bring organization to life

How to Bring Your Organization to Life

Editor’s Note: This post is part of the series “Workplace Morale,” a weeklong effort co-hosted by Switch & Shift and the folks at SmartBrief’s SmartBlog on Leadership. Be sure to keep track of the series here and check out our daily e-mail newsletter. Don’t subscribe? Sign up. 

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman 

A vibrant and effective business culture creates a palpable energy that you can feel the moment you walk in the door. It’s more than employees who enjoy their work and it’s more than employees with a single-minded focus on execution. What you feel is a sense of purposeful activity, passion and commitment. You feel the dynamic resonance of a group of people with diverse talents and perspectives, joined by a common passion. You feel the energy of a group of people who have come alive.

There are many stellar examples of businesses that have managed to create this energy within their culture and have experienced tremendous success as a result.  How do they do it?

Wegmans is supermarket chain based in the North East that consistently ranks highly on Fortune’s Best Places to Work For, coming in at 12th for 2014. The chain employs 42,000 people, is extremely profitable and experiences employee turnover consistently less than 6%. What makes Wegmans such a great place to work? They provide excellent benefits, above-average pay, allow employees flexible scheduling and provide a generous college scholarship program.  They invest considerably in employee training, sending department managers to visit suppliers and learn about the products they sell. Their “Eat Well Live Well” programs help employees live healthy and active lifestyles and inspire them to share their way of life with customers. Their happy, knowledgeable and empowered workforce is clearly a significant factor in the cult-like loyalty of their customers.

It’s more than employees who enjoy their work and it’s more than employees with a single-minded focus on execution. What you feel is a sense of purposeful activity.

Hubspot is an in-bound marketing software provider that employs over 500 people in the Boston area.  It has been lauded for several years as a best place to work by the Boston Business Journal and was recognized as a Best Medium-Sized Company to Work For in 2014 by Glassdoor.com. Key elements of the Hubspot culture include a “No Door Policy,” where CEO Brian Halligan and other top executives share the same office space as everyone else, a transparent communication policy, no vacation policy, and employee organized projects to improve the company.  Employees are inspired by the Hubspot mission to create marketing that people love. All of these elements are immortalized and kept front and center with their “Culture Code.”  Hubspot views their culture as a key strategic differentiator.

Finally, The Motley Fool is an investment advice firm that thrives on being disassociated with the standard Wall Street bandwagon. Employing about 300 people, its mission is to help individual investors take control of their financial futures. In 2014 Glassdoor.com ranked it as the No. 1 Best Medium-Sized Company to Work For.  Central to its culture are a lack of formal titles, no separate offices and no set vacation or sick days.  They have a full-time wellness coach, on-site recreation activities and provide free healthy snacks.  Employees write their own job descriptions and each choose their own personal “motley value” to add to the company values. Every employee that joins the company is given $1000.00 to invest along with advice from in-house experts. The Motley Fool excels in a conservative industry with an unconventional culture.

Far more instructive than any of the specific elements of these cultures, is to understand the beliefs or principles that are behind them.

Every employee that joins the company is given $1000.00 to invest along with advice from in-house experts. The Motley Fool excels in a conservative industry with an unconventional culture.

A Business is a System

Fundamental to each of these companies is the awareness that business is an interconnected system of stakeholders, the belief that the employee is central to the system, and the recognition of the importance of a motivational culture.  They pride themselves on rejecting conventional wisdom regarding how to run their business.

Per Wegmans CEO, Danny Wegman, “Our employees are the number one reason our customers shop at Wegmans. I’m convinced there is only one path to great customer service, and that is through employees who feel they are cared about and empowered.”

Business is an interconnected system of stakeholders, the belief that the employee is central to the system, and the recognition of the importance of a motivational culture.

Trust and Respect the Individual while Fostering Community.

Employees that feel valued and respected as individuals will return that respect to their colleagues.  Mutual respect is foundational to effectively building community and fostering collaboration.  As Tom Gardner, CEO of the Motley Fool puts it, “To not trust your people means something is fundamentally wrong with the culture.”

Allowing employees to manage their work schedules and vacation time, openly sharing information and minimizing hierarchy are all actions that send the message that employees are valued and trusted.

Providing resources to help them manage other aspects of their life, such as wellness support, allows the employee to feel valued as a complete person, with outside interests and needs.

To not trust your people means something is fundamentally wrong with the culture.”

Perks such as game rooms, free food, community service and social events provide the opportunity for employees to connect and build community.  They also offer a change in context that can foster collaboration and innovation.

Empower Employees to Get Results

Employees are most productive when they are empowered to act and have the information and resources they need to achieve results.  Empowered employees bring themselves fully to the task and provide the new ideas that foster innovation.

Brian Hooligan, CEO of Hubspot, describes their organization. “Part of creating this environment of innovation is making the organization decentralized and flat. We want to empower the edges of the organization, and we want to let the people who really understand our customers make decisions.”

Transparent communications, flat organizations, minimal bureaucracy and access to learning and development opportunities all help to create an empowering culture.

Provide Meaning and Inspiration to Support Motivation

A human being’s highest potential is reached when they are intrinsically motivated.  Each of these businesses recognizes the importance of providing meaning for their employees and they leverage their mission to inspire not only employees, but also partners and customers.

Transparent communications, flat organizations, minimal bureaucracy and access to learning and development opportunities all help to create an empowering culture.

How can you help your organization come alive?

As you work to improve your own culture, don’t simply leverage what other successful companies have done.  Rather, first understand and then internalize what they believe – the principles behind their culture.  Ask yourself, “How can I bring these principles to life within my organization?”

