June Culturati: Magazine

Is culture the wire frame that holds an organization together — our cumulative communication, history, processes and behaviors — or is culture our values in action, or perhaps culture is how we work together, learn from each other . . . our corporate DNA.

Thought I should be clear about my current definition before last week’s Culturati Connect event in Columbus, Ohio. How I define culture continues to evolve — though I still use Abraham Maslow’s pyramid to discuss its critical components.

Culturati member Doug Ulman organized last week’s Connect event. Josh Jones-Dilworth flew in, too. We were joined by two CEOs, five C-HROs, a director of culture and a VP Communications.

I was struck by the diversity of backgrounds of the HR execs. We spoke about the trend of HR execs coming out of operations, noting that many boards were spending as much time with C-HROs as with CFOs, given that roughly 80% of a public company’s market value is tied up in the intangibles — mostly aligned with an organization’s human capital.

There’s greater emphasis on research, data and metrics when we’re discussing culture today than 4 and 5 years ago. Last week, we also noticed more attention to environmental culture — the culture of community and markets — in our conversations. And, it’s still true, the best conversations about culture always involve stories, symbols and artifacts, especially as time from founding passes and an organization grows — critical to preserving a connection to the founders’ culture. We joked about an increasing corporate demand for anthropologists.

In Austin and on the West Coast, Culturati dinners include a majority of tech executives. It was refreshing to have this conversations with executives from a large regional bank, a public company manufacturer, a national retailing conglomerate, three regional/national nonprofits, an insurance company, a healthcare conglomerate, and a publishing company. There weren’t different questions, but there are different lenses and other industries have 50, 70, 100 year legacies. I’m looking forward to the next Connect - San Francisco on June 26.

Sara Holoubek, Steve Goldsmith and Alex Cavoulacos share their perspectives on culture and leadership in this issue. Alex and Sara are founders & ceos from New York City. Steve stood up Atlassian’s Austin office and ran their HipChat business. All three have been important advisors to Culturati since our founding.

John Jeanetta, CEO, Heartland Family Service, Omaha, Nebraska writes about their Cultures of Trauma-informed Care. While I hope incidents of childhood trauma — specifically adverse childhood experiences (ACE) — among John’s patients and staff aren’t as high in most of our companies, undoubtedly they are higher than most of us assume. A study from the 1990s found that just under 50% of children have experienced an ACE. Mindfulness of the implications of these adverse experiences could inform our approaches to dealing with alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, suicide, poor physical health, obesity, educational attainment, unemployment, and poverty.

Culturati fellow, Savannah Barker, has penned a new piece, Can Pay Transparency Improve Company Culture? Savannah cites studies showing a narrowing of the gender pay gap when there is wage transparency. She fairly cites arguments against this policy.

Our Columbus Connect event done, San Francisco in a couple of weeks, and we’re organizing our Austin Summer/Fall Culturati Dinners. We launched Culturati membership renewals and early bird registration for returning Culturati members a couple of weeks ago. We sold out last year and are setting aside even more registrations for participants from out of Texas. You should have received a code to register here. If not, you can request a code from info@culturatisummit.com.


Eugene Sepulveda is the co-founder of Culturati as well as the CEO of the Entrepreneurs Foundation, a director & partner in Capital Factory, and the Treasurer & a Sr. Advisor to Austin Mayor Steve Adler. Eugene’s long played at the intersection of business, politics and community in Austin and nationally. He can be reached at Eugene@ABPorter.org