Finding Your Company’s Soul
“Every company has a soul. Every company has a distinct set of values that colors its priorities and behaviors. Companies believe in different things to different degrees, including innovation, value, quality, freedom, choice, price, and so on. This unique mix is visible in a company’s products.”
Ken Segall, Insanely Simple
Have you ever been told that ‘you’ve got a lot of soul’, or ‘you’re an old soul’? People cannot see or touch your soul (or even define it), but they get a sense of your essence when they interact with you.
Just like with human interactions, your company’s soul is expressed through a feeling that stays with customers after engaging with your product, service, or team. Maybe you have never heard anyone explicitly say that your company has a lot of soul, but that is the level of impact you should seek for your customers.
Do you know how other people feel about the soul of your company?
The heart matters
At the heart of every company is a mission, a purpose that drives the product or service offered. But the purpose is inert without people who believe in it. Those people contribute their creativity, skills and experience to fulfill this higher organizational purpose.
The soul of 15Five began with a deep desire to help people to communicate fluidly and accomplish great things together. We believe in a different possibility for business by providing a whole new experience of communication across teams, and between employees and leadership. We believe that when managers have visibility into what their employees are doing, how they feel, and where they are challenged, they can offer support and realign employees with company goals.
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When you meet one of our employees, you can see that they believe in our cause, and love what they do — the way customer success guides people to getting the most out of the app or in the new features that respond to customers’ needs. That good feeling you get of being valued by service or delighted by the product, that’s our soul.
The circle of trust
Your company is also an expression of your core values — the cultural cornerstones that determine everything from where you work to how you determine pricing. We have clearly defined values that are freely embraced by every team member and color our every decision. For example, one core value is to grant trust and be transparent.
Every human lives somewhere on a continuum of how trusting they are. Some are inherently distrustful, thinking “I will get screwed at every turn and have to be eternally cautious and careful. I will only open up when someone earns my trust”. That attitude manifests in business practices and procedures that rob employees of their dignity. It only breeds contempt and creates a constricting environment and culture.
Others are so trustful that they think everyone is good. Some people may take advantage of your granting of trust. If you approach leadership this way then make sure to screen very well in the hiring process of new talent.
Because who you need is someone who can work autonomously; someone who is highly competent but whose ego won’t get in the way when something is awry or outside of their zone of genius. You need someone who will bring their very best in the highest service of the company mission. When you find these people and grant them unconditional trust, they live into it and rarely will you be disappointed or taken advantage of.
I believe that trust is to be granted and does not have to be earned. With every decision made or process created, I am making a non-verbal announcement that I trust my employees. Employees consistently react with loyalty and a desire not to let others down. People feel respected as peers, as opposed to somebody who needs to be watched.
People think that we are either living to eat or eating to live. Your soul is like your body, it needs to be fed. The soul is only fed by the feeling of satisfaction that comes from both professional and personal accomplishment. I believe that everyone should live a great life while doing great work, instead of just working so that they can enjoy their free time on the side.
In a high performing culture and high trust environment, people can be given the freedom to take care of their personal desires while taking care of their work lives. They don’t have to choose one over the other, but can be trusted to balance personal and professional priorities.
Not only can employees work towards their own personal goals along with professional ones, but the synergy of success in both realms feeds into each other. Management’s role is to support employees to live a great life and facilitate ever more productive top performers.
The expression of the soul
Trust does not just allow people the freedom to do their best work, to be creative and innovative. It exists between the customer and the company in the level of service, dependability and reliability the customer receives. It even comes through in the product itself.
Customers may not be able to see it, taste it, or put words to it, but on some level we know that a company that delights us is led by people who have created an environment of trust in which employees can do their best work.
We intend for our mission to be felt when customers use our product. Software can be boring, convoluted and not human. We aspire toward a design aesthetic that is beautiful and fluid. We want 15Five to be a natural extension of the human being, as enjoyable and seamless as speaking with someone who matters to you.
We build employee feedback software for human beings, not ‘users’. And the most powerful part of the app is the information, feelings, and ideas that our customers share with the leaders at their organizations. People can then be supported in accomplishing what’s most important to them and to the company, so that their customers will say “wow, this company’s got soul”.
Tell us about your company’s soul in the comments below. How does it come across in your product or the actions of your team?