Company Culture – The Lifeblood of Your Organization


Everyone has heard of nature vs. nurture but as the wife of a man from an adopted father, I can attest to the fact that NURTURE can completely transform individuals. This goes beyond parenting and extends implicitly to leadership. “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”, a phrase originated by Peter Drucker and made famous by Mark Fields, President at Ford, is an absolute reality!
Any company disconnecting the two are putting their success at risk.

I am a lifelong learner and I truly believe that everyone has value to add to the organization.  As team leaders, it is up to us to pull that potential out and cultivate it. The sky is the limit for what a creative environment can produce.  According to David Hill, “Studies of creativity suggest that the biggest single variable of whether or
not employees will be creative is whether they perceive they have permission.”

One of the ways I do this is by having quarterly POW WOWs.  Here is the format:

There is are a lot of negative thoughts out there about millennials and their need for hand-holding and/ or coddling.  I don’t think this is the case with my generation, instead I think that this particular genre of people just wants to be heard.  I know I would have appreciated it if my previous supervisors occasionally asked me my thoughts on the way a business is run.  Sure, I wasn’t a partner at the time but, I was involved in the nitty-gritty and had a direct link to the ultimate signer of the paychecks, our clients.

To obtain this information, I implement quarterly pow wows for the JTI Team.  We block out our calendar, put the DND indicator on our phone, and hunker down in the conference room to discuss the status of the company. It sounds daunting but, it doesn’t have to be with strategic planning, let me explain…

At the start of the Pow Wow, I introduce it as an ‘open floor’ and let everyone know that although it is not a ‘Debbie Downer’ session, it is a time for us to be honest and openly share our thoughts and feelings about our positions and our responsibilities.  I want the conversation to flow and to allow everyone the opportunity to voice any concerns or issues they may have.

Taking personality tests and strength finders have helped all of us realize how we differ from each other and what makes each other “tick.”  We spend the next hour reviewing the results. Any new hires are given extra time so we can listen to their findings and then update them on the attributes of the rest of the team.  After we go over our individual traits, we talk about how some positions naturally need to be shifted to better serve each other and the company.  This involves the entire company understanding & implementing the “right person, right seat” conversation. This information helps us see gaps for our upcoming new-hires to fill and what type of person we need to recruit. 

At this point in the day, we take a mental break by having a catered lunch, a fun vendor presentation, or even spa treatments if we’ve decided to do the POW WOW off-site.

To begin the next hour activity, I have stacks of sharpies and different colored post-its on the table.  Although a bit idealistic, I call this “JTI Utopia” and ask everyone to share their personal and career dreams.  I set a timer for three minutes and each person writes out post-its with their personal and professional intentions.  This is an open table so anything goes! I just say to use your imagination and try to imagine your dream life.  As we are together more than we spend with even our significant others I think this accountability is fantastic to have in both realms of our lives.  

The next hour is spent goal setting by taking the hopes and dreams post-its and putting them into a timeline.  After the three minutes are up we go around the table presenting our ideal scenarios. As a cohesive team, we then decide whether each one should go under the 3 month, 6 months, or 1-year category.  In turn, at each pow wow we discuss which previous goals were reached and which ones should be on target for the next three months. As you can see, here are our intentions from our previous quarterly POW WOW. We then take 15 minutes to take our 3-month intentions and put them into existence in our calendars.  Marking these occasions holds us accountable personally and as a team. 

I cherish these days as it is an opportunity to learn more about each other.  It is important that everyone within a small company like JTI has an entrepreneurial mindset as it keeps the momentum going for our clients and constantly encourages everyone to push the envelope on innovative thinking.  This time together is filled with energy,
ideas and laughter and have brought about many new business strategies.

I am so grateful to work among such talented and creative minds!