After I sold a company, the firm that acquired it imposed a culture that I didn’t believe in and wasn’t excited to be a part of. Over time, I began to realize that what I missed wasn’t the company itself—it was the culture we’d built there and the people that culture had attracted.
It showed me that when rapidly scaling and going through transition at my current company, culture was the very thing we had to double down on. So our leadership made a decision to focus on performance, entrepreneurial spirit, authenticity and kindness, or what we call PEAK. We know that culture can’t be compromised during hypergrowth—it should be intensified.
Data gives us reason to believe that our decision to make culture a priority was a good one. In a study of company culture, Columbia Business School Professor Shivaram Rajgopal found that 92% of senior executives felt that improving culture would increase the value of their company but just 16% were satisfied with the existing culture they had in place. Those numbers don’t align.
To ensure your company culture doesn’t fall into this trap and instead stays on the path to PEAK success, follow these four steps:
1. Inspire performance. As a leader, hold yourself accountable to employee performance. It’s our job to create a culture that inspires every team member to do their best. At my software company, some of the work we do is exciting, but some of it can inevitably also be mundane. Recognize the efforts your employees make and they’ll stick around, even in the less thrilling times. Similarly, discover what motivates your team and they’ll put forth the extra effort.
2. Encourage entrepreneurship. In a global marketplace where disruption can strike without warning, stagnant organizations will succumb to the competition. Employees should always be learning, and your culture should reflect this approach to growth. We offer employees tuition reimbursement and paid professional development opportunities, and we always encourage cross-functional learning that allows our people to collaborate more effectively.
3. Act authentically. Your employees can spot inauthenticity from a mile away. That’s why we make it a goal to do everything right down to our internal communications in a genuine, real way—both when things are great and when progress is a struggle and frustrations are high. This approach is also reflected in our shared calendars, which ensure transparency, and in our mental health policy, which encourages openness and honesty about any difficult subject.
4. Keep sight of kindness. In Businesssolver’s “2019 State of Workplace Empathy Study,” 92% of CEOs indicated that their organizations were empathetic but only 72% of employees felt the same way. Correct this disparity by leading from the heart and showing the kindness you hope to see in others yourself. As a gesture of kindness at our company, we offer our employees benefits ranging from catered lunches and a well-stocked kitchen to team trips and paid time off. When you go the extra mile, your employees will notice.
Culture isn’t a corporate buzzword. It’s an environment that encourages all the members of your team to come together and perform at their very best. And as an executive and leader, culture is largely up to you. If you live your company’s values, your people will, too. Never compromise your culture in favor of scale. Make performance a part of your culture, and make it a culture that draws people you are proud to lead and work alongside.