Walls and chairs, people and processes: weaving culture into everything you do
Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky once said “Culture is simply a shared way of doing something with passion.”
At its simplest, culture is indeed just that. A team of people, working together and believing in the same mission and set of values.
But don’t let that simplicity fool you. Even if every person sitting around you believes wholeheartedly in your company culture, chances are not all of them live and breathe it or even feel it every day. In the hustle of deadlines, it’s easy to lose the thread on the culture that brought you all together.
Want to protect your culture from getting lost in the details? We’ve got tips for weaving it into everything from the processes you follow to the chair you’re sitting in, so it’s impossible to lose.
Walls, desks, and chairs
Which chair says, “We’re a laid back but hard-working company that values collaboration”? This question is not as silly as it sounds. Consider the difference between a boardroom of high-backed leather arm chairs and an airy, minimalist conference room with mesh seats rolling around. The vibe each gives off is drastically different and affects everything from how comfortably you sit to how you speak, work, and engage. Your office décor and furnishings should visually portray your culture to new hires and reinforce your values to employees. If the art on your walls, chairs at your desks, or even the desks themselves don’t align with your values and culture, consider looking for ones that do.
Hiring, reviewing, and all the processes
Amidst the paperwork, boxes to check, and mechanics required to keep your office running smoothly, dozens of hidden opportunities for long lasting culture moments await. When you think about it this way, hiring transforms from stacks of resumes to review to thoughtfully led and engaging discussions about all the things you care about. Performance reviews are reinvented as opportunities to reflect on shared values and fill in gaps. Every process or procedure feels better when it’s rooted in your values. And your employees will be better able to articulate your culture when it’s woven into everything they do every day.
Teams, built and structured
Years ago, Apple organized its teams so that the design group reported directly to the company’s CEO. Looking at this structure from the outside makes sense: Apple values design. What sorts of structures make sense given your values? The answers may seem a bit odd at first, especially if your values beg for different structures from that of your competitors. But there’s nothing wrong with going your own way and making it incredibly clear for everyone what you value. Apply this thinking to decisions about levels of hierarchy, which teams are grouped together into departments, and even how teams are seated around the office.
Words, words, words
Anything you say about your company, and how you say it, contributes to the story of who you are and what you value. That includes emails that go organization-wide and ones you send to a small team. It includes status updates at your staff meeting and the annual speech you give at the company holiday party. Every word should build onto your culture. And the good news is that as long as you believe in the values you’ve set forth and the culture you’re creating, this all should come naturally.
Leaders and Deputies
Finally, make sure that your leaders live your culture. If transparency is a huge value, make sure leaders are transparent in their communication. If collaboration is indeed key for you, make sure leadership invites it at every opportunity. Deputize one of those leaders to guard the culture and push it forward. This attention and focus will make your culture noticeable and identifiable in everything you do.