I am a happy person. I am a team player, enthusiastic, and creative. I get along well with others and play nicely in the sandbox. So it came as a shock a few years ago to find myself completely miserable at work. On paper, the organization had all the ingredients of my dream job: start-up atmosphere, flexible work schedule, room for growth and ownership, highly creative, passionate team determined to make change in the world. Perfect. Oh and free coffee. I was in.
On day 2 I knew that something was amiss, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I decided to observe. At our first team meeting the CEO took the reigns, he had determined the agenda and he ran the meeting. As quickly as my co-workers raised suggestions they were dismissed. The energy in the room changed. The air hung heavy and defeat was a shadow that crossed everyone’s face. As the days went on the team was reduced to a group of individuals who hated being there and couldn’t wait to leave at the end of the day. Conversations dwindled, passion left and we missed every milestone we had set. I observed this for the next six months, curious to find out why this organization, that looked so good on paper, was failing miserably on every level. I decided to leave; trading time for money was not my idea of fun. When the CEO asked why I was leaving, my answer was short. “The company has no soul, there’s no energy here. It feels sad.”
Corporate culture is a buzz word these days, and as such often elicits eye-rolls and heavy sighs. So let’s look at this from a slightly different angle and discuss Corporate Soul. The soul is the heart, the life force and essence of an organization. It drives activity, determines behaviour and is the glue that binds team members together. It is that “thing” that makes people want to be present and part of the group and the project. It’s what makes us wake up most days and look forward to our work and feel compelled to contribute more than expected. Corporate Soul is a tall order for any organization.
At Band of Coders, creating and feeding our Corporate Soul is the foundation of everything we do. We recognize that our team is our #1 asset and that the health and happiness of our team has a direct correlation with how well we perform in the market and how successful we are with our clients. Here are three things we prioritize daily to develop and strengthen our soul and our team.
One definition describes trust as a “reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something.” At Band of Coders, we start from a place of trust with each other. We believe our co-workers will do what’s right, that they have the strength and skills to accomplish great things and the bravery to accept new challenges. This trust creates a very safe place for us to take risks and share vulnerabilities. Trust has allowed many of us to excel in areas we didn’t see as core strengths and to become better people and better employees.
I call this the “I Believe In You” philosophy at Band of Coders. It wasn’t intentional but it happens all the time with our BoC tribe. Peer empowerment is coming alongside someone, whether they are new or simply struggling and saying “you can do this” and “I am going to stay with you until it happens.” We commit to empowering one another and to saying I believe in you. And when the victories come the feeling is amazing. And when the fails happen, we have someone to help us right back up. We don’t really know why this is happening without prompting or planning but we like it and we have decided to nurture it across the company.
Encourage your team members to try new things; new ways of solving problems or take on tasks outside their “department” for example. It is through experimentation we learn new and better ways to meet our goals and we uncover skill sets and areas of passion we never knew we had. Experimentation allows us to break out of the monotonous pattern of everyday tasks. At Band of Coders figuring out our Corporate Soul is an experiment. We are learning a lot, deciding what’s important to us and our clients and having fun!
These are just a few things you can try with your team. As we continue on our Creating Corporate Soul journey we will make sure to let you know how it’s going and share our magic and not-so-magic moments. If you have a great story of how you are nurturing the soul of your organization we want to hear about it! Please share it with us in comments below.
By Tina Venema