In less than a year, 15Five has rapidly scaled the company up from about 70 employees to over 200. It’s not entirely uncommon for many company cultures to suffer during a surge of high growth—fortunately for our company, the opposite is true.
Our company culture is now stronger than ever and was recently recognized and ranked #3 on Glassdoor’s Best Workplaces list. We even received our highest scores to date from our most recent quarterly engagement survey.
So, how did we do it?
In Episode 12 of the Best-Self Management Podcast, our Chief Culture Officer, Shane Metcalf and I talk about the ways in which we’ve successfully scaled our company culture while undergoing hyper-growth, and how your company can do the same. Fundamentally, if you want to scale your culture, leaders—you need to find mastery in the art of listening.
In this episode, we also discuss:
• How to know if your company has a strong and supportive culture, and creating feedback loops
• What the Best-Self Kickoff is and how you can use it to set expectations and set your employees up for success
• Ways to maintain a cohesive leadership team as the fortunes of business ebbs and flows
• Universal principles that any company can implement to create a thriving culture
The following is a transcribed portion of the Best-Self Management Podcast Episode 12, “The Formula for Scaling an Award-Winning Culture”:
David: So, I’ve had this theory for years; when we were 10 or 15 people we would go out and advise companies and give talks on culture. We hadn’t scaled the company to hundreds of people at that point, but what intuitively made sense to me, and seemed to resonate with a lot of people, is that you have to create an incredibly strong center of gravity.
If you’re going to grow and double your headcount, you’re bringing in a lot of new energy and a lot of new people, so you have to have that core that people can gravitate to. I think that is fundamentally why we’ve been able to scale because we’ve built an incredibly strong center of gravity.
Shane: I hear some of our people come in and it’s a lot of, ‘oh, I have to relearn how to work. I have to decondition myself from a lot of the prior experiences I’ve had in the professional world where there wasn’t psychological safety or radical authenticity.’ Then It’s awesome when I see those people reach that three-month or six-month mark and say, ‘this is actually real. I can actually learn to trust this and work in a different way.’
David: it’s really fun to see those people come to that realization and reflect on their gratitude for the organization and who it has allowed them to become, or reading the Glassdoor reviews consistently about the incredible experiences they’ve had just from coming here into this type of environment.
Shane: I will say, it does take ongoing attention. It’s not like we don’t have breakdowns, or have people that have conflicts or don’t perform. Our approach is to address those things immediately as they’re happening, as close to real-time as possible. And to do that you need feedback loops.
Create a company culture where you’re asking people on a regular basis, ‘what’s going on?” and listening and training your managers to do that as well. That is when you’re going to be able to get more information. The screwed up thing about hierarchy is that it creates this condition where information doesn’t flow up.
That’s one of the greatest consequences of a culture of fear with a command-and-control approach to business because you create a downward pressure for truth. If I have somebody above me, I will never be telling the layer of hierarchy above me what’s really happening in a fear-based model.
The people at the top who are making the strategic decisions about the direction and velocity of the company are disconnected from the truth of what’s actually happening. So, the number one thing everyone out there needs to be doing.
If you’re listening, what you need to do is figure out how to create high levels of trust and vulnerability so that truth can flow through the entire organization more easily. Because truth-telling is what is going to set your organization free.
David: Let’s talk about all those things: psychological safety, truth-telling, and vulnerability. Each of these things are attributes of the company culture we’ve created and the culture we advocate for if you want to build a world-class workplace.
So, there were a number of things we had in place already that maybe worked when we had 40, 50, or even 70 people going into the year, but we’ve scaled to 190 going on 210. What are the specific things we did this year to ensure we were going to scale successfully?
Shane: To start with one of our values, and it’s not one of our core values but it’s an operating principle which is that we want people to be and become their best selves. If we’re going to boil our entire philosophy and purpose for existing, it’s that we exist to create world-class workplaces by helping people be and become their best selves. That’s it. Game over. If you do that and find practices that help you accomplish that, you are going to win.
Now, for 15Five, I want people to come into this organization, show that we authentically care about them as human beings, that we see them for the dynamic and complex person they are—not just a product manager or engineer— and we do that through putting attention on them and creating opportunities for them to learn about their own strengths. Through these exercises in getting to know themselves, they learn what their true potential is, and ultimately what they really want…
Organizations are in a constant flow of change, and if you ignore the valuable feedback given to you by your employees your business can become dangerously at risk of crumbling. Remaining still in business is not an option, so in order to scale your solutions, a company must listen, engage, and act in a timely manner.
How can you uncover the true values and purpose of your organization so that you could scale up while maintaining company culture? Share in the comments!
David Hassell is a business columnist, speaker, and serial entrepreneur who believes that when leaders institute cultural practices that support each person in being and becoming their best self, high performance and uncommon loyalty naturally result. As co-founder and CEO of 15Five, David created the science-inspired Best-Self Management methodology that helps leaders and managers address the hidden factors that stimulate sustainable growth and development – things like intrinsic motivation, growth mindset, strengths, and psychological safety in the workplace. David has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Inc., Entrepreneur, Fast Company, and Wired. Follow him on Twitter @dhassell.
Shane Metcalf is a keynote speaker on building a world class workplace and one of the world’s leading pioneers in the space of cultural engineering and positive psychology. His insights have been featured in Inc, Fast Company, Washington Post, and Tech Crunch. As the Co-founder of 15Five, Shane and his team support HR Executives with data-driven continuous performance management. 15Five has won numerous awards for their company culture, including the prestigious Inc Best Workplaces award, and is ranked #3 in the U.S. on GlassDoor. Follow Shane on Twitter and LinkedIN, and listen to him co-host the Best-Self Management Podcast. Follow Shane on Twitter and LinkedIn.