this can be a challenge.

Here is a simple 3-step process for creating or shifting a company culture:

1. Team Discussion

The first step is to raise awareness of the issue with your team. Make sure to explain what the issue is and why it is a problem. Allow the team to share their thoughts and build a solution together. You need to be open and listen during this conversation, it is not an opportunity for you to sell your solution to the team (which is most likely based on pre-conconceived ideas, and furthermore won’t get buy-in if it’s forced on the team).

Case Study (pt 1): We are an agency who bill work by the hour, however we were not logging enough billable hours. I shared the problem with my team and why it was a problem (less money for the company, less money for individuals via profit sharing). Then I listened as the team shared issues and we discussed and problem-solved together. Finally we agreed on a way forward: we would all take personal responsibility for meeting the billable hour expectations and we would communicate any issues as they came up.

2. Individual Discussions

I’ll use our next weekly 121 session to bring up the issue. Do they understand what is required and why? Do they have any concerns, questions or suggestions? This gives people a chance to share things they may not be comfortable with in front of a group, or gives us a chance to dig into items which are individual to them. Additionally they will have had a cooling off period of up to a week to think through the topic and come back with further ideas.

3. Accountability Loop

Steps 1 and 2 lay the groundwork, but most likely the idea will slip if there’s no follow-up. You need to come up with a way to keep people on track. Some sort of report or dashboard can help, depending on the case, but you need to make sure you’re looking at it (I’ve made the mistake of building and forgetting dashes more than once…). Follow-up with people who aren’t getting it done to ask why. Make sure you come from an inquisitive standpoint and not accusatory, there are likely blockers to be addressed that no one considered yet.

Case Study (pt 2): I started to review the time tracking reports every Monday. I publicly congratulate those who hit the target, and ask what support is needed by those who didn’t.

The final thing to remember is that your cultural changes are never “done”. Keep discussing them in your team meetings, 1:1s, retrospectives, etc and iterate as you go. The more your team is included in the problem solving, the more invested they are in the solution. See how it works!

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