Remember when you were excited just by the idea of being an entrepreneur? When you sprung out of bed every day, ready to take on the world?
Unfortunately, many businesses are so riddled with life-sucking cultures and backward practices that they break down the natural immunity of our personal values. Corrupt cultures corrupt us, and we’re soon running companies so filled with compromises that compromise us that our dream life has become a drab, lifeless stupor. It’s time to choose to wake up.
I believe that when somebody tells you to be “realistic,” he is offering your inner child candy in an effort to lure that feeling away and lock it in a dungeon permanently. Be unrealistic. Dream in daring colors and high-wire excitement. Then, make those dreams come true.
For starters, the question you need to ask is: “Is my company’s culture designed to support people being the best versions of themselves?” Or, more simply, “Does my company’s culture kick ass?”
When I use the term “hacking culture,” it’s not with a trite bent toward making people more productive. It’s toward the all-out improvement of a company’s culture to support you as a leader — as well as the company, the employees, and the world at large. So while anyone can improve a company’s culture, this is about infusing your company with the best culture any of your employees has ever experienced. Go big or go home.
The first sign that a company needs a culture hack is if going to work doesn’t make your heart race at least a little. This is the only life you’ve got — set all preferences to “awesome.”
If your experience isn’t everything you ever dreamed it could be, reboot. Use these four steps to infuse your company with the best culture any of your employees has ever experienced:
1. Create Your Identity
Right off the bat — in the absolute best version of your life — what does your company do? How does it feel? What does it look like? How do people feel about coming to work? How do employees interact with each other?
Now give that a name. Take the experience you have in your body when you think about this ideal version of your company, and give it a word or phrase. Feels good, right? That’s because that’s your internal barometer for what’s good. You want to use that as your primary decision-making gauge.
That word or phrase is the new driving force of your culture. Of course, you can change it if it only makes sense to you. No one wants to be part of a company driven by the slogan “Like when I’m Spelunking!” But you want your phrase to capture the magic of the feeling. The whole point of this exercise is to put that magic front and center in your life and your business so you create a company that’s resonant with that feeling. Everything that improves and supports that feeling is a yes. Anything that takes away from or hinders it is a no.
2. Create Your Culture
Look around you. If someone’s not 100 percent in, why not? Is there a way to hire people who are amazing, committed, and capable of anything — but might not have the necessary experience? How many specialists do you need?
Culture is made up of habits and patterns, as well as content. The question you want to ask is: “How do we create an environment from which genius naturally emerges?”
Do the research. To start, you don’t have to look any further than your own experience. What turns you on? What gets your juices flowing? Those are the things you want in your office. You want activities, traditions, and behaviors that get people excited and make them stay that way.
Look at what’s already working in your company, and do it more. Build on your strengths, and integrate them into every pattern and happening of your business.
3. Fire the Bastards!
Not everyone in your organization is going to love your rallying cry. Get rid of them. Gone are the days of job security. This is the age of “follow your bliss.” And if the people who work for you aren’t following theirs, you’re doing you both a great disservice by keeping them on your roster.
If there’s doubt on your part — or theirs — about their place in your company, don’t hire them. Or let them go. You want people who are 100 percent in! Powerful cultures are based on people being all-in. The difference between being 1 percent or 99 percent invested is negligible. If you’re not in 100 percent, find the place where you are. Let disgruntled employees seek their best future elsewhere.
4. Find Your Chord
Think of your company’s culture as a chord strike on a piano. The founder or CEO is the central note, setting the lead tone for the entire company. The tones of the next main players add harmony to create a bigger and more robust experience than the founder alone. If there’s discord at the top, then the leaders aren’t in harmony. The tone then set for the rest of the company will not be singular nor beautiful, making it less impactful.
Make sure everything in your company — including design, website, communication, meetings, and productivity — is congruent with the main chord of the company.
When it comes to your culture, be awesome! Make it staggeringly great. Have the intention that the culture should be something that inspires everyone involved. The more captivating your purpose and the bigger the role your company has in making beautiful things happen in the world, the easier it is to generate a truly breathtaking culture.
Devon White is the founder and lead developer of the Human Operating System, a platform for self-optimization and the sharing of behavioral software on individual, corporate, and global scales.
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