How do you create a strong, positive culture within a team/organization? I considered this problem several times throughout my career. In fact, I think about it all the time.
At some point in my life, my habitual focus on self-improvement gained a whole new dimension as I realized that I could achieve something really amazing only with the synergistic cooperation of others.
I mostly owe this framework of thinking to Stephen Covey: his seminal book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, played a major role in my quest for personal growth.
As developers, we are used to consider software development in pure technical terms: we focus on various technologies, we master the tools and we improve the processes.
While all these elements are very important, there is one fundamental omission; we often forget about the people we work with.
No, I’m not referring to the resources we allocate in a project plan; I’m rather thinking about individuals like you and me, with their cultural differences, their talents and the ideas that they bring, the ones with their struggle to keep up with endlessly evolving technologies, but also with their pride for a job well done.
I recently had a conversation with a developer who told me that people have to earn his respect and trust. He was pretty surprised to hear that I assume people are totally trustworthy unless proven differently over time.
I can understand his point of view. It is the result of a self-preserving mechanism that is unfortunately very common in too many corporate environments; in fact I, for one, have been poisoned by years of the worst corporate (anti) cultures, witnessing people fighting against each other on a daily basis; it’s within enterprises after all that I learned terms such as deception, hidden agenda, blame game, scapegoat, etc.
It does not have to be like that, however.
It takes incredible courage, passion, openness, integrity, determination, respect. These are the same core values that Covey taught me, values I firmly believe in.
Incidentally, I can also argue that these are the same values at the core of all agile methodologies, with their emphasis on individuals and interactions.
As a team leader, over the years I tried several times to become a catalyst of change by helping others to give their best and genuinely succeed in their careers.
I’ve been told more than once that my culture of openness is risky, that it will bite me back hard some day; I’ll keep taking my chances despite the cynical remarks and the unavoidable failures, thank you.
Today, I’m happy to observe that the InnerWorkings’ ecosystem shows more than a few traces of this culture almost everywhere; our thriving daily standup-meetings, internal forums, pair programming efforts, weekly muffin mornings, etc. are a testament of a social culture that is expanding well beyond my wildest dreams.
So, how do you create culture? I’m afraid I don’t have the complete recipe. In fact, I can’t even take full credit for what’s happening in my organization.
But I have one certainty: you too have the power to make a fundamental difference in your organization, your career, your life.
All it takes is courage.