Company culture is something that is very close to me. I refer to myself as an HR-driven CEO, and I mean it. If someone at VaynerMedia is unhappy, it is entirely my fault. Period. Because of that, I spend a good amount of time making sure my ideas on company culture are loud and clear. Not all companies have great culture, and it can be difficult to change when it’s been one way for so long. But it is possible to improve and shift until those changes are permanent.
First step: something tactical, something you can execute on right away. I don’t care where you work, you probably have had a meeting that you found to be totally useless, right? This piece of advice is practical as hell, and it’s this: Cut all meetings in half. Seriously. Meetings can be some of the least productive places in an office, and when people feel like their time is being wasted, they get upset, and feel undervalued. Cut meetings in half. I promise everything will still get done, you’ll just eliminate the banter and tangents that usually happen.
The second step I would advise you to take: Hang around. Yes, seriously. Find ways to shift your busy schedule so you can be in the office more. Spend as much time with your employees as you can, and not just leadership. Everyone. Let them learn by being around you. Emulate the culture you wish to have and let people soak it in. Learning by osmosis can be tremendously successful in this regard.
When you’re doing that, there is one thing you need to do that might not be the first thing on your mind, and that is to listen. The best way to get things done is to be a great listener. No one ever talked their way through a problem. And this is step three. Straight up. Not only do you need to be a great listener, but you need promote that standard within the company. Hire for this skill and you will not be sorry, especially when looking for project managers. Someone who can listen without interrupting and asks a lot of questions is a good listener.
And what about hiring? That absolutely plays into company culture, of course. Let those doing the hiring learn by osmosis, like I talked about above. If you’re someone who has a hard time choosing between candidates, my answer is this: Hire like you mean it. Don’t hesitate with decisions; just make a damn call. At some point, you have to just do it. And if you're going "No Gary, seriously they're both great" ... maybe you need to hire both of them. Figure it out.
Now, you’re probably wondering what the last piece of advice is going to be, right? What is the ending thought I am going to leave you all with? Well, you might be saying right about now “Gary, this is all great, but what if my company culture is just seriously messed up?” I hear that. I get it. Sometimes things are just so bad you aren’t sure how they got there. And to that, here is my final, last ditch effort piece of advice: Nix the leadership. Everything stems from the top. They are the ones who set the tone in meetings. They also control the overall sentiment individual teams have, since employees look to leadership as a guide. If the system is broken, fix it by refreshing your team.
And that’s it. That is what you do.
Cut meetings in half.
Hire like you mean it.
Now I want to see you execute on these steps. If you need to change company culture, take action. Now. Nothing will happen till you actually make the moves. It’s all about execution. You could read ten more articles like this, but who cares. In the end, you have to go for it. Who knows; your company future could be in the balance here. Culture should be your priority, and that starts now.
Originally published Jan 16, 2015 8:30:00 AM, updated July 28 2017