Busting the Myth on Company Culture

Great culture and high performance go hand-in-hand. The bottom line is that when you create a great environment for your employees and your value and mission align with your team, they'll love you, stick around, and have the motivation to work harder and smarter.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

There's a myth out there that company culture is a waste of time. That culture means "touchy feely" dimensions of work and, lets face it, if that's what you're focused on, you're probably under-performing. Sound right? Wrong. Even if you think you have a great culture, but your company is not reaching its highest potential, you'll have to think again. Great culture and high performance go hand-in-hand. The bottom line is that when you create a great environment for your employees and your value and mission align with your team, they'll love you, stick around, and have the motivation to work harder and smarter.

A strong company culture is crucial to your company's success, and as a leader, you need to prioritize this core business concept today. If you're skeptical, look to the learnings of Grasshopper co-founder Siamak Taghaddos as an example. As a 21-year- old entrepreneur, he thought that the pinnacle of a successful company was an exponentially growing team where everybody was -- well, simply doing their jobs.

Myth #1: Efficiency Trumps Morale

"At one point we had 65 employees and a huge payroll," Taghaddos says. "It was hurting our ability to grow our business and focus on marketing. We learned it was easy to go from $5 million in revenue to $10 million, but hard to go from $50 million to $100 million," he said in an interview with Entrepreneur.

The problem was that Grasshopper couldn't scale. To grow, they needed a much leaner operation. At this point in the story, you might find yourself asking -- how do companies grow with fewer people?

The answer to that question is culture, happy people, and an amazing work environment. That's why Grasshopper streamlined its hiring practices and prioritized team building around a set of common values.

"We could see who in our team wasn't radically passionate, who wasn't necessarily entrepreneurial," Taghaddos said. "It helped us in doing employee reviews and shaped our hiring."

Myth #2: Culture Is Playful

Note: all play and no work means that nothing gets done. Foosball, ping-pong tables, and hackathon tournaments are awesome for team-building -- but as with all things in life (work included), moderation is key.

I have said it on many occasions, if you create an environment that's fun, playful and easy for employees and it's a detriment to the company's performance, that's actually a bad culture.

"I find our culture palpable and anchored in behaviors. It is well-intentioned vs. manipulative. And it helps us work together." says John Bell, Global Managing Director of Social at Ogilvy. This translates to higher productivity, shared values, rituals and languages across the world. For a company that has offices worldwide it's important to anchor the culture across different faiths and belief systems. In this sense, Ogilvy's culture is not necessarily playful but is established to accomodate this. "When we move across the world to collaborate on projects, we know how to talk and behave with each other. We get down to business faster. We find the fun in the work earlier."

The truth is that a fair number of CEOs are missing the point of culture altogether -- they think that culture is the equivalent of a cushy work environment. They think that leaders have to choose between a culture that performs and a culture where people are happy.

Stop this line of thinking dead in its tracks. Your company can effectively prioritize the best of both worlds. Work hard, play hard. It's the best way to make work and play feel absolutely awesome.

Myth #3: Culture Is Corporate Overhead

Long story short, culture is a direct investment into your company's bottom line. Yes, you will need to invest a little extra money and time into your team, but whether its sprucing up the office, taking a new employee to lunch to let them know they're heard and valued or kicking off an onboarding training program for new hires, it will be worth it. Spend every penny wisely, and your expense will carry your company far.

"It's important for leadership to clearly articulate goals, values, and mission." says
Chris Bailey, "But these elements merely provide direction and structure, the expectations of management." An increasing problem is that management is using culture to create rules and using it as a way to control people. Culture is much more in- depth and and detailed than a rule book. It tends to start off as an idea, but than grows organically as you add more people to the team.

With the right company culture, everybody wins. Your business performs with rockstar momentum, your employees stay happy and engaged, and everyone has a voice -- all components that are crucial to your company's success.

Time to Get Started

Enough talk. Jump in, and bring your culture to life. One area where you can start immediately is to foster an environment of accessibility. Encourage your managers to increase communication among teams. Provide growth plans, and implement a flexible environment. Let your crew work from home from time to time.

Set a great example, and walk the talk. These areas are low hanging fruit where you can start to execute immediately -- to make room for your big game-changing people operations plan.

How important do you consider having a compatible work culture at your office? Comment below and let us know!