I was talking to a buddy of mine the other day who was telling me about his frustration with the startup culture where he works. He was initially attracted to the lead developer role for the work but also for an unspoken challenge – the obviously struggling culture. Among all the folks who have been subjected to a wayward company culture and as a result view it as the ultimate distraction from work, I know there are others who relish the opportunity to perform beyond the aspect of pure work and actually enhance the overall experience (which just so happens to boost performance). These people are as excited about the company’s product as they are passionate about participating in the culture. Although my friend hasn’t managed to infiltrate his enthusiasm for the culture through the entire company, he has raised morale on his own team and likes to point to the fact that there’s been absolutely no turnover within his team since his arrival. Here are some tips for taking initiative in your lackluster startup culture:
Don’t lose hope if you find yourself to be part of a startup culture that leaves much to be desired. An overwhelming majority of people claim that culture played a role in their decision to join their company. If things aren’t what they seemed (or have since changed) it’s still partially your responsibility to shape the direction of the culture. Everyone should take ownership of their culture. Giving up or reacting negatively to others’ efforts to strengthen the culture tells your team that you don’t think they’re worth the effort.
Make a Contribution
If your startup’s mission was partly the reason you decided to join the team in the first place, is it still an active part of your decision making? How often do you think, ‘in the long run, it’s best if I do this because it’s aligned with the values but if I choose to do this another way it would be a conflict of interest’? Know how to best serve your startup by understanding the purpose of the company and how your role adds value to the mission. Acting according to the mission and applying the values to guide your decisions will help to ensure the startup’s goals are met.
Lead by Example
If others see you making a genuine attempt at participating in the culture they will likely want to make their own contribution as well. Everyone knows that a team that can communicate freely and collaborate will accomplish much more than they could individually. The fact is that those who authentically contribute to their culture are more valuable to their company. Effective startup cultures experience lower turnover, offer better customer service, and maximize their problem-solving skills during crises.