Meaningless Buzzwords Are Killing (what could be) Your Startup’s Culture

June 27, 2017

written by Daniel Coyle  AngelList | LinkedIn | Email | Twitter

Here's how you can turn company values into a living organism, thriving in an ecosystem that is functional and makes sense.

The crux of the problem: It's not them, it's you

A collaborative, team environment sounds nice and is a great buzzword for People, HR, and Recruiting teams to throw out to staff and candidates. But, more often than not, the reality far from lives up to the cliche. When this happens, not only has an opportunity to build something meaningful been squandered, but the fallout will likely leave your staff feeling unrest, mistrust, and a lack of drive.

My inner dialogue started crafting this article from the negative (as you can tell from the title!). Instead of focusing on what most organizations, departments, and leaders don’t do well, I’ll briefly mention a few things that are absolutely mission-critical if you want to turn a platitude into a reality.

Talk about the things you’d like-to-have, do the things that are must-haves

If you put together slide decks, send out emails, or speak in front of your organization in order to relay your vision for culture, transparency, and collaboration, that’s great! But you can’t just communicate the information and then leave it up to the staff to put your values and vision into practice.

Building community takes nurturing and effort from a leader who has a daily presence (ie, if you're a C-suite, VP, Director, etc, have your managers and team leads directly operationalize this, while you provide support and oversight). Remember, you’re essentially asking your staff to care about each other’s well being, to align together and foster practices that move many bodies in a singular direction; the direction of your company’s goals and mission.

So what else should we do after communicating the vision
Like anything else in your business, if you want something to succeed, it will require action! As an example, I’m a big fan of values; not just at a company level, but at a department level. Having team members work together in small groups to agree on values and what they mean to their specific role, and then bringing all of those ideas together at the department level in order to finalize those values, is a great way to get buy-in.

Remember: your mission should rally people to want to achieve your company goals, values feed the mission, actions breathe life into the values, getting buy-in will allow individual contributors to take appropriate actions. And, always, the continued vigilance of a leader who is present, is essential.

But what about the individuals that make up the team

Once you’ve taught the team how to think, what to shoot for, and how to achieve it, you can further deepen the connection by tying in the individual contributions of each member of the team. A great way to accomplish this is to reiterate to each person (one-on-one) what the collective, agreed upon values and actions of the team are. Then ask that person to take some time to review their role, trajectory, and goals, and come up with daily/weekly actions that they can take in order to contribute to live the team’s values.

Make this work for your team/organization

Yes, this is vastly generalized and is a singular example in a world of infinite complexity and detail. But, if you can spend some time and energy moving the needle in the direction of living, actionable values, it will turn your “culture” buzzword into a lifeforce, that you don’t have to over-index on, because it’s palpable.

If you want to discuss your startup, organization, or department in more specific detail, feel free to email me. I’m happy to see if I can help!