To start this series, I kept it simple: talk to people who have demonstrated outstanding qualities of leadership when it comes to company culture.
My first guest, Randy Stocklin of One Click Ventures, easily ticks all boxes on the leadership qualities list.
Randy Stocklin co-founded One Click with his wife Angie in 2005. They’ve been featured on The Today Show, The Wall Street Journal, and last year won a spot on Inc. Magazine’s 50 Best Places to Work in America.
I connected with Randy via webcam to talk about different types of leadership skills, like instilling culture in the onboarding process, how to successfully hire on a time crunch, and learning advice for entrepreneurs.
You can watch the full video embedded interview, and I rounded up Randy's thoughts in the post below.
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The best tactic for instilling culture in new employees
I don’t know if there’s any one tactic. It’s a series of things that we do and starts with the hiring process.
We work really hard during the hiring process to set appropriate expectations with all of our candidates around our values.
This means asking very specific and thoughtful questions around our values to make sure there’s good alignment.
We also talk a lot about our mission. We go over different parts of our mission, our team member experience, and customer experience.
We also make sure we hire folks who are passionate about giving back to the community as we are.
These are things that we absolutely drill into during the hiring process to make sure there’s alignment and set expectations as to what folks can expect when they join the team as far as our performance standards.
We set a really high bar for performance and don't want folks to be caught off guard by that when they show up on Day One.
Invest in frequent check-ins with new hires
When folks are hired, we have a very scripted first week for them.
On their first day we have balloons waiting for them at their desk with a Welcome Kit – a basket from the team that gets them some connected to our brands. From there, it’s a very scripted process.
Even 6 weeks in, we have meetings scheduled with each of the department leaders to go over what each of the different departments do at One-Click.
This ensures people understand the business holistically.
I personally have a touch point at the end of everyone’s first week. Angie, our COO and co-founder, and I then take them out to lunch around 30 to 45 day mark.
Then I have another 90 day touch point to check in on a new hire's first 90 days at One Click, how that’s been for them and any surprises.
Each of these touch points is an opportunity to find out what I can help with personally, to reinforce our core values, and make sure they know that I’m there as a support resource if I can be helpful in any way.
Checking in with new hires isn't a one-way conversation
I have a 90 minute onboarding presentation I walk everyone through, but that presentation is very conversational.
There are certainly some talking points that I want to hit during that presentation, but I’m consistently stopping throughout, asking questions.
I want to make sure that people understand upfront that they can interrupt me at any point time and ask questions and challenge me on things.
I think that’s a really important part of the onboarding process.
Protecting your culture at all costs
I’m a huge proponent that culture will happen naturally on its own, and oftentimes that can actually lead to a bad outcome.
For this reason we’ve tried to be very intentional about the type of culture and the environment that we want to create from day one.
From that aspect I think it’s very much about protecting the culture.
As founders, Angie and I have tried to established a foundation for our culture with our missions and our values.
But from there it’s about every single person on our team taking ownership of the culture and protecting it at all costs. I’ve mentioned this a number of times internally and to external folks as well.
It's easier and better when everyone takes responsibility
Culture is a huge responsibility and I share that during the hiring process with folks. I share during the onboarding process that ownership of our culture is a responsibility of every person on the team.
It’s not my sole responsibility, it’s not Angie’s sole responsibility. It’s every single person on the team has ownership of our culture.
Pay attention when trying to hire quickly
The biggest mistakes we’ve made in hiring have often been when we’ve tried to accelerate the timeline for a particular position.
So I am very mindful about that today. I understand that we are a growing company and that means we have certain demands and things we have to accomplish with hiring.
But I am more mindful than ever of short-circuiting that process because often times it can lead to a bad outcome.
If you have established values, make sure that you stick to those values in the hiring process. Use those as your primary filtering mechanism. That's worked very well for us.
If you have very specific questions that are tied to your values and your mission, you can still be successful in a condensed hiring timeline, even for specialized roles.
But you cannot get away from value alignment and mission alignment. Those things are too important to sacrifice.
We always to start with attitude over experiences and skills. With some roles there’s no way around it - you will need very specialized skill sets or a certain experience level. I totally understand that but even in those situations we still look for people that have an amazing attitude. That’s so important.
How to speed up hiring without sacrificing culture
Regardless of the timeline or the role, we have specific questions that we ask every candidate around our values and missions.
And if we need to move faster for some reason, we may involve fewer people in the hiring process and maybe we even eliminate a step.
We just make sure that those core questions are always asked and those are the things we just will not remove from the hiring process regardless of the timeline or the role.
Advice for entrepeneurs on networking
One of the most valuable things for me is just getting out into the business community and meeting with people.
I break this into 3 different buckets: 1) mentors, 2) peers, and then 3) I try to give back as much as I can to people looking for mentors that may be in a different stage in their company lifecycle at One Click.
I find spots where I feel like I can plug in and help in some capacity and I find that keeps me really sharp.
We are running a retail business at One Click, and while most of Indianapolis is running a B2B SaaS company with a completely different business model, a lot of the same principles apply around scaling and leadership.
So there are some really good notes that you can share. This is super valuable not only in learning about leadership and growing a company, but also in terms of hiring.
The better connected you are, the more access you going to have to different people, and we've had a ton of success at One Click by hiring from our network.
The best thing you can do to improve culture before leaving the office today
I don’t believe there’s an overnight solution to moving to an exceptional level in terms of culture, regardless of the state your culture is in today.
I will say from my perspective, it is a lot of small things to add up to an amazing culture.
It’s setting up the appropriate foundation and making sure that foundation strong with your values, your mission, your vision.
Then it’s hiring the right people that fit those values and are passionate about the mission that you have.
From there, it’s the onboarding. It’s making sure that people understand all of those different pieces of the culture and how they fit together, that they understand the entire business and how it works.
There are some more tactical things. For example, for employee recognition we have 3 different awards that we hand out on monthly basis at our all-hands meeting.
We have a meeting cadence that every single leader across the organization follows in some form with weekly and bi-weekly 1-on-1s. We also have a cadence around team huddles so it’s a lot of small things that really add up to this much bigger picture.
I can talk all day about what those small things are I could probably spend an hour on each of them but there is no silver bullet with culture. It really is about building a strong foundation and continue to reinforce those things day after day and being very consistent in terms of how you operate as a team.
Have a question for our experts? Do you know a Leadership Warrior we should talk to?
Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll try to get your question on the show. If you know an expert we should talk to, I'd love to know.
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