Down with Good Intentions! — there’s a reason that one of Jeff Bezos’ mantras is that good intentions don’t matter and I love it because how you fix problems is a great marker for culture. Almost everyone is already trying their best, trying hard and doing everything they can to meet their goals, so when you need changes you need better mechanisms, not better intentions. The process of creating better mechanisms starts with Honesty. We use honesty as a tool to discuss and sync. We also hold quarterly meetings where we openly address all types of things (positive and negative) and receive “radical” feedback. This brings trust and openness to relationships, and enables autonomy which leads to great creative output.
I had the pleasure to interview Wences García, the CEO and Founder of MarketGoo, an SEO web app for Small Businesses.
Thank you so much for joining us! Managing millennials can often be a polarizing topic. Can you elaborate on your advice for managing the “millennial mindset?”
It would be unfair to say we label people under an specific tag like “millennial”. We do not act differently based on demographics or style so I think a team member could be a millennial or not, but we are always make sure we have a Culture fit with them. Good general advice regarding this topic is that you need to disregard biases towards team members that come from a certain age group, and categorically defining them as lazy, entitled and whatever other characterizations we often hear is a huge mistake.
Managing ‘millennials’ is at its core, no different than managing anyone else (which is why we dislike the label): you have to understand what motivates them, and this goes back to making sure all your hires, regardless of demographic, are Culture Fits for your company. Our culture makes sure that everyone’s mindset is aligned, they’re looking forward to work every day and giving their all.
What are the 3 most important values that your company’s culture is based on?
Trust: transparency and honesty bring trust.
Wealth of Wisdom: we are ambitious and chase great results, but we believe in ‘wisdom growth’ first.
Living the Dream: the company as a vehicle to enrich our lives, to create freedom, caring and happiness.
What are your “5 Ways to Improve Your Company’s Culture” and why.
1. Someone needs to take ownership of Culture > our Company’s Culture certainly was germinated by the founders, but as we evolve, team collaboration is key. The CEO needs to be on top of Culture from the beginning that’s why I also self-style as Head of Culture — I see it linked to our Business Objectives and Values. However like I mentioned, team collaboration is key and we have designated two members that help me as the CEO to organise Culture related activities, and I like to include the entire company in an ongoing conversation regarding our Culture.
2. Culture is Deliberate, but Don’t Force it — just Cultivate > Acknowledgment, Clear Values & Aligned Expectations are pillars for a good culture, but when you act in function of what you think your culture should be, is when you find yourself forcing pointless meetings and team-building, throwing out random perks and just generally neither staying true to your Values nor improving the happiness levels of your employees. We’ve designed 5 company phases based on our financial situation. Not only do we adapt our compensation and perks to the phases, but also profit sharing and different types of ‘personal impact’ activities. Being transparent with finances and this allows us to align the team on our investments and strategies.
3. Say Yes to Open Book Management and No to Buzzwords > Open book management encourages everyone to care and be engaged in their work. This is because it changes the mindset of the entire team with radical transparency. Everyone can see how their specific actions affect the company’s financial and overall performance, and trust gives them the motivation, space and autonomy to get creative and become problem solvers. Just throwing around words like team-building, work ‘families’, agile, remote-friendly, total transparency grates your employees nerves. SHOW your Culture with your mechanisms and procedures. The way we show transparency for instance is by sharing the company’s finances, strategy, roadblocks etc.. I, as the CEO, write a monthly memo detailing the financial situation, my personal feelings on what’s been going on and I provide further explanation about how we’re evolving. That allows all our team to get a sense on our performance and feel the transparency, and in turn they never stop thinking about how they can improve the business — a business which they share in.
4. Work-Life Balance can’t be a facade > everything from no communication during off-hours, to disregarding how many hours you work but rather focusing on projects and deliverables makes for happier employees. If someone isn’t making deadlines, they’re either not managing their time well, or they need more support. Both of these situations require support from the entire team. One way we promote this is with Bi-annual retreats. Being a remote-first company, we need to sync and relax with our peers. We hold a full week retreat every 2 quarters. We have some retrospective sessions, strategy and Culture alignment. The retreat is an all-inclusive trip to spend time with colleagues and recharge energy. The thrill is that most of our team are foodies!
5. Down with Good Intentions! — there’s a reason that one of Jeff Bezos’ mantras is that good intentions don’t matter and I love it because how you fix problems is a great marker for culture. Almost everyone is already trying their best, trying hard and doing everything they can to meet their goals, so when you need changes you need better mechanisms, not better intentions. The process of creating better mechanisms starts with Honesty. We use honesty as a tool to discuss and sync. We also hold quarterly meetings where we openly address all types of things (positive and negative) and receive “radical” feedback. This brings trust and openness to relationships, and enables autonomy which leads to great creative output.
Strong company culture is something that everyone likes to think they have but very few have it. Why do so many organizations struggle with creating strong, healthy work environments?
It’s easier when the Culture is rooted within the birth of a project and when it has a consistent push from the Founders. Usually company culture competes with the instinct to hustle and achieve unrestrained growth. Additionally, many companies put the cart before the horse by making a hire and afterwards attempting to adapt them to the company culture. This is why I always stress that a Culture Fit is an assessment as important as any other when you’re considering extending an offer to a candidate — we look for candidates that come from ‘lookalike’ cultures that are compatible with ours and then we go ahead and validate their skills. This makes it much easier to avoid ‘culture friction’.
What is one mistake you see a young start-up founders make in their culture or leadership practices?
The temptation to think that perks and ping-pong tables create Culture and not working on formulating the mission and the values of the company. Another mistake is that they don’t listen to their team members. If the founders think their vision and mechanisms are set in stone and refuse to listen to other voices on their team, they miss out on many opportunities for improvement and growth.
To add to the previous question, young CEOs often have a lot of pressure to perform and often wear many hats. What’s a simple time efficient strategy they can start doing today to improve their company’s culture?
Choose a fancy restaurant (one you don’t usually go to), pick one team member, clear your agenda and have lunch. Then ask open questions and encourage honest feedback. Show your interest and dedication. They say it’s lonely at the top, and it is — which is why young CEOs should avoid the trap of being an ‘island’ — this isolates them, makes them lose focus, and makes them less agile and effective.
Success leaves clues. What has been your biggest influence in your leadership strategy and company culture? Please feel free to share a person, book, another company, etc.
The book “Maverick: The Success Story behind the World’s Most Unusual Workplace” really exerted a lot of influence on me. They demonstrate that you can build a company culture in almost any environment. It’s set in Brazil, in the ’80s, with no internet and in a manufacturing corporation. These ingredients don’t look like the right recipe and context to create a impactful Culture, but they did it!
Originally published at medium.com