What I’ve learned as the CEO of a consistently growing company over the last decade is that one must be intentional in a number of areas to get everyone thinking about growth all the time.
Answering basic questions about what your organization does, how you plan on succeeding and how you measure your success will ensure the entire team is on the same page.
Here are a set of ten definitive statements you need to establish agreement and alignment on in order to create a company culture of growth within your organization.
1. What we do
At the most foundational level, organizations exist to fulfill a need or perform a function. Popularized with the invention of the mission, this statement neatly summarizes the “what” of the organization. The heart of this statement will likely be a verb describing the key activity that your organization does every day. Your team may organize, connect, or sustain, all common verbs when explaining what you do. When tough decisions come up, reflect back on what your organization does. Be true to this statement and you’ll lay the groundwork for your culture.
2. Why we do it
Every organization has an origin story and that story is likely driven by a purpose. This is the “why” statement, articulated as the vision. When the founder began the organization, why did they do it? Was there a personal motivation, something circumstantial or an event that caused the idea to become a reality? How is your company making the world a better place? Research shows that people want to join a company that has a purpose and that exists to do some good in the world. Craft your vision statement with this in mind.
3. What we value
In pursuit of your mission and making your vision become a reality, you’ve likely developed a number of character traits that you hold in high esteem. These values can be organized into non-negotiables, which every employee must live out and becomes the reason for hiring and firing, but also aspirational values that you hope to embody someday. Reflect on why you hired the last couple of employees, why people get promoted and what gets rewarded. Hold these values in high regard as your culture grows.
4. How we will succeed
Knowing what the organization’s plan is will be a huge confidence boost to employees at all levels. This plan is your strategy and articulates how you’ll differentiate your offering and operation from the competition. Don’t assume everyone knows this already. Take the time to write it down and communicate it to new employees when they join. In our company, two documents, which serve as living documents, have proven instrumental. First, the business plan is available as a PDF and printed on an annual basis. Second is our MBA in a Day session which I personally give during employee onboarding. In essence, this is a Harvard Business School-style case study on why Voices.com has been successful to date, our strategy going forward and what we need to do to execute well.
5. How we work
Each company works slightly differently, and if you haven’t taken a look at any others, you may not realize how different your company is from others. Behavioural norms define how we work. In punctual organizations, starting promptly and ending five minutes early (allowing time for the next meeting to set-up and get started on time) is the expectation. In data-driven organizations, there is an emphasis on logging each call, email and activity in a customer relationship management system. In paperless offices, there will be few printers and it would be odd should someone print off full-color reports for a presentation. These nuances become the unwritten rules and define how work gets done in your organization. Teach new hires and they’ll fit right in.
6. How we communicate
For organizations around the world, internal communication practices are always being fine-tuned and improved. To ensure there is good communication throughout your organization, you can develop some useful habits. We hold a weekly company-wide meeting called a Huddle to run through a recurring agenda to share good news, update everyone on our numbers, relay technical issues and solutions, mention upcoming events and wrap up with peer-to-peer thank-yous. To complement the group communication, use weekly 1-on-1s to listen, share the highs and lows of the week and provide coaching through challenging situations. Whatever your communication practices are, be intentional and consistent and you’ll keep the entire team focused on growing.
7. What we measure
Success comes in many forms and we keep tabs on all of them. We consistently evaluate our customer satisfaction scores, our revenue generating activities, year-over-year trends and our employees’ happiness. We have a company-wide dashboard that summarizes key performance indicators across marketing, sales, and support. Then, each department has their own dashboards with more granular, department-specific charts. Lastly, individuals have a personal performance dashboard. Dashboards create alignment because everyone will understand how their results contribute to the success of the department and ultimately the success of your company.
8. How we celebrate
With the entire team thinking about growth initiatives and how they can contribute, you’ll be setting records and crushing your goals before you know it. Landing a huge new account, winning an award or setting a new record for monthly sales are all reasons to celebrate. But, remember to celebrate the small successes just as much as the big ones and make it a habit to recognize a job well done.
9. Who we are
The value of knowing the makeup of your team is extraordinary and can lead you to tap into their competencies and resources. Building a team that is diverse, smart and ambitious is one that will be successful. Working with your human resources team to gather a bit of info such as educational backgrounds, career ambitions and areas of expertise may reveal that people on your team are ready for their next big challenge. Plus, you’ll discover that you’re all tech-savvy individuals who not only bring out the best in each other but challenge each other as well.
10. Who should join us
Once you understand your team, their attributes will suggest who you should be looking for when making your next hire. When searching for that specific team member, consider the values you wrote down earlier, and use values-based hiring to narrow the field. Don’t just look for someone who says they have integrity. Rather, ask tough questions like, “When was the last time you made a decision that could have conflicted with someone else's personal values?” or, “Is there a difference between right and wrong?” and “How do you know the difference?” You may have other attributes you’re looking for such as people who are curious or highly competitive. Whatever the qualities, have them in your mind and be on the lookout for people who will join you as you write your own growth story.
Creating a company culture of growth starts with having clear answers to these statements. Achieving alignment as an organization means agreeing to the answers, and is a sign of a team that can execute well. Grab a notebook and pen, reflect on these questions, then communicate your findings at your next town hall or all-hands meeting.