As we’ve begun to add team members to the party here at Leantime, I find that we’re stopping to talk more and more about our startup culture. We’re deciding what Leantime looks like on the inside. New team members can make or break your current culture and change the way the team relates. We’re in the business of efficient planning – thinking about culture before it grows out of hand is part of managing and structuring a startup into a company and a profitable business. These early stages set the tone and inertia of the company and it will happen whether or not you’ve paid any attention to it. It’s the seed that is planted and one day, you go to water it and it’s already a sprout. When culture develops without being nurtured, however, it’s possible to end up with a culture that you didn’t want, intend, or one that ruins all the organization’s hard work.
So what’s a startup to do? Great question! Welcome to our cliche-ly titled blog. Here you will find some basic things to consider when both keeping your culture in check and in starting one.
1. What sucked about the culture in your last job(s)?
Remember all those things your parents did that you said if you ever had kids, you wouldn’t do? Same thing. Maybe you didn’t mind working for someone else all that much but often, you’re an entrepreneur for a reason. Make a list; what were the qualities of the people that sucked? What about management sucked? Was it chaotic and disorganized? It’s a startup; some of that is inevitable. Figure out what you can control and start cleaning house.
2. Adult Conversations
Do you remember that one relationship you were in where your partner, in a fight, constantly said the same thing over and over again? The fight never ends! I think of work relationships like romantic ones. They take good, strong, adult conversations. If your team, customers, or partners are complaining about the same thing over and over again… it’s because 1. You haven’t validated their feelings. and 2. you likely haven’t changed anything. Some problems can be solved at the first point. Take a moment; do some active listening. From there, evaluate their point – do you need to do more? Can you do more? Unfortunately, some folks aren’t ready for adult conversations. At that point, if you’ve done what you can — you’ve done your part in creating and maintaining a respectful culture.
What’s the feedback process? Here at Leantime, we want to do more than say “we have an open door policy.” In fact, we’ll probably be the first ones to ask you an awkward question about how you really feel about something. If you aren’t sure what this looks like, take a gander at Crucial Conversations. If you don’t know, you can’t fix it. Ignorance never prompts change.
4. Change, change, change
That brings up this point — don’t be afraid to keep moving. As a startup, you should be used to moving. Constantly changing, being lean, iterating your product over and over. You are likely the least change averse; but what happens when we’re moving? We forget details; we forget to build the culture and it ends up building itself. If you don’t tend to the garden, eventually you end up overrun with weeds. Culture will need to change with the company and the product.
5. Are you the problem?
Have you defined your leadership style? Is it clear to everyone else? Are you a baby Steve Jobs and running over the people trying to help you achieve your dreams? If people aren’t leaving yet, they will be. Go back to #2. It’s time for an adult conversation with yourself.
Problem. Solution. Fit. doesn’t just have to be about customer acquisition and building your business. This is an idea that works with people — you’ve identified a pain point, you have a great solution and it fits the problem — now you need to find and foster the team that fits within your culture, your company, and your business. Having a great idea is important but the great team? That can make the difference between unicorn and failure.
How do you define the culture within your organization?