Culture Deck in Time of Crisis

With the continuing health and economic crisis, one of the areas that needs even more attention is the culture of the organization. With layoffs, furloughs, and other dramatic changes, people are hurting, both inside and outside the organization. One of the areas to resort back to, or create fresh, is a culture deck.

The most famous culture deck is from Netflix, having been viewed nearly 20 million times (also, an updated one is available).

Here are notes from the Netflix culture deck:

  • Seven aspects of the culture
    • Values are what we Value
    • High Performance
    • Freedom & Responsibility
    • Context, not Control
    • Highly Aligned, Loosely Coupled
    • Pay Top of Market
    • Promotions & Development
  • Values the following nine behaviors and skills
    • Judgement
    • Communication
    • Impact
    • Curiosity
    • Innovation
    • Courage
    • Passion
    • Honesty
    • Selflessness
  • Adequate performance gets a generous severance package (meaning, people that are OK get fired)
  • A team, not a family
  • The Rare Responsible Person
    • Self motivating
    • Self aware
    • Self disciplined
    • Self improving
    • Acts like a leader
    • Doesn’t wait to be told what to do
    • Picks up trash lying on the floor
  • Netflix Vacation Policy and Tracking – there is no policy or tracking
  • Netflix Policies for Expensing, Entertainment, Gifts & Travel: Act in Netflix’s best interest
  • Managers: When one of your talented people does something dumb, don’t blame them. Instead, ask yourself what context you failed to set.

For another excellent example, check out the HubSpot Culture Code: 

Use this crisis to think through the culture, and what it should be with time. A culture deck is a great way to communicate the ideas.

24 One-on-One Meetings in a Day

Last week I was catching up with an entrepreneur and he shared that he just did 24 one-on-one meetings with his customer success team in a single day. Wow! Each meeting was face-to-face for 15 minutes with a focus on learning about both the business and the person. Time with team members, especially focused, in-person time with people that aren’t on your direct team, is one of the best ways to learn and connect, regardless of size.

While regular one-on-one meetings with direct reports is a popular best practice, rarely does it extend to skip-level meetings or entire days with whole departments. Staying close to the customer, and close to the culture, are two of the most important things an entrepreneur needs to do. High velocity one-on-one meetings is a great tactic to help with the latter.

Entrepreneurs should schedule one day per month for high velocity one-on-ones with team members they don’t normally interact with. There’s no substitute for direct, focused communication with people throughout the organization.

Continuous Employee Feedback

Back in the original days of Pardot, we worked hard to manually solicit feedback from employees. After years of experimenting, we settled into a routine that had a daily, monthly, and quarterly rhythm.

On a daily basis, during our morning standup, we’d ask if there were any heroes or hassles. Heroes were employees that went out out their way to help someone and made an important contribution. Hassles were challenges or impediments for employees to produce their best work.

With this daily feedback, we’d talk about it in-person, address it immediately if there was a certain severity of hassle, and have the person who brought it up add it to the respective idea exchange. An idea exchange is much like a message board where people can submit ideas, comment on them, and vote ideas up or down. Finally, we’d we acknowledge the hero of the month and hassle of the month, defined by votes in the idea exchange, at the first weekly all-hands meeting of the first of the month. The winner for each received a $100 bill and a nice lawn ornament from Delta SkyMall to display at their desk.

In addition to the daily heroes and hassles for employee feedback, we also ran a quarterly anonymous employee survey. The survey was short — 10 questions — that always started with the net promoter question: how likely are you to recommend Pardot as a place of employment to a friend? From there, we’d rotate a mix of questions related to core values, general satisfaction along the lines of compensation, career paths, etc. Results from the survey were taken seriously and we worked hard to make our organization a top place to work (we were rated the #1 best place to work in the city multiple times).

Today, there are a number of excellent tools that take care of employee feedback and engagement in an automated fashion. Programs like TINYpulse, Officevibe, and Culture Amp are lightweight and incredibly effective at gathering relevant information and presenting it in an actionable manner.

Entrepreneurs need to incorporate continuous employee feedback into their companies and cultivate an environment for team members to thrive. The stronger the culture, the stronger the company.

12 Ideas to Strengthen Culture

Corporate culture is a funny thing. Similar to my favorite definition of brand — how you feel about the last experience with a company — culture is expectations of how people behave, both internal and external, at a company. Only, without intentionality around culture, culture will be inconsistent and corresponding behavior expectations low. The strongest cultures have clear values, repeatable processes, and high expectations.

Culture is powerful.

Culture is a unique differentiator.

Culture is the only thing in complete control of the entrepreneurs.

Here are 12 ideas to strengthen culture:

  1. Establish the mission, vision, and values
  2. Develop a Simplified One Page Strategic Plan and update it quarterly
  3. Build SMART goals/OKRs and revisit them weekly
  4. Run daily check-ins for active organization of priorities
  5. Organize an interview flow for the desired values
  6. Integrate culture check teams in the hiring process
  7. Ensure quarterly check-ins to review results and areas for improvement
  8. Highlight the hero and idea of the month
  9. Send a weekly update email to keep everyone aligned
  10. Solicit regular employee feedback at all levels
  11. Incentivize internal referrals for people with similar values
  12. Escape the office with regular off-site retreats

High performing companies have high performing cultures. Use these ideas to build a strong, enduring culture.

