Drinking the Kool-Aid: a Reflection on Job Satisfaction

By Myste Wylde, COO, Culturati

I drank the Kool-Aid — and damn, it was refreshing.

The independent thinker has long resisted lemming-lime buy-in, but a good company culture isn’t artificial. In my study of corporate culture over the last ten months I’ve identified three predictors which led me to the secret of Culturati’s success.

One, there’s a resonance.

Two, there’s a bridge to individuality.

Three, the #tribevibe is real.

Resonance first generates from a company’s mission and vision. At Culturati the mission is to help leaders create and maintain healthy company cultures in order to improve performance, empower employees, and positively impact communities. We want to make the world a better place through the workplace.

Arguably any good mission statement should be both general enough for personal interpretation and specific enough to distinguish direction. If not, it should become immediately apparent through culture and execution. (We all know TED’s simply-stated mission to “spread ideas” doesn’t mean flat earth theories through Facebook Group 1301.)

Another definition for resonance is “deep, full, and reverberating.” A study by Harvard Business Review identifies company culture as being shared, pervasive, enduring, and implicit. A company in alignment has incorporated their ideals in a way that permeates not just interaction but feeling and ways of thinking. An employee barometer should check how deeply felt and how fully embraced values are, and if they reverberate through word and action. Reinforcement is how culture sticks.

The second indicator of a healthy organization is a strong connection between the individual and the company. Building on resonance, this connection speaks directly to a person’s purpose which often identifies with the company’s values. When DEIB (diversity, equity, inclusion & belonging) initiatives are working, the link becomes a bond.

Watch Carin Taylor & Cate Prescott — “Belonging is a Two-Way Street.”

Thirdly, the tribe vibe. Our friends at McKinsey & Company have done extensive research on the value of Social Capital in addition to Human and Financial. Community is one of the greatest influences on corporate culture. With inclusion and belonging, it can power performance, assist self-actualization, and ideally, create better citizens of the world. This is the piece that sets Culturati Summit apart from other conferences on culture, and in my opinion, most other leadership forums.

Watch Dr. Brooke Weddle and Dr. Bill Schaninger, “The Forgotten Capital: The Role of Social Capital in Unlocking Workplace Culture and Performance.

As manager of, and first-timer at, this year’s Culturati Summit, I thought I knew what to expect. We spent months brainstorming with our Knowledge Partners from Microsoft and McKinsey & Company. Our 35 speakers came from a highly-curated list, each with a unique and qualified perspective. The venue at Campus on Lake Austin was architecturally designed to inspire educational achievement. But what I could only pinpoint later was the source of the actual magic…the reason the invitations are so sought after and why CEOs and other C-suite leaders return year after year.

It was the community. And for us it’s two-fold.

The secret sauce is intimacy, vulnerability, sharing, and the advanced level of thought leadership. The in-person Culturati Summit is invite-only and carefully curated so that each person adds value across industries. Generally speaking they are limited to those who have the responsibility or spend to directly influence a company’s culture: CEOs, CHROs, Managing Partners, and so on. (See who was there.) We restricted it to 150 attendees including speakers and sponsors.

Culturati’s signature CEO dinners on Sunday night set the tone with mindfully assigned groups of 10–12. Sprinters took guests offsite to enjoy dinner and facilitated conversation in the homes of local leaders. Monday’s breakouts were divided into three periods throughout the day with five sessions available each period. This ensured no more than 30 participants in any one room so that true discourse could occur. Meals were shared together around round tables and the event concluded with a sunset dinner cruise and late night libations by the fire.

The intimacy protects and fosters vulnerability and the dynamic of open playbook sharing. We are not a conference of talking heads. Aside from the plenaries which incorporate healthy Q&A, our breakouts are structured to be no more than 20 minutes of “presenting” with the rest of the hour dedicated to discussion. Our participants are top leaders, well-respected in their fields. Peer-to-peer conversation is far more fruitful than passivity. They want to talk about what’s actually been done — what worked and what didn’t. It’s the war stories that engage our audience the most. This real sharing also forms real connections which become lasting relationships and often great business opportunities.

Because this is the get-real version of a senior seminar, the level of thought leadership is unmatched in this arena. Being new, I dropped a lot of household names at the beginning of our speaker brainstorm but quickly learned that mass appeal is not the objective. We want the social scientists and the gritty executives who have rolled up their sleeves and tackled these problems.

We provide the look behind the curtain and the data.

Our CEO famously says that ¼ of the audience should think a keynote is the best they’ve ever heard, ½ should think it’s good, and the other ¼ may not even like it. We don’t program for the average. Our goal is at least one keynote that’s ridiculously inspiring for each participant.

So yes, I drank the Kool-Aid. And I’m sure as hell glad I like the taste. Buying into a company’s ethos is one of the keys to job satisfaction. But now more than ever, enthusiasm has to be earned.

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Culturati Team

Culturati Team

Culturati is a community of CEOs, entrepreneurs, investors and other c-suite leaders who practice & study culture building and share our play books.