Would Your Employees Wave the Flag for Your Culture?
What goes through an employee’s mind when a stranger walks in, stands in the middle of a set of cubes and starts to fire off questions about how the whole business works?
We asked Jonathan Melton, a member of the business development team at Small Giant Call-Em-All (Frisco, Texas) what it means to have his workday and workplace examined by leaders looking to take something home to their own company. We encourage you to share with your employees and examine what they would say about your office.
Whenever my Call-Em-All team welcomes a new visitor through our office’s front doors, I can’t help but feel a sense of pride rising within my chest. Oddly enough, I’d never quite recognized what these emotions are, and where they stem from, until now.
Doesn’t Everyone Feel This Way?
The first time the Call-Em-All office hosted a Small Giants gathering after my hire date, I remember that as our president, Brad Herrmann, began to go over the identity of Call-Em-All, the doubts that I had been harboring over choosing my new employer began to fade from my mind. Questions like “Will I enjoy working here?” and “Is this a good place to start a career?”, which seemed perfectly valid for someone who was just starting his first real job were answered with such clarity that, looking back at it all, I laugh at myself for getting so worked up in the first place! I could tell that life with Call-Em-All was going to be good.
Before taking the time to contemplate these emotions, I simply assumed that these were the emotions that most people felt about their workplace. I believed that when one left the world of academia and joined the fierce jungle of adulthood, pride and ownership of one’s organization would be commonplace. Admittedly, this was naïve, but being the recent college graduate that I was, I had no basis for comparison.
But then, I thought back to the jobs that I had worked in high school and college. I thought back to the feelings that my parents had expressed as I was growing up about their jobs. I even found myself silently comparing my initial career experiences to those of my old college roommates and I came to realize that these feelings were special. They were outliers when compared to those around me. Society seemed to be screaming that a job was the grinding, mechanized work that you do in order to have fun afterwards. A job was NOT something to look forward to in the morning when you wake up or a place that you desire to be. With as much relief as there was excitement, I realized that by working at a company that places such an emphasis on positive life experiences, professional values, and all the other ideals that companies who subscribe to the Small Giants philosophy put stock in, anyone can reject these ridiculous notions of old.
Under the Microscope
So what was it about meeting other companies that gave way to such revelations? It couldn’t just be the Small Giants ideals we adhere to; everyone in the room shared this same mindset and approach to leading their business. Nor was it just the work that Call-Em-All did; everyone whose hands I was shaking believed in their product or services just as I believed in mine. Then, like a phone suddenly ringing with an important message on the other end, I arrived at my conclusion:
The reasons that my colleagues and I were able to come into work every day with smiles on our faces and a common purpose uniting us were not simply found in the words that were plastered across our Employee Handbooks, rather they lay in the avenues through which we lived these ideals on a daily basis.
The Difference Values Make Everyday
Through this lens, I was able to look back at the jobs in society, the jobs of my parents, and the jobs of my classmates from college and realized that the only difference between their jobs and mine were not in how our organizations spoke about their values, but in how our organizations chose to live these values out loud. Think about it: Small Giants has outlined exactly how to approach working and living within an organization in a style that ensures quality work will get done without sacrificing the principles that got us here. All that’s required is the ability to get serious about what you want to gain from your office or organization and then craft the steps that can lead to those goals being reached and, eventually, blown away. If done correctly, you and your team won’t even realize that you’re doing it. Remember: strength is not found in the words you agree with, but the way in which you choose to exemplify them.
For example, we knew what we were trying to create in our offices and we were darn proud of it! People who came to visit the office noticed an exciting energy in the air. Our families noticed how we spoke of our jobs with an increasing amount of admiration at every syllable. However, our problem was that we had been unable to put these values, goals, or emotions into words that could then become actionable.
And so we found ourselves at our first major cultural decision: we would write how we were living down on paper, or, in our case, across our office’s biggest wall.
Our entire company came together, sometimes kicking our founders out of the room, and produced our Manifesto. Our Manifesto encompasses every aspect of our company, from “using our powers for good not evil…” to the fact that “we are crazy about keeping it simple.” Once this was laid out, we didn’t want to forget it. Enter culture decision number two: we painted the entirety of our Manifesto across our walls so that not a day could go by without it being in right up in our faces.
Now that we knew what we were all about, it was time to figure out how. For this, we were recommended to read a book entitled The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. A summary of this book can be found online, but it’s safe to say that this book transformed into the primary foundation for what would become our how: the Call-Em-All Formula. Our Formula gives structure to our daily lives and, much like the Manifesto, it is in our own words and framed upon our walls. Topics such as trust, embracing healthy conflict, and accountability are all covered in bite-sized ways that allow for simplistic understanding and the ability to be utilized in everyday situations.
Living Out Loud
One of the most crucial steps to ensuring success in your team is not only found in the crafting of your own sandbox as we did with our Manifesto and Formula, but also by living these steps out loud through yourself and amongst your peers. Ironically, this is the easiest part of creating your perfect type of work environment, yet so many fail when it comes down to it. Truly living your values out loud can only be sought out and accomplished by one’s own team: I, nor anybody else, can tell you how to do this. The ball is in your team’s court.
Speaking from experience, our team lives our values out loud by establishing and maintaining an environment that fosters the sharing of ideas and knowledge. Every one of us understands that, although not every idea may be openly embraced and implemented by our team, each idea shared amongst the team propels us one step closer to what may be the next Call-Em-All game-changer. We respect one another; we dress casual; we share an ice cold beer through the good and offer a shoulder to cry on during the bad. In the end, we have created a family away from our families just as our office has become our home away from home. Not all of this will be applicable to those reading, nor will it be the solution for your team, and that’s okay! The important aspect is getting yourself and the team around you to a place where everyone holds respect for the job and enjoyment in the journey so that each individual goes home with pride for their accomplishments and excitement for days to come. If this isn’t where you’re at as an organization or as an individual, what better time than now to take the steps that place your organization on the path to becoming a reality of your dreams?
Challenge Your Workplace Impact on the World
So I challenge those reading, just as I challenge those who have visited the Call-Em-All offices or others like us, no matter if you are the freshest hire on your team or the battle-hardened owner of your Small Giants organization, ask yourself the following questions:
- Am I willing to defend my culture?
- What does my team teach outsiders?
- What emotions do I experience when a visitor walks through my office’s front door?
- What do I want others to know and feel about my organization?
Perhaps these questions do nothing aside from providing a frame of reference for your team’s operations. Perhaps they encapsulate the emotions you feel every morning when you first get to your desk. Or, better yet, perhaps they bring to the forefront your office’s inner strengths and expose its daily, tired mechanisms to a battery of thought and change that possess the power to turn any office of individuals into a home of companions.