Company culture can make or break even the most financially successful organizations. Culture was the focus of the Augusta Business Daily Fall Expo, which was held on Thursday, Oct. 28 at The Space located on Greene Street. The event, titled Culture Shift, featured three keynote speakers who discussed various aspects of culture and how it can positively or negatively affect the success of an organization. The speakers were: Patrick Reynolds, President and Chief Executