Culture Vulture

By Ben Brown,

Four ways to optimise your team environment

Nowadays the word CULTURE is as loose as Gandalf’s baggy wizard frock. Every Tom, Dick and Harry is priding themselves on what a fantastic work culture they have implemented but the one thing that people overlook is that everyone views culture differently.

The parents of the office may feel that incorporating flexible working policy – enabling them to do the school run – is an excellent facet to the work culture. On the other end of the spectrum, you have 20 somethings who may feel that having a free bar serving up Preseco and Peroni in abundance on Friday afternoon, is their idea of a “great” working environment.

My point is all employees measure company culture differently, so how do you cater for all parties?

Always communicate: Communicate your values and culture explicitly and continuously, both internally and externally. Employees must understand your culture, and why it’s important. Reward employees who advance your culture, and be open and honest with those who don’t.

Prioritise: Sure, every leader has the utopian vision of running a company where everyone’s happy, has fun, loves their co-workers, brings their dogs to the office and specialises in marketing, design, engineering and sales. Don’t fall victim to the cult of the ‘rock star’. Give me five people who work together as a team, anyday over one person who’s talented at everything. They’re not, and it’s not worth the trouble.

Good leadership sets a tone: Culture is shaped mostly by how your leaders act, so make sure your leadership team embodies the type of company you want to be. Is a ‘teamwork culture’ the ideal? You’d better make sure your executive team truly works as a team. Is ‘transparency’ most important?

Assign an Ambassador: It sounds simple, but companies need someone who is directly responsible for culture. Of course, that person can’t do it on their own, but deputise someone to focus on culture and to push everyone else in the right direction – whether they’re hiring candidates or managing the engineering team – it sets priorities.

Do these and the simple things well and you will see retention and morale improve during tougher times. That’s what great company culture is really all about.

Q3 – Betting with your skeptics

By Ben Brown,

You may have seen over the last few weeks the events surrounding Elon Musk going after short-sellers of Tesla stock. As a quick 101 of short selling, it is the act of borrowing shares and immediately selling them, then repurchasing them at a lower price and returning the shares; consequently, the seller makes a profit from the difference. Musk loathes short-sellers since they are shareholders betting that Tesla’s share price will drop. Musk has claimed that over the ‘at least a few months he has had extreme torture from short-sellers as they are desperately pushing a narrative that will possibly result in Tesla’s destruction.’ This whole charade has made me reflect on our company.

In the case of Tesla, it has demonstrated the importance of balancing short-term successes with long-term objectives. To counter-act short-seller’s one weapon in a business’s arsenal is to seek strong quarter results, potentially to the detriment of long-term growth.

You may assume that I don’t like the practice of short-selling since it can skew the direction of the board; however, organisations should embrace the skepticism that comes with short-selling.

To be more sustainable business leaders need to have the capacity to bring both their employees and shareholders on the journey of where the business is travelling. To be transparent and realistic about all the challenges you think may occur along the way, and why you can overcome them.

All proper planning involves incorporates evaluating your weaknesses and external threats, and the best leaders should have people around them that are willing to share their thoughts whether that be positive or negative, to avoid any instances of groupthink occurring. Groupthink is where a group wants to avoid having conflict, thus, always reaching consensus due to individuals feeling reluctant about sharing their own beliefs or opinions. Researchers point to groupthink as being a systemic cause of the 2008 U.S banking crises, as many financial institutions created a culture where discussing market failure was taboo.

Since we aren’t a floated company we are not held to account by shareholders. Instead, our accountability must derive from within, our employees. We’ve been conscious of creating a culture where our decisions must be questioned, where our employees shouldn’t self-censor or conform.

As we continue to expand our business, I want to embrace any skepticism to our plans to make sure we are ready to counter-attack any challenges that may rear its head.