Growth and Culture

“How do we keep growing and maintain our culture at the same time?”

That is a great question.

And, the people who asked this question were top leaders within their organizations. All of these leaders
have the insight and understanding to know that creating and maintaining the right culture is critical to their business – to attracting top talent, retaining top talent, and driving long-term results.

Here are some ideas to maintaining your culture while sustaining growth.

1. Values have the be clear and aligned. If you have read my past blog posts you know that I have observed that in most organizations values are “pie in the sky.” Most of the time they are pretty posters on the wall that people see in the break room or hallways. However, in the best organizations, values are woven throughout everything the organization does. They are integrated into the interviewing, hiring, and onboarding processes. They are ingrained in the way feedback is provided and performance is managed. They are utilized to guide key decisions related to customers, product development, and ongoing operations. They guide behaviors and they are the cornerstone to a sustainable culture.

2. Being clear about your values, though, isn’t good enough. Leaders have to live those values everyday and that means being keenly aware of individual behaviors. For example, if one of your organizational values is related to innovation, then as a leader you can’t thwart debate. It is only through constructive and passionate debate that teams and organizations get to the best answers and get commited to the right decisions.

3. Have a succession plan for all key positions – not just for your CEO. Hiring from within will help you keep people around who make your culture great. It gives them a career path to aspire to, and shows that they are valued contributors to the organization.

4. Avoid over-complicating things that don’t need to be over-complicated. One of the challenges during growth is that organizations shift from having little or no business processes, to creating overly rigid business processes. Structure is important, but if it is overdone it will break down the culture you worked so hard to create.

5. Maintain an environment of open communication. Much easier said than done. The key here is to
always communicate what you know and what you don’t know. Find multiple ways to over communicate important messages such as in weekly staff meetings, email, company all-staff meetings (see my post on avoiding the same old boring all-staff meetings), and one-on-one meetings.

6. Make it a two-way conversation. Be open with your people. Share your thoughts about the challenges
that growth will bring to the culture. Involve them in the discussion and you’ll find that they will have insightful ideas to help you along the way.

7. Keep your eye on the shared prize. In other words, everyone in the organization should ultimately be
working toward the same goals. They should be clear. They should be shared. They should cross all
departmental boundaries.

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