I can’t think of a time in our company’s history when we have put so much focus and energy on self-reflection, both individually and how we operate in a team. Who are we? How do we react? What motivates us? What can we do better? How can we be better?
One valuable tool for studying ourselves comes from the annual Great Place to Work survey, which provides great data direct from the team. What I love most about the survey is the comparison of our company to other companies of similar size. Each question centers around cultural elements like credibility, respect, fairness, pride and camaraderie.
2018 was our first year taking the GPTW survey, which feels a bit like an annual employee review for the company itself. Like every review you ever had, you tend to quickly forget about all your strengths and hyper-focus on the weaknesses. While we were actively working on betterment of our culture at the time, seeing our results stacked up in comparison to other companies of similar size was a bit disappointing. Our COO, Emily Townsend, said it best, “We got a ‘C’ on our first report card.” But at our core, we knew we were an ‘A’ team and could do so much better.
In the year that followed, we got to work on the top areas for improvement based on our survey. We started by clarifying expectations and providing a clear view of where we planned to go as a company. The addition of two new owners in January 2019, provided a perfect opportunity to gather input from the team and work towards redefining the next evolution of Brains on Fire with a clear path forward and greater clarity about who we are. Collecting feedback and input over the last several months, we recently held an all-team workshop on our cultural norms, core values and company goals for the next three years.
Other growth areas we wanted to give attention to had to do with our internal dynamics and how we can always treat each other better. We are a multigenerational workplace full of diverse perspectives and ingrained beliefs on how to best get work done. We pulled our team together to talk about each issue individually and worked to identify practical tactics we could employ to accomplish that.
For example, a meeting best practice includes leaving space for everyone to speak. Why? Because this provides a voice to everyone no matter their age, title or longevity with our company. Also, we’ve made consistent efforts to stop siloed conversations from happening. We have had hard conversations out in the open rather than behind closed doors with one or two parties or on side slack channels. We are in this together, which means we have to trust each member of the team to respect differing opinions and thoughts and also speak up in real-time.
For our 2019 GPTW survey, we increased our score in every category. We took ourselves from a C-Team to a B-Team, but we still have our sights set on bringing home that A-Team report card! So, what are we working for 2019–2020? Practicing our shared culture values and living out every decision with full transparency. We are focusing on modeling healthy debate, which starts at the top between our shareholders and leaders. We are working on adaptability and change. Change is constant, so is our resistance to it. We want to improve our nimbleness as a team by honing our processes and integrating pre- and post-mortems to help us learn from the past and anticipate things that help us do better work in the future.
We’re all looking forward to another year of getting better and smarter. A-Team…here we come!