Culture Management is essential for growth stage companies
Our company has been through many cycles and products throughout the years, but it’s the passion and bond between teammates that have always carried on with us. That will continue to carry on no matter what size we grow to. We are a team, and we are a family.
This places an enormous emphasis on having the right Culture. Culture is something intangible but very impactful. It affects team morale, productivity, conflict resolution, decision-making, and hiring — basically everything that moves the company forward in the right direction. It is something that needs to be nurtured and maintained, as it could easily be diluted as the company grows.
Therefore, I spent a lot of time researching about companies that boast their cultures as a competitive edge, including Apple, Zappos, Netflix, Yammer and more (yes, I’m not pretending I came up with all this stuff. The giants get the credit and I get the shoulders). I also made a list on what most of my friends love about their jobs, and what they hate about their jobs to figure out how can we create a system that automatically generates the former and eliminates the latter.
It seemed striking to me that, everyone complains about their managers, but when these complainers become managers themselves, nothing has changed, as people below them still complain about their managers. Clearly the “bad manager” syndrome is not based on an individual’s capability, but an overall system flaw.
Culture is the system that either creates the right environment where everyone can easily be good managers, or where bad managers are kicked out, so good people do not lose motivation.
The RewardMe DNA
There’s a certain DNA within the RewardMe Team Members that keeps us all bonded together. We call it a DNA because it isn’t just rules that look nice, but it should be something that is ingrained deep inside every member, which is reflected upon daily conduct.
These are not just fancy statements we put on walls and badges, but all team member are evaluated (and rewarded) based on how well they have this ingrained into them. Hiring and firing should not only be based on performance output, but also environment output.
1) Put positive energy into the company
Bad attitude in the company is UNACCEPTABLE. Your responsibility in the company is not only to perform, but to make everyone around you better in every way you can. Don’t be the “Game over man!” guy you see in movies. Be that person who is always thinking positively and encouraging others. Always inspire hope and ideas to new solutions.
2) In whatever you do, be exceptional and over-impressive
Our competitors are filled with good people. That’s why we all need to be excellent. We believe the best people are 10x compared to the average, and we should always strive to be that 10x. You need to care intensively about outperforming expectations and getting more wins together as a team.
You need to maintain calm poise in stressful situations and be a strong pillar, especially when it takes many pillars to hold up a roof. We don’t care about being over-impressed with your hours. We want you to create WOW moments for the rest of the team. Do whatever it takes to achieve that.
3) Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
Hangout with each other, and make it easy to hang out with you. We’re not just working, we’re on a journey together. Spend time helping teammates even outside of work with personal matters. Share helpful information openly and proactively.
Be Considerate and think from the other person’s angle. Say an extra sentence if it makes them feel better, but don’t take anything too personally yourself. Saying things like, “I understand your point. What I think differently on is…” or “Sorry about being so jumpy at you earlier” makes a world of difference. Celebrate personal and career wins TOGETHER as often as you can. In everything you do, make the Family better, but also remember: you are part of the family too, so take care of yourself.
4) Constantly show self-motivation, autonomy, and accountability
Be self-motivated and self-disciplined. Don’t wait to be told what to do, but be proactive like a leader. If you see trash on the floor, pick it up and throw it away. We don’t like to micromanage or be micromanaged, so behave in a way that is best for the team. Be clear on your responsibilities. If you are responsible for something, seek both expert and non-expert opinions, but let the expert decide – getting cross-department feedback is extremely important and necessary. When you need help, it is your responsibility to ask for help instead of other’s to wonder if you need help.
Final decisions and accountability should belong to you and not by a committee/consensus. Clear responsibilities allow knowledge sharing but not decision sharing. People who thrive on freedom are worthy of freedom. When you notice your team lead is exerting constant supervision for your daily work, you should be a little worried – for yourself or for the team lead.
