When businesses first start out, great culture is understood to be organic and “top-down.” The founders are present, there aren’t many employees, rapport is easy and communication is simple and frequent.
One of the most common requests I’ve been getting lately, is to consult with young, fast-growing companies around how to scale their culture as their business rapidly expands. Here is their primary mistake and how to scale culture right.
The Primary Mistake of Scaling Culture That I See?
In an attempt to gain control of their growing employee numbers, the temptation as a business grows, is to institute more and more rules.
In doing so, previously creative and flexible cultures can get so mired in bureaucracy that they become stifled and begin to slow down…. barely showing resemblance to their previously agile, creative past – a past that has led to its growth thus far.
You shouldn’t have to fight your employees for good culture, it should integrate seamlessly into what’s worked to get you where you are.
The Secret to Scaling Culture?
The secret is this: Form guiding principles for the everyday expectations….. and keep the “hard and fast rules” for things that can hurt the company economically (ex: HR rules around ADA laws, discrimination, sexual harassment, etc.).
Let me give you an example of what I mean by “guiding principles.”
Netflix has a policy that states, “Act in Netflix’s best interest.” It’s a brilliant guiding principle. Rather than have a litany of rules around social media, personal behavior, media statements, etc…this one statement keeps individuals on point in a way that provides context for their work, without feeling stifled and overly controlled.
If you hire the right people, they tend to want to do what is in the best interest of your company, and I’ve found this is accomplished best with a bit of guidance rather than an iron fist.
No one wants to feel micromanaged, and high performers want to do well – it’s in their disposition. If you want to get a quick gauge of whether a culture is functioning well or not as it scales, look at the policies and ask yourself “Does the Company Trust it’s Employees?”
A quick challenge for you today would be to take a quick moment and review your company’s policies – what do they say about your culture? And if you need help, fill out a contact form and I’m always happy to provide a bit of guidance.