How do you get culture right?

If you get the culture right, then most of the other stuff follows. -Tony Hsieh

Team effortI’ve been on large enterprise teams and lean, startup teams. Worked with for-profit companies and nonprofit organizations. There’s been times where everything felt right and times where everything was a challenge.

Creating great products, providing premier customer service and delivering results all start with one thing: culture.
StartupMyself and a few others recently founded a startup to change the way companies spend money, manage resources and deliver social impact. When a workforce can view their financial footprint, easily remove or repurpose what they no longer need and allocate a portion of the money saved to charity, companies become cost focused communities filled with people who care.

Our products success is still an unknown, but the team culture makes our work feel like a mission. The smart, creative people I’ve partnered with are turing an idea into a working technology. Here’s the 5 culture traits that keep us shipping, measuring, framing and building:

  1. Keeping it flat. This is a startup – no hierarchy, no titles. Startups are a team sport, everyones ideas and contributions matter. You deliver as a team or you don’t deliver. The promotions are won as a group, not as an individual.
  2. Consistent and constant feedback. Openly discussing goals, progress and setbacks are critical, at the individual and group level. This creates and controls a healthy, productive environment.
  3. Small, achievable goals and big, lofty goals. Weekly, monthly and longterm goal setting with the ability to shift when needed is critical. Along with our startup I’m passionate about long distance trail running. Running a 100 mile race requires crossing a dozen aid stations and check-ins before reaching the finish line. Same applies for shipping a new product. Doing regular check-ins while recognizing the small, measurable successes is all part of delivering a viable product.
  4. Working Out LoudWorking out loud. Sharing our work with others has allowed us to grow our network,
    crowdsource ideas and build meaningful relationships. By doing so we’ve connected with entrepreneurial thought leaders at Foundry Group, Techstars and MergeLane. The advice and benefits we’ve received are unquantifiable. I’m encouraged not just when I’m told to “keep going!” but also when someone raises a new problem to solve or presents a different approach for thought.
  5. Celebrating with one another, not over each other. Collectively, as a team we feel the ups and downs, it’s part of the startup journey. When a new plugin, design or release has gone well, we celebrate. If it was easy it’d already be done, it’s important to acknowledge the wins together.

culture of BUSY

culture of BUSYThe culture of busy; endless emails, back-to-back meetings, early starts, long hours and always connected. Brigid Shulte, author of Overwhelmed is on a
mission. She’s getting companies and people to stop using busyness as a benchmark for productivity. Too many time-crunched industries value hours worked, email overloads and number of meetings over productivity. Rewiring a culture requires leaders to lead by example. The good news is leadership is not a rank it’s a decision, we all have a choice to lead.

Dopamine Dump

Write down goals. When goals are visual and achievable we get a dose of dopamine. It’s the visible metrics and milestones that makes work meaningful. When days are filled with hectic “busy-work” vision and purpose are unknown. Define your goals and go after them.


Build a circle of trust, extend it to the outer edges of your tribe, organization or team. Trust builds a sense of pride, confidence and belonging. It allows us to focus on work that matters while eliminating the need or feeling to protect ourselves from unknown risks.

Give time, give energy

A leader sacrifices time and energy, expecting nothing in return. Witnessing small acts of kindness trigger others to do the same and lead with generosity. With generosity comes the ability to identify creative solutions and collaboratively solve complex problems.

Leaders are the ones who give us their time and energy, not money. ~ Simon Sinek

The good news

leadership Leadership is a decision, not a rank. Set achievable goals, build trust and make time for others. The culture of “busy” promotes stress and fear. Push back, follow your vision and help others achieve their goals. It’s up to us to re-engineer and design a culture that works for everyone. A culture that allows us to be creative, innovative and happy.