5 Strong Core Values from Godard Abel

Godard Abel, co-founder of G2 Crowd, published an excellent blog post earlier today titled Home Again With My Entrepreneurial Family. After selling his last company Steelbrick to, he rejoined G2 Crowd. In the post, he highlighted their five core values, referring to them as “mantras”:

  • Work with joy
  • Learn quickly and continuously
  • Buyers come first
  • Slap and tickle
  • Live at the peak

Entrepreneurs should define their core values and ensure they’re deeply integrated throughout the company. These five core values are a great starting point.

What else? What are some more example core values that you like?

Weekly Update Email

One of my favorite communication strategies for entrepreneurs post product/market fit is a weekly update email to all constituents: employees, advisors, mentors, and investors. Initially, the email should be pretty simple and then expand as the company grows and departments are formalized. Here’s an example format:

  • Intro
    • Quick paragraph summary of last week
  • Culture Highlight
    • A story or example from the week that exemplifies the company culture and recognizes one or more people
  • Annual Goals
  • Quarterly Goals
  • Quarterly Priority Projects
  • Sales
    • The top three weekly metrics for the sales team, or for smaller teams, the top three metrics for every person on the sales team (e.g. calls, appointments, deals won, new recurring revenue, etc.). By having every sales rep listed with their metrics, it provides transparency and peer-pressure to hit their numbers.
    • Comments or highlights from last week (e.g. the name of a big customer win or story from the team)
  • Marketing, Services, Support, Engineering, Operations, etc. (each has their own section, just like the Sales section)
    • The top three weekly metrics
    • Comments or highlights from the week

Yes, it’s more work on a weekly basis. Yes, it’s a commitment. Yet, when done consistently, this weekly update email is one of the best techniques for an entrepreneur to increase communication and transparency in a scalable way.

What else? What are some more thoughts on the weekly update email?

The Energy in a Values-Oriented Company

Earlier today I was in the SalesLoft office catching up and the first thing I noticed was the energy of the company. Energetic employees were everywhere — at a table in the middle of the office having lunch, on a bean bag chair doing a sales call, and walking by on their way out the door.

The energy was amazing.

An energetic environment always starts with the people and their values. Here are SalesLoft’s core values:

  • Put Customers First – Of the three stakeholders — employees, customers and investors — only one pays the bills. We win by staying close to them and adding value to their day.
  • Team Over Self – We’re committed to each other. We’re always collaborative, but put the interests of the team above our personal agendas.
  • Glass Half Full – We always move forward. We work to understand the reality of the situation, then we make the decision to focus on the opportunities.
  • Focus on Results – We understand what we’re here to do and make decisions with purpose to achieve our goals.
  • Bias Towards Action – We’re motivated. We go out of our way to figure things out and present solutions, rather than problems.

Customer-oriented people that are positive, focused, and team players sounds nice, but only works when the entire company is committed to the values. Many companies talk about values but few truly buy into them. Values set the tone and aligned cultures have a magnetic energy.

What else? What are some more thoughts on the energy in a values-oriented company?

Scaling Culture in a Fast-Growing Startup

Culture is one of my favorite topics as it’s so critical to successful organizations. I’ve seen OK cultures and I’ve seen amazing cultures — the amazing ones always grow faster and outperform their peers. Only, scaling a strong culture is hard as there’s much more complexity.

Here are a few thoughts on scaling culture:

Once the team grows beyond the co-founders, it’s time to start thinking about culture. As the startup finds product/market fit and a repeatable customer acquisition process, culture needs to be intentional.

What else? What are some more ideas for scaling culture in a fast-growing startup?

Video of the Week – Shawn Achor: The happy secret to better work

With the annual TED Conference this coming week, let’s look at one my favorite TED Talks – Shawn Achor: The happy secret to better work. Enjoy!

From the talk, here’s the happiness advantage:
Better securing jobs
Better keeping jobs
Superior productivity
More resilient
Less burnout
Less turnover
Greater sales

From YouTube: We believe that we should work to be happy, but could that be backwards? In this fast-moving and entertaining talk from TEDxBloomington, psychologist Shawn Achor argues that actually happiness inspires productivity.

5 Recruiting Resources for Entrepreneurs

Several entrepreneurs have asked for links to other resources on recruiting after posts on the Top 3 Hiring Mistakes, 5 Non-Standard Recruiting Tactics, and 7 Non-Standard Interview Questions. Here are five recruiting resources for entrepreneurs:

  1. How Startups Can Build a Recruiting Machine by David Skok
  2. Post-Traction, You Need to Spend 20% of Your Time Recruiting by Jason Lemkin
  3. How to Improve Hiring at Startups by Mark Suster
  4. Why Recruiting Isn’t Over When an Employee Accepts Your Offer by Mark Suster
  5. Turbocharge Your Recruiting Machine — Here’s How by First Round Capital

Recruiting is one of the most important skills for an entrepreneur and needs the appropriate attention. Read these resources and learn from others.

What else? What are some other good recruiting resources for entrepreneurs?