JUNE 7, 2018 - BY NICOLE MICHAELIS

4 signs that you have a growth culture

Going beyond performance to create a culture where everyone contributes to growth.
How can you build a culture that supports your OKRs and ambitions for growth?
If you're running a fast-growing company, you've probably already hired a VP of Growth. To hit your ambitious goals, you've probably also optimized nearly every process in the company: from marketing and sales, to devops, engineering and product development.

But what about your company culture?

If you're like most others, you've either outsourced culture to your office manager or people operations, or kept it on your list of things to do. Optimizing culture is tricky and not as straightforward as many of the other processes of your company.

How can you build a culture that supports your OKRs and ambitions for growth?
Culture in the age of competition
Let's quickly remind ourselves what a culture is: "A culture is simply the collection of beliefs on which people build their behavior." A company culture hence is the set of beliefs that are shared and enforced by leaders and employees when carrying out day-to-day activities at work. In financial terms, the belief that makes most sense for businesses is increasing revenue as fast as possible with as little investment as possible. This would mean a focus on things such as maximizing working hours, minimizing resources, personnel costs, and distractions from actual production.

Of course, we all know this is not how most businesses operate today. We also know that we live in an age of extreme competitiveness, complex technological development, and increasing speed of change. This creates a dilemma. The same practices that businesses need in order to thrive from a financial perspective are the ones that overwhelm employees and, in the long run, compromise their performance, motivation, and output.

Our past, very performance-focused century has resulted in today's rise in mental health issues as well as the popularity of alternative career paths such as, i.e. freelancing and digital nomadism. This shows that building a culture focused on performance may not be the best, healthiest, or most sustainable way to fuel results. But what's the alternative?

You guessed it. It's a culture for growth.
4 signs of a growth culture
Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey dedicated themselves to researching the shared attributes of growth cultures. They found that a blend of components and values form the base of most growth cultures. Here are the top 4 signs that you have a culture for growth.
1
Safety
An environment that feels safe. This is not about the office space, but the way leadership works. Are leaders open, transparent, showing vulnerability, and willing to take responsibility - also for mistakes? If this is the case, the environment is likely to be perceived as safe.
2
Learning
A focus on continuous development. Are leaders, employees, and collaborators championing a culture for continuous learning? Are values such as curiosity, critical thinking, and creativity appreciated and enforced? This leads to a culture free from judgement, an ideal ground for innovation.
3
Prototyping
Space for MVPs and experimentation. Is there time and space to test things, theories, and approaches, to optimize, play, and clear assumptions? This is likely to lead to less attachment to the status quo and a greater will to think differently in order to grow.
4
Feedback
Regular, hierarchy-free feedback. Is feedback a fundamental part of the day-to-day work life? A shared commitment to helping and supporting each other to do better is one of the key factors of every growth culture.
We can probably all imagine that a place that is committed to all of these 4 components is quite positive, inspiring to work at. Instead of feeding of people's fears to fail or lose, which are often at the center of a performance-driven culture, the growth culture isn't built on a zero-sum game. Instead, it's opportunity-focused, employs empowering leaders, rather than top-down managers, and encourages curiosity and personal development.
Why growth cultures are so great
That all sounds great, but where is the magical ingredient that makes growth cultures so much better than other work cultures? The magical ingredient is the connection between all 4 of the mentioned components: In addition to rewarding success, growth cultures also treat failures and shortcomings as critical opportunities for learning and improving, individually and collectively. This is possible due to a safe environment where people feel ok with leaving their comfort zone and risking a 'failure' in order to achieve better results. Feedback doesn't just fuel this feeling of safety but also encourages learning, personally and professionally.

It's the fine balance between challenge and opportunity, between failure and success, experience and reward that makes the growth culture so magical. Fueling growth requires a delicate balance between challenging and nurturing.

A toddler who has just learned to crawl will explore her environment. However, she will often look or even crawl back to be reassured by her mother. Imagine the panic she would feel if her mother suddenly disappeared. And what if she had an overprotective mother that guided where she crawled? This would block her ability to explore and learn on her own. She may even develop muscles slower.

Essentially, this is how work culture functions too. Too much challenge without regular feedback and comfort will eventually overwhelm us. We need a healthy amount of challenge, to take small steps out of our comfort zone, to grow and become stronger.

At Everyday, we believe in giving everyone the opportunity to grow and positively impact the teams and organizations they work for.
Curious on how Everyday can enable your company to establish a culture for growth?
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