6 Tangible Steps I Took to Create a Valuable Culture

by David Leeds on Aug 30, 2016 11:00:00 AM

Transparent organizational cultureBuilding great organizational culture has always been a core focus of mine and has been driven 80% by inspiration and 20% by fear.

First, I've been inspired by the results that great culture delivers. Throughout my career, I've witnessed firsthand teams that had great culture. They worked wonderfully together, they delivered the best financial results, they had the highest customer satisfaction scores, and everyone wanted to work on these teams. I saw very early on that the value of culture could be measured by the passion and commitment of the team and by tangible business metrics.

 

A Long-Lasting Talk

I also recall a talk I attended given by John Morgridge, an early CEO at Cisco, that made me approach culture building with great care and ample fear. John told the audience that, early on at Cisco, they had offered a range of perks. As the company grew, these perks became more and more expensive and ultimately unaffordable. He relayed how brutal it was to have to take something away from his team, and he swore he would not put himself in a position to do that again. I left that talk with a fresh perspective and desire to build a culture with truly sustainable perks that would not have to be taken away as the company grew . . . or even if the company were to stumble.    

When I started Tango Card, I was more excited and nervous than ever about building a great company and a great culture. I was excited that there were software tools and apps that provided some really well-thought-out, sophisticated ways to measure and communicate culture. And you could do this without hiring a huge firm, spending tens of thousands of dollars at a time, and — even then — only getting a good read out once a quarter or once a year. But I was also nervous: in a world with so many tools and with so many ways to communicate, how could I proceed in an effective way?  

So, to get started, we just took a few material steps.

 

01. We set a clear vision, mission, and set of values that drive us

Our vision is to be the number one provider of rewards and incentives for the global enterprise. Our mission is to make these rewards and incentives easy to send and awesome to receive. For us, this is easy to understand, easy to remember, easy to communicate, and easy to measure.

 

02. We implemented TINYpulse at Tango Card

I loved the algorithmic selection of questions, the anonymity, and the ability to provide feedback without risk or fear of retribution. We've used TinyPulse for over two years at Tango Card, and it's a core part of how we measure culture.

For me, the ability to reach out to someone who has provided a comment anonymously has been special. I'd estimate that about 33% of the time I reach out, the other person has been open to a walk or a coffee to talk about their feedback. This has given me even more information to understand a perspective and, potentially, to improve any action I take.  

I've consistently shared TINYpulse, unedited, with the company, and this openness has provided transparency and has contributed to a broader environment of trust in the company.

employee feedback surveys 

03. We've a detailed monthly financial review

In these meetings, we share our key metrics, our P&L, and our cash position. We discuss these openly and address questions. Just as we share our TINYpulse responses openly, this open discussion of financial results has created an environment of transparency and trust and adds a huge element of accountability for all of us.  


04. We use our own product, Rewards Genius

Rewards Genius allow us to recognize and reward colleagues for living our vision, mission, and values. When anyone in the company observes someone else doing something that supports our vision, mission, and/or values, they can send them a reward, which is a digital gift card. This periodic tangible recognition has had great impact across our team.

 

05. We started a speaker series

CHIPS (Chats with Interesting People Series) is an informal talk and happy hour with an interesting leader. Our guest speaker generally talks about their background, what they are doing now, and how this may relate to where we are in our growth, and they sometimes reflect on a few questions I've proposed. Then our team asks questions for about an hour and we head to a local bar for some fun.

We've had CEOs and founders from start-ups and from very large public companies, nonprofit executive directors, and artists. This series has offered our team a chance to learn, reflect, and grow. I love it for all of these reasons and because it's affordable and sustainable, not to mention, unique and hard to replicate.

 

06. We have a monthly customer showcase

In these showcases, our marketing lead does a demo showing how two of our customers work with us. Each demo starts with a background of how we got connected to our customer, and then jumps into the demo itself with many program-specific details.

This spreads knowledge about our sales process, onboarding process, how we engage partners, why we win in the marketplace, any competitive G2. This has been a big positive for efficiently sharing knowledge and building excitement in the company.   

These six tangible steps have helped us build a transparent, customer-focused, increasingly results-oriented organization. Our clarity of vision and mission, enhanced by our CHIPs series and customer showcases, and supported by our financial review and TINYpulse results has helped us build and nurture a strong culture that I believe, to my core, is a creator of value for the company.

 

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This post was written by David Leeds

​D​avid has great experience starting, scaling, and managing large enterprise businesses. He was cofounder and Senior Vice President of Strategy, Sales and Marketing at FiberTower. He has a MBA from Stanford and an undergraduate degree from University of Vermont. He generally leaves his baja hoodie at home.

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