5) Always trust your teammates and always be trustworthy
Trust your colleagues – they’re here because they are smart, capable, and working towards the same goal as you. There should be no blame games in the company. No one is perfect, and we function like one body. Only seek to help your teammates, not blame them. A body cannot be in competitive sports if the hands are always blaming the legs, and the legs are always blaming the eyes. If you blame others a lot, you also make it extremely awkward when it’s your turn to make a mistake, which is inevitable.
When a mistake is made, regroup quickly, find the solution and start executing again. In your work, always make sure that your team can trust you with everything in your abilities. Be accountable to your mistakes and always seek help when you may not be able to hit your targets. Delegate with confidence.
6) Stay focused, but always be curious for new solutions and have the confident to execute
With limited time and resources, we need to be focused and persistent. Stay on course but focus on the long run. In your work, always look for a better solutions to do things better, even if the problem isn’t directly in your area of expertise.
Be Agile-minded. When you have a new solution, have the confidence to try it out. If being deviated will allow us to stay on course for the long run, do not be dogmatic and squeeze out room for flexibility and innovation. 5 years later, everything will be different and we ourselves can’t afford to always stay the same.
7) Don’t be afraid to create fun and a little goofiness
Endorse your own uniqueness and exert that into the company. We recognize and celebrate each person’s individuality, and we want his/her true personality to shine in the workplace environment. Being at RewardMe is more like a LAN party than a soldier squad – you play the game intensively and seriously while pulling jokes on each other.
We make work fun when we can, and having a little goofiness in the system helps alleviate stress, brings people closer, and makes it easier for teammates to collaborate/confront with you. Of course, there is a line you shouldn’t cross, but it’s a rather squiggly one.
8 ) Encourage dissent: Argue with respect. If you are right, listen as if you are wrong
Listen well, instead of reacting fast. Make it safe to provide and receive feedback. Safety means that when feedback is delivered, it won’t easily sink the productivity or effectiveness of the entire team. The team has the open-mindedness to listen to feedback, reflect upon it, and avoid letting it destroy their motivation and productivity. Feedback is not a demand for others to change. It is simply a way to have a conversation about behaviors and mindsets in a way that brings greater awareness of each other’s motivations and boundaries.
Avoid the Tennis no-man’s land: The average of two strategies is usually not a strategy. Always remember that, despite our different opinions on how to do it, we all have the same goal – to make the company successful. So fighting internally is counterproductive to the mutual goal. Also, it’s more rewarding and profound when you thought incorrectly and adjusted your mindset, compared to just convincing people of your point.
9) Endorse our competitors as our best teachers
Competitors don’t kill startups. Indifferent customers do. Competitors are (potentially) smart teams and brains that are solving the same problems. We should take advantage of this external research lab, instead of feel threatened by it. The market is big enough for more than one player.
We only need to focus on 2 things: close deals and deliver value. If a competitor can teach us some tips on how to do those 2 things better, they are good competitors. Sure, we want to beat them, but just in the same mentality that we want to beat friends in a sports game. Maintain sportsmanship.
10) Do the Right Thing
Doing the right thing is often hard, and can be uncomfortable to you and/or others. But it is also essential for the long-term health of the company. You should always question actions that are inconsistent with our values regardless of the position of the person you are questioning. You should be egoless when searching for the best ideas and be non-political when there are disagreements.
Your actions and decisions should not be surprises to anyone – be candid and gently prepare people mentally for what you stand for. Be quick to admit to your mistakes. You are more easily forgiven if you take responsibility for your mistakes proactively. Be respectable and don’t do evil. Never harm our customers – actions are only acceptable if it will not degrade our customer’s current experience or harm their operations. If there are short-term pains to our customers, we need to be sure that the future gain will greatly exceed the initial inconvenience.
Anything in your company culture that is impactful?
If anything in your company culture has made it especially extraordinary and awesome, please share and discuss it here so we can work together to create better working environments for everyone!
Yu-kai Chou is an Expert and Speaker/Lecturer in Gamification and the Co-Founder of RewardMe. He regularly speaks at entities like Stanford University, Google, The Internet Marketing Conference as well as VC and Entrepreneur Gatherings.