The pandemic brought us a few positives, and one we particularly loved is that we got a real glimpse into our colleagues’ lives.
Often for the first time, we saw our colleagues’ spouses, their children, their family pets, and their homes thanks to video conferencing tools that kept us working during shutdown. We often joke about how, at the beginning of the pandemic (remember when we thought it would be a 2-week thing?!), we started out “polished” – nice shirts, hair done, professional home office backdrop -- but unraveled into “real life” quickly. Today, you’re far more likely to find hoodies and messy buns on internal calls, barking dogs and dinner on the stove, than collared shirts and quiet houses! Interestingly, that’s had a pretty positive impact on morale, especially considering the overall circumstances.
That may just seem like a funny observation, but we think it raises an interesting point: When building your company culture, don’t neglect to include employees’ private lives.
When you think about it, we spend as much time (if not more) with co-workers than other friends in life, but we rarely know much about them. In our high-stress, meet-the-deadline workdays, we focus on getting the job done for clients and improving our own company’s bottom line. Sometimes, we try to throw in something fun and meaningful to build company culture, but that’s really the wrong approach. We need to make real connections first, and let the rest come naturally.
Think of your own personal passions for a moment. Maybe you’re an avid golfer who has plays as often as you can, from Kiawah to Pebble Beach. Maybe you have a love of deep-sea fishing and recently took a charter boat with your best friends off the Outer Banks. Maybe you love wine and hope to someday travel to Napa Valley. Maybe your grandchildren just light you up. Whatever your “it” is, think about the way it excites you, the way you talk about it, the way it connects you to others (even fostering professional ties – how many deals are made on the golf course?). It’s a totally different dynamic than the way you talk about your work, even if you love that, too. It’s what makes you, well, YOU!
Everyone has something that excites them – even boring old accountants. How do we harness that to build our company cultures?
The secret lies in giving time and space to colleagues that allows them to share their passions without feeling like they’re “wasting company time”, to ask insightful questions that dig into that one thing that makes their eyes light up vs. just focusing on the daily tasks at hand. In such an environment, employees feel comfortable, valued, and connected to you and the team. That’s the culture you’re really aiming for.
In other words, love the people you have, not just the work they do.
No matter the industry, talent is at an all-time premium. We cannot grind day in and day out and expect a fresh crop of talent to replace burned out employees (who would want to work like that anyway?). To get and keep the very best people, discovering their “it” thing is essential. Ask for it in the very first interview, and return to it often.
The strength our firms lies in its people – their uniqueness, their diverse personalities – both of which are impacted by their home life – so let’s spend some time where it counts.
One more thing from a nerdy accountant trusted advisor perspective about passions: They’re important to your personal succession plan, too. One day, you’ll transition from your current role in your company. What will come next? M&A firms won’t ask you, but we will. Do you have “it” waiting for you, or are you too afraid to quit working because you fear you’ll have nothing to do? By finding and cultivating your “it”, and sharing it with others, your transition will be much smoother and a lot more joyful.
That’s a win for your company, too.