Heading back to work after the holiday break makes Monday morning even harder. Your unrelenting alarm clock drags you from your sleep. It seems the only thing that could make that dreaded Monday morning wake-up call any worse, besides realizing you only have decaf coffee, is waking up knowing you’re about to start a week-long grind in a workplace you don’t want to be in.
Work defines us as people and has a profound impact on the rest of our lives.
The majority of the adult population spends more than a third of their lives at work. However, as a Deloitte study showed, less than 15 percent of Americans are passionate about their jobs. Work defines us as people and has a profound impact on the rest of our lives. I believe that workplaces should elicit passion.
As the CEO of a food startup, Kuli Kuli, my number one job is to create a workplace that my employees are eager to wake up to. My role as “culture captain” wasn’t always a role that I recognized or valued. But, as Kuli Kuli has grown over the past five years, I’ve begun to realize that I am creating a culture in the way I lead, and that I had better be deliberate in how that culture is created.
If you find yourself dreading Mondays, and the rest of the week, it may be time to find a new workplace. If you’re the one in charge of that workplace, here are some tips on how to change your company culture to inspire and re-energize your employees.
1. Understand How You’re Creating Culture
As a founder and leader, the spotlight is on you, whether you realize it or not. What time you arrive at the office, the way you check your email on vacation, and how you handle stressful situations are all seen by your employees and become part of the company culture.
Ensuring that the team feels excited about the future of the company, satisfied with their own work, and happy with their teammates is key to creating a culture that thrives.
A few years ago, Kuli Kuli had an extremely stressful situation where we were two months late in delivering a product to our largest customer. I fumed constantly for those two months, and asked our Operations team every morning what we could do to speed up the process. Finally a member of our Ops team told me that my stress was making her stressed and that was making it harder for her to handle the situation.
I quickly checked myself and vowed that such a reaction would never happen again. Just a few weeks ago, a different, newer employee remarked that I “never seemed stressed” and that it made her feel like the company was on the right path.
I highly value how my team feels about our company as those feelings create our company culture. Ensuring that the team feels excited about the future of the company, satisfied with their own work and happy with their teammates is key to creating a culture that thrives.
2. Hire and Fire For Culture
No one can hire a perfect team. You never know exactly how someone you hire will fit into your existing team, and it’s important to realize that firing someone for the sake of the culture is sometimes necessary.
I experienced this first-hand with a teammate who was an incredible worker, but had major behavioral issues that made our workplace intolerable for other employees. Though the decision was an extremely hard one, we ultimately decided to let this teammate go. The impact on our culture following the departure was both profoundly positive and immediate.
Following that experience, we put in place two systems to help us make better hires and also better understand the impact that each person is having on the rest of the team. We now ask every prospective hire questions based on our company values. We also do a full 360 review every two quarters and a company SWOT on the quarters in between. We take this feedback extremely seriously and use it to help inform our promotion and, if necessary, firing decisions.
Dramatic measures are sometimes necessary to ensure that you honor your company culture.
3. Be Approachable
As a CEO, this one of the most important qualities to work on. If your team does not feel comfortable enough to come to you with a problem or bottleneck, how are you ever going to know exactly how your team is feeling about their work? By making yourself available and approachable to everyone on your team, you are opening the door for them to be transparent and honest with issues they may have.
By making yourself available and approachable to everyone on your team, you are opening the door for them to be transparent and honest with issues they may have.
For example, we recently had a beloved teammate leave our team. There was a lot of confusion around why he left, to the point where another employee pulled me aside and explained that a few false rumors about the situation had started to circulate.
That one side conversation inspired an hour-long, full-team discussion about why our teammate decided to leave and how we planned to move forward together. This entire situation started as a small point of tension among the team that turned into a fruitful and important discussion, one that would not have been possible if my employees didn’t trust me enough to come to me and explain their confusion in the first place.
4. Keep Your Culture On-Brand
Kuli Kuli is focused on making the world a healthier and more equitable place through our moringa products and supply chain. One small way that we live out this mission in our culture is by providing everyone, even our summer interns, with a free gym membership and encouraging them to use it. We’ve developed regular team running clubs, yoga sessions and weight lifting teams that everyone is welcome to join, regardless of their athletic abilities. We also provide healthy snacks and encourage our team to request any foods that will help them live a healthier lifestyle.
It would be extremely demotivating if we called ourselves a health food company, but didn’t encourage a healthy lifestyle.
It would be extremely demotivating if we called ourselves a health food company, but didn’t encourage a healthy lifestyle. Our employees work for Kuli Kuli not just because of our mission, but because health is a passion for them, and there is nothing more motivating than working for a company that completely supports your passion.
Incorporating your brand into your company culture and vice versa is crucial in creating a thriving company culture as you will engender a team of employees who are excited and passionate about their work.
5. Make it Fun
Team meetings used to be a relatively dull activity where the leaders of each team reported out on key department objectives. Then, about a year ago, we decided to make our team huddle costume themed and hold a costume contest. Everyone enjoyed it so much that now every monthly team huddle at Kuli Kuli is costume themed.
We also started doing a 2pm stretch break where everyone looks incredibly goofy for 10 minutes as we all seek to perform the exercises. While the stretch break doesn’t happen every day, it’s a great way to take a break and goof around with our teammates.
Building a startup with a world-changing mission is serious work. But not every moment needs to be serious. By building in lighthearted cultural traditions you can ensure that work doesn’t feel like a chore.
Deciding the type of company culture and traditions that works best for your team is not as hard as you think. I didn’t start Kuli Kuli with the blueprint of the kind of culture I wanted to manage; most of our culture grew out of my team feeling empowered to express and implement their ideas.
Building a team culture is a learning experience for everyone. The feelings your team has towards your company are going to change daily as problems arise, tensions happen, and fires pop up. As long as everyone is willing and motivated to get out of bed on Monday, you’re headed in the right direction.