Creating a culture of accomplishment
Say the words ‘company culture’ and you’re likely to get a mixed bag of strong emotions paired with a few choice words that would raise the eyebrows of any HR manager. We all know culture is important, but most leaders are scared to death of it, like a mythical creature that’s beautiful and terrifying at the same moment. If you upset it, you risk losing your top performers or causing an internal collapse of morale that could take months to pull out of, but if you can capture it, you have the power to create an amazing company that drives innovation, improvements, and, ultimately, commerce.
For a creative agency such as ours, culture is paramount. A little over a year ago, we began the process of redefining Gravitate to more accurately reflect our values and goals, and thus the chase for culture began.
In the late ’90s I was just starting to get my career off the ground. I focused on helping nonprofits to become sustainable through smart marketing. I was in my early twenties and full of ideas with all the confidence that comes from having never done anything myself. I would enter into board rooms and partner with executive teams as a consultant for companies that were in tough positions or were facing new opportunities. I would deliver pitches with (if you ask me) slick presentations and exciting speeches. Executives and staff alike would get pumped and everyone would begin to believe they could accomplish anything. I was empowered and I was empowering!
Then I watched as idea after idea failed.
Within months, as deferred hope and exhaustion set in, morale at these companies began to drop lower than it was when I started. By this point, however, I had already finished my contract and moved on to other companies, yielding the same results and essentially leaving a path of burned dreams in my wake.
Once the truth caught up with me, I took a hard look at what I was preaching. In the end I realized that no matter how great the idea, if the company culture or infrastructure couldn’t support it, it would fail.
Ideas are like babies—conception is the easy part! Giving birth to them, pushing them into existence, is the hard part.
Therefore, I shifted my focus. Rather than coming in as the on-fire idea guy, I began to downplay the importance of ideas and instead pushed the importance of follow-through, communication, and discipline. Career-minded people naturally care about their jobs and they also know better than anyone how to improve the company. Thus, if I could successfully develop an infrastructure that makes the realization of ideas possible, the company would naturally thrive off the motivation of its own staff. Over time, as I learned what worked and what didn’t work, I became more effective and finally began to see real business results, rather than hype.
Every company is different. Studying and being inspired by other companies’ stories is great, but each company requires its own unique approach.
Over the last year here at Gravitate, we have pushed hard at all levels to create a culture where ideas naturally occur and where the staff has all the tools necessary to carry those ideas through to completion. The exciting part is that we are in the business of making ideas come to pass. The better we are at this skill, the more our clients benefit.