Company culture is built on actions — not declarations

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Boris is the wise old TNW CEO who writes a weekly column on everything about being a tech entrepreneur – from stress management to awkwardness. You can receive his thoughts directly in your inbox by subscribing to his newsletter!

A few days ago I was doing a carpentry project that involved two planks of wood a little over 10 meters long (impressive, I know).

I had to tie them tightly at one end and then roughly aligned them so that they were parallel to each other. My attitude towards woodworking could be summed up as, “We’ll cross this bridge when we get there.” So, as usual, I didn’t go into too much detail at first.

When I had firmly secured the first 3 meters in place, after a considerable amount of elbow grease, I noticed something. The few millimeters of headroom I noticed at the start were now a few centimeters margin. And of course, further along the planks, those centimeters turned into decimeters.

Still, not much, right? Well unfortunately this carpentry project was literally build a bridge that I should cross soon.

[Read: Why you can’t base business decisions on numbers alone]

I didn’t really want to die prematurely in a freaky bridge accident of my own making, so I had no choice but to give it all up and start all over again. But this time, I would pay close attention to those millimeters that seemed so trivial at first.

Another thing that may seem like a few millimeters at the start of a project to most people – but can end up causing a gap of a mile – is the corporate culture.

Values, manners, and methods are implicit, and when you’re struggling to get your idea off the ground or just trying to survive, there’s not much time for long brainstorming sessions on What it all means.

But even if you never sit down to find your meaning or valuesI’ve learned that all the little things you do at the start will eventually define what you ultimately recognize as your business culture.

It is a mistake to think that you can create a “corporate culture” by setting up a table tennis table in the basement or by forcing everyone to think of you as “one big family”. Corporate culture is much more subtle than that, and it’s created by all the little actions that have happened, rather than sweeping statements.

I stated that I was building a bridge – but the amalgamation of all my actions showed that I was building strange stilts for two planks, deflecting in different directions.

That’s why simple things like how founders treat each other at meetings are the building blocks of corporate culture. Those millimeters of little mistakes you skipped so easily at the start can turn chasms you can never get over if you’re not careful.

But even if you manage to inspire a thriving culture with mutual respect and the ability to grow, are you done? No never. Corporate culture, and the values ​​that flow from it, is a living and breathing thing, and like the tide, it fluctuates with the people who live it.

So make sure that all of your actions contribute to the corporate culture you are striving to build.

Haven’t you had enough of Boris? Check out his ancient stories here and sign up for his newsletter here.

Published March 25, 2021 – 16:08 UTC


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