A sting of guilt jolts you awake while you’d been on the cusp of sleep. You just remembered that you’d forgotten to wish your coworker a happy birthday. You’d even seen that person several times throughout the day but couldn’t pull yourself from “go-mode” long enough to remember. Sound familiar?
It’s the little things, like a friendly birthday wish, that strengthen our relationships and give us deeper meaning and satisfaction in our daily work lives. As Red Caffeine’s Coordinator of Culture, I am the keeper of the little things.
IT’S A MOVING TARGET
Don’t get me wrong, my job includes much more than sending out birthday reminders and lighting candles on the cake. My responsibilities also require I be inquisitive, take excessive notes, and adapt to the ever-changing needs of our team, all while keeping our mission, vision, and values at the center of everything I do. Truly, one single person cannot be the sole owner of culture … nor should they!
This is why my title is not “Creator of Culture,” nor “Manager of Culture.” I am a “Coordinator,” and I do my best to inspire my team to love and live our culture.
IT’S A DELICATE BALANCE
How culture manifests day-to-day is always different. It could be as simple as following up on a coworker’s recent move and as complex as developing a formal employee recognition program. It’s a delicate balance; being intentional about culture without force-feeding it as the organization grows. Achieving that balance is where my own RC story came to be.
IT’S NOT WHAT I SIGNED UP FOR
I first came to RC in May 2016 to work part-time as Kathy’s Executive Assistant. This was a new position to RC that really only required 20-25 hours per week. I was looking for supplemental work while in the process of building my life-coaching practice, and I thought I could learn a few marketing tips and tricks while helping Kathy get organized. It seemed to be a win-win.
As the weeks pushed forward, I couldn’t help but feel myself get attached to this highly creative and collaborative group of people. Every single person was passionate and knowledgeable about their craft. I observed as energy surged throughout the room with the conception of a new idea.
I was fascinated by their ability to quickly flip from heatedly debating a strategic initiative one moment to laughing over a cheersed-beer the next. This place I had found myself in was exciting and different, with such distinct personalities thriving within the same team.
My focus began to shift. Instead of working on my own business, I began examining how I could utilize my unique experience set to make long-term impact for RC. In July, I drafted my new job description and pitched it to Kathy on a train to Chicago for an event. By September, I was our new Coordinator of Culture.
IT’S THE FUNNEL FOR LOST THOUGHTS
The first few months were turbulent. We all had to figure out, “What did it really mean to have a Coordinator of Culture on staff?” To start, there was finally a funnel to pour everyone’s ideas about fun outings, celebratory traditions, philanthropic efforts, employee recognition, and the general manifestation of our values as behaviors.
So I became the funnel, collecting and organizing all of the previously lost thoughts. I sat down, one-on-one, with every staff member to learn what they loved about RC and what they thought we could improve upon. We asked the staff to, anonymously, describe what they believed each of our core values meant and how well they believed we were living it. These conversations helped us define behaviors behind our core values so we could start acknowledging team members for embodying them.
IT’S A DANCE
As we began creating structure around the cool things the team had already been doing and slowly introducing new ideas for improvement, there was a natural resistance. Each change became a dance and I was the choreographer. With each gentle push in a direction, I’d assess the response and redirect again. We were simultaneously celebrating who we are and what we can do now while seeking opportunities for how we can be or do better.
IT’S A BOATLOAD OF MINI-GOALS
Seemingly small tweaks, like building in quarterly reporting on strategic initiatives versus yearly, created urgency and accountability in achieving the mini-goals that were important to each team member. Mapping out our Culture Club agendas for an entire quarter prompted us to figure out what kinds of conversations we want to have as a company.
A weekly newsletter now keeps everyone updated on exciting client highlights, new learning opportunities and departmental activities that the rest of the team might not have known about. Our values had always been important, but we began living them with intention. And that intention has made all the difference.
IT ADDS UP TO MAKE BIG IMPACT
As with all relationships, the little things repeated over time add up to make lasting impact. Where do the little things fall on your priority list? Maybe it’s time to consider bumping them up the list.