You can always add a game room, but if you don’t really believe in or value the importance of creating community, that game room will be a lonely place.

 

Did you like today’s post? If so you’ll love our frequent newsletter! Sign up HERE and receive The Switch and Shift Change Playbook, by Shawn Murphy, as our thanks to you!

Copyright: alphaspirit / 123RF Stock Photo

Passionate believer in people, systems thinking and conscious business. Curious explorer of ideas and connections. Recovering corporate executive helping leaders align and engage their employees… awakening organizational excellence.

  • Pingback: The Role Joy Plays in Workplace Morale | Switch and Shift()

    • Lisa Shelley

      Thanks Tim, and I couldn’t agree more on the need for a purpose and values based operational rhythm. I call it living your purpose and values. It’s the basis really for the consistency and transparency necessary to build trust, the clarity and alignment necessary for empowerment and ensures that employees are engaged on a daily basis with the ‘why’ behind their work – maintaining inspiration and passion. Thanks so much for highlighting this important element!

  • Tim Kuppler

    Solid post – excellent points and examples. I believe another key part of the formula is how you connect the purpose / values / principles to the areas you reference: trust, community, empowerment, etc. There needs to be clear strategies, goals and measures in some form where employees are clearly engaged in the process to create / manage them so there is ownership. So often the purpose / values / principles are clear and there is a desire for trust, empowerment,etc. but priorities / goals are not defined in a way to specifically support those behaviors every day (for example – team / group goals and measures, coaching from top leaders to support the teams, feedback and prioritization when setting goals / priorities / plans, etc.).

    There should be a structure or framework of habits in which to operate that helps everyone to display these behaviors and support each other in the process.

  • http://www.loveandprofit.com David Papa

    Really good post, I couldn’t agree with you more, and I really like the examples you chose.

    I’d be really interested to hear more your perspective on the “how to” piece of this, to get the process of moving toward this type of culture started inside a company. I feel many businesses might read this and say, okay, that sounds great, but how do I actually do it?

    I know everything can’t be included in one blog post, but for example, we learn that both of these companies have no vacation policies, so what do they do instead? We learn about emphasis on employee training and information openness, but what about handling day to day operations that most businesses are obsessed with, how do they do that differently?

    I really want to see these ideas in action all over the business world, that’s what I try to work on. I care about these ideas, and I want them to succeed, that’s why I’m saying this. My worry is that no action will be taken without a more clarity – “Okay, you like this? Here’s the very next thing you can do with this information to apply it.” The recommendation to internalize doesn’t really explain how.

    Really like your bio description as well. Super succinct and shows your perspective and value. I might try to model that.

    • http://www.loveandprofit.com David Papa

      Hi Lisa, thanks for your reply! You make some excellent points. Some of this really does need to be internalized first, and replace all the other things that we’re taught to internalize that run counter to these ideas, and are ultimately also counterproductive.

      It’s interesting, when I have an initial discussion with a potential client I tell them about the power of both purpose and focusing internally on their people. They seem to have one of two reactions, yeah, I already do that (but they don’t). Or, I can’t use purpose in a board meeting (but they could). It’s a tricky nut to crack. The most useful technique I’ve found so far is to do internal and external interview and surveys and point out gaps with “data.”

      I’d love to read the follow-up post you thinking of writing. And I’d also love to connect with you as well and continue this. Here’s my profile – http://www.linkedin.com/in/davidpapa

  • Tim Kuppler

    Thanks for the very fast response. Operational rhythm, operating model or other words are good description of the “framework” that must be in place to support the “why” by clarifying the “how” with as much involvement / empowerment as possible. Again, great post and thanks for the response.

  • Lisa Shelley

    Hi David! Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts! It sounds like we share similar passions… I agree that the post is lacking the specifics on ‘how.’ Partially due to length constraints, partially due to the dependence of the ‘how’ to the specific situation, but largely intentional to put emphasis on the importance of the beliefs behind the specific ‘hows.’

    My experience tells me that the specifics of how a leader chooses to bring these principles to life within their organization are far less important than the fact that they actually believe in the principles. If the belief in the principles is weak or absent, any changes that are implemented will likely be met with skepticism and cynicism, as other actions or elements within the culture will contradict the message. So in summary, my post was really intended at the first step of the ‘how’ – you’ve actually got to believe in these principles first – you’ve got to believe in people, realize that business is made up of interconnected stakeholders – people – and you’ve got to understand how people are motivated. I’ve found that often the best way to get this lightbulb to go off, is to have people think about their own personal experience.

    I’ve struggled with many of the same thoughts as you regarding how to help these ideas take root more broadly in business. I’m afraid I haven’t landed on a simple answer yet. So much depends on the starting point – are you working with people who get it, or not. You’ve inspired me to take a stab at a follow-up post… it would be valuable, I think, to lay out the next steps in the thought process. Thanks so much for your thoughts… would love to connect and continue the conversation. I’ll look for you on Linkedin. Best- Lisa

  • footer-logo

    There’s a more human way to do business.

    In the Social Age, it’s how we engage with customers, collaborators and strategic partners that matters; it’s how we create workplace optimism that sets us apart; it’s how we recruit, retain (and repel) employees that becomes our differentiator. This isn’t a “people first, profits second” movement, but a “profits as a direct result of putting people first” movement.

  • Contact Us



    email: connect@switch&shift.com
    1802 North Carson Street
    Suite 206
    Carson City, NV 89701


    Terms & Conditions  |  Privacy Policy

  •  

    × two = 14