6 Corporate Culture Ideas

After Terminus won the #1 place to work award, several people asked what they do to build such a strong organization. Of course, the core of a great culture is the people, which starts with the values (see Strong Core Values Help Those That Don’t Fit Self Select Out). Yet, establishing values is only one piece of the overall puzzle. The key is to institutionalize programs that strengthen the corporate culture.

Here are six corporate culture ideas:

  1. Align Interview Questions with Core Values
  2. Maintain a Simplified One Page Strategic Plan
  3. Co-Founders are Keepers of the Culture
  4. The Culture-Oriented 7 Step Hiring Process
  5. 3 Must Read Culture Guides for Entrepreneurs
  6. 6 Steps to Build a Culture of Accountability

Corporate culture is intentional and powerful — make it the centerpiece of the company.

What else? What are some more corporate culture ideas?

Align Interview Questions with Core Values

Continuing with the interview questions theme (see 10 Questions to Ask When Interviewing for a Sales Role), there’s an extremely important element for the other side of the table when an entrepreneur is interviewing a potential hire: ask interview questions aligned with core values. At Pardot, our core values were positive, self-starting, and supportive (still, three of my favorite values), and since a critical part of the interview process was assessing core value fit, we came up with specific interview questions around each core value.

Here are a few thoughts on aligning interview questions with core values:

  • Develop written questions for each core value (and store them in a Google Doc)
  • Discuss the interview questions with all team members involved
  • Incorporate culture checks in the interview process
  • Whenever a candidate is turned down (make it a unanimous decision to give a job offer), take time to discuss the answers that the interviewee provided

Align interview questions with core values as part of the culture-oriented hiring process — it’s key to building a strong culture.

What else? What are some more thoughts on aligning interview questions with core values?

Quarterly Employee Check-in Process

With it being near the end of the quarter, it’s a good time to revisit the idea of a quarterly employee check-in or lightweight quarterly performance review. When the startup is small, this can be overkill, but as it grows, this is critical. At Pardot, we kept things simple and answered these four questions every quarter in a Google Doc:

  1. What did you accomplish this quarter? (List top 5-10 accomplishments)
  2. What 3-5 goals will you focus on next quarter?
  3. How can you improve?
  4. How are you embracing the company values? (Please provide specific examples.)

Pretty easy, right? Once the doc was done, the manager and direct report met for 30 – 45 minutes to talk through it, and the manager provided any coaching or feedback.

Entrepreneurs would do well to implement a quarterly employee check-in process as the startup grows.

What else? What are some more thoughts on a quarterly employee check-in process?

The Ideal Team Player

Patrick Lencioni is one of my favorite leadership authors writing books like The Advantage and The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team. His latest book, The Ideal Team Player, is focused on “how to recognize and cultivate the three essential virtues.” As always, he starts with a fable and then goes into more detail.

Here are the three virtues and descriptions from the book:

  1. Humility – Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.
  2. Hunger – Hungry people are always looking for more.
  3. People smarts – A person’s common sense about people…the ability to be interpersonally appropriate and aware.

Looking to improve your leadership skills and build a better organization? Start by reading Lencioni’s books.

What else? What are your thoughts on the book The Ideal Team Player?

Video of the Week: Dharmesh Shah – Why Company Culture is Crucial

Corporate culture is one of my favorite topics (more here). For this week’s video, listen to Dharmesh Shah talk about Why Company Culture is Crucial and read his famous Culture Code deck. Enjoy!

From YouTube: Dharmesh Shah, co-founder and CTO at the marketing and sales software firm HubSpot, distills his 128-slide presentation on company culture down to its essence, describing it as a business’s “operating system” that lets people do their best work. Shah says entrepreneurs must create a company culture they love, because one will eventually emerge no matter what.

Maintaining a Sense of Urgency at Scale

Last week two different growth-stage entrepreneurs brought up the question of how to maintain a sense of urgency at scale (e.g. > 50 employees). When it’s a small team toiling away, it’s easy to maintain a sense of urgency just by constantly talking about the challenges and opportunities by motivating the team directly. As the company grows beyond the founders, that same passion and energy has to be translated through the culture. Peter Drucker came up with the famous phrase “culture will eat strategy for breakfast.”

Here are a few thoughts on maintaining a sense of urgency at scale:

Maintaining a sense of urgency at scale comes down to the culture and communication. Set the foundation and reiterate the message.

What else? What are some more thoughts on maintaining a sense of urgency at scale?

Feeling the Energy of the Culture in an Office

Earlier today I had the opportunity to spend some time at the Kabbage office in Atlanta and the energy was electric. As I entered, several people walked by smiling, and enjoying each others’ company. Walking in the kitchen, a number of people were sharing stories while exuding a warm vibe. Culture starts with the core values and permeates through all aspects of the business.

Here are a few thoughts on the energy of a culture in an office:

  • There’s no one right or wrong culture. Some are formal and some are laid back. Some are silly and some are serious. What matters is that everyone is aligned and buys into the core values.
  • Office environment, style, color, and layout either augment or detract from the culture. Visual cues matter.
  • First impressions, like the receptionist at the desk, set the tone.
  • Subtle things like the way people decorate their desks and leaving private office doors open or closed are important.

We’ve all walked into offices that have made us happier and offices that have made us more depressed. Energy of a culture in an office matters and it’s important to be intentional about building the best one for the startup.

What else? What are some more thoughts about the energy of the culture in an office?