Who is guarding your company’s culture?

Shoe entrepreneur Jason Mayden once said,

“The first product you create is your culture, and the first consumer is your employee base.”

I may have Jason stuck in my head because culture has been on my mind for about two weeks. When I say, “on my mind,” I mean up until 2:30 AM one morning, and up until 5:30 AM on another doing research on company intranets, employee engagement platforms, project management software, and team-collaboration tools for remote teams.

But all this work into the wee hours of the morning could just be because I’ve experienced some pretty toxic company cultures in my career.

It is also probably because I’m getting ready to start restructuring after COVID downtime, and I want to do things right to maximize my remote team.

While doing my research on culture, I started looking at what other people write in their job listings when they are looking for someone to be in charge of culture.

The first thing I searched for was Culture Concierge, then Chief Culture Officer. I finally settled on Culture Coordinator.

An interesting thing happened when I started looking at online ads for Culture Coordinator.

Many of the ads described somebody who would be working on hiring and recruiting.

This puzzled me a bit.

Once we have determined what is a good culture fit or a poor culture fit, I would leave hiring and recruiting to HR.

This Culture Coordinator role that I kept finding online that works a lot of the day on hiring and recruiting wasn’t quite what I had in mind.

I realized that the person I was thinking of was more like a Culture Guardian.

Until I hire a Culture guardian, my organization’s Culture book is my Culture Guardian.

What is a Culture Guardian?

A Culture Guardian is a Gatekeeper, auditor and reminder of

1) The culture we strive to create

2) The environment in which we work best

3) The values we promised to uphold

4) The things we care about and

5) The way we treat each other

This is what is written at the front of my Culture Book.

After I finished defining what the Culture Guardian was guarding, a new issue presented itself.

I was doing a project management course, and the instructor made a statement, and then she repeated it using different words. It was worth repeating, and my ears perked up.

She said Remote teams work differently together than teams that are collocated.

Now, why did that make me pay attention?

Well, that means when you’re building a remote team, you have to work a little harder and be extra diligent about your culture and also about guarding it.

One incorrect assumption is that on a remote team, there is no such thing as culture.

Even a remote team can have a culture if the person in charge of the team is deliberate about creating a company culture.

Because of this project management observation, I now realize how important it is to be deliberate about defining your culture if you’re running a remote team.

You can’t just do nothing, leave your culture to chance, and then find out five years later that your company’s culture is a mess.

Everyone running a remote team should start thinking about culture from day one, just as you would with a brick-and-mortar company.

If you’re running a remote team, I would encourage you to consider jotting down some notes and start thinking about what you want your company’s culture to be.

I don’t recommend staying up until 5:30 in the morning. However, I do recommend planning ahead before your first hire so that you can create a healthy, thriving environment where your team can consistently deliver on your highest priorities.

It is worth doing even if your company’s first Culture Guardian is you.

This article was originally published on September 10th, 2020.

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