Bryan Leach Shares Leadership Strategies To Improve Your Company’s Culture
Recently I had the opportunity to interview Bryan Leach from Ibotta, Inc. for the ongoing series: CEOs Share Leadership Strategies To Improve Your Company’s Culture.
Bryan Leach founded Ibotta in 2011, when he realized the need for a more innovative approach to connecting brands, retailers, and consumers through mobile technology. Bryan made it his mission to empower smartphone-savvy shoppers with an easy way to earn cash back on their everyday purchases. Today, the company became the fifth most widely used shopping app in the US, trailing only Amazon, eBay, Groupon, and OfferUp.
Krish Chopra: What are the 3 most important values that your company’s culture is based on?
• Integrity — we operate our business honestly and openly and don’t cut corners, and we trust each other to act in the best interests of the shoppers we are trying to help
• Outhustle — we work as hard as we can to be the best possible custodians of our mission, which is to improve the lives of millions of consumers by saving them time and money
• A Good Idea Can Come From Anywhere — we look for the merit in every idea or suggestion and encourage everyone to contribute to our innovative process
Krish: Managing millennials can often be a polarizing topic. Can you elaborate on your advice for managing the “millennial mindset?”
· Keep the Mission front and center. Younger employees want to be reminded of the larger moral purpose of their work. If they don’t understand how they are making the world a better place, they will look for work elsewhere.
· Create a transparent culture and seek their input. Millennials enjoy being in the flow of information, which is why many enjoy working at startups instead of large, publicly traded corporations
· Make winning fun. As long as your culture supports your mission, make it as fun as possible. When you achieve something important make sure to celebrate it with an outing, an event, or something that brings people together and reinforces how great it feels to win.
Krish: What are your “5 Ways to Improve Your Company’s Culture” and why.
• Constantly reiterate the company’s mission, vision and values — We use a Culture Deck to summarize what we’re building (our North Start), who we’re helping, what the larger moral purpose of our work is, what our deepest convictions are as a company (our values), and how we collaborate effectively together as a team (we call these our TEAMS principles — Trust, Empower, Align, Maximize Impact, and Show Up Every Day)
• Set clear goals and celebrate when the company makes progress toward achieving the mission — We took 30 people out to Opening Day for the Colorado Rockies (baseball) to celebrate a win on our product/marketing teams. We got everyone custom hats and took a half day off and celebrated down at the ballpark.
• Make sure everyone understands that a good idea can come from anywhere — We have an online portal where anyone can easily submit feedback for any product idea or process improvement. We reiterate this every time there’s a good idea that leads to a positive result.
• Be vulnerable and show humility — We admit our mistakes, allude to what we’re working on with our own coaches and when people make mistakes we don’t demonize them but rather focus on what we learned together. We call this conducting blameless postmortems.
• Share credit. — Shouting out employees who make a difference and embody company values is key. We use a terrific email plugin tool called “Reflektive” to quickly and easily recognize great efforts and contributions company-wide. Others can +1 and join the conversation, adding to the positive reinforcement.
Krish: Strong company culture is something that everyone likes to think they have but very few have it. Why do so many organizations struggle with creating strong, healthy work environments?
Bryan: They forget to speak openly and often about what their company culture is, using a Culture Deck if necessary. They assume the culture is understood and doesn’t need to be spelled out or referenced often. In fact, you must relentlessly remind people of what your Mission, Vision, and Company Values are. It’s something the CEO should do on a daily basis, not reference once a quarter at a townhall or once a year at the holiday party.
Krish: What is one mistake you see a young start-up founders make in their culture or leadership practices?
Bryan: They fail to invest in leadership training for themselves and other inexperienced or young managers. Coaching is vital. Otherwise, managers will assume that their job is for others to like them and view them as part of the family. In fact, a better analogy is a high performing sports team in which the leader or manager is the coach seeking to ensure the team’s best possible performance.
Krish: To add to the previous question, young CEOs often have a lot of pressure to perform and often wear many hats. What’s a simple time efficient strategy they can start doing today to improve their company’s culture?
Bryan: Get comfortable delegating. If you feel uncomfortable doing that, then you have to overhaul your hiring and talent acquisition procedures so you can have more trustworthy, high functioning deputies to whom you can delegate important work so you can stay focused on driving higher-level initiatives and managing external stakeholders.
Krish: Success leaves clues. What has been your biggest influence in your leadership strategy and company culture?
· Too many to list.
· Books include the Bob Thomas biography of Walt Disney; Ben Horowitz’s Hard Thing About Hard Things; Patty McCord’s Powerful.
· People include my father, who was the first entrepreneur I ever knew and who has been a steadfast advisor.
· Companies include Zappos, Amazon, Netflix, and LinkedIn.
Krish: What advice do you have for employees that have bad bosses? How can they take control and improve a bad situation?
• Seek out feedback and constructive criticism, then document it and ask to routinely meet to review your progress against goals.
• Ask for leadership training or coaching so you can develop skills without needing to rely on your boss.
• Ask to be assigned to a discrete project and ask up front what great would look like. Then over deliver.
Krish: Okay, we made it! Last question — what’s one unique hack you or your company does that has enhanced your work culture?
Bryan: As CEO, I roll around a Block Rocker (bluetooth speaker) through our office for 15 minutes after every Thursday morning all-hands meeting. Cranking out feel-good tunes puts everyone in a good mood and makes me more relatable to folks. We publish the playlist on Spotify, and it now has over 300 songs!
A note to the readers: Improving company culture happens at any level in an organization. If you learned one thing in this interview, please share this with someone close to you.
A special thanks to Bryan Leach again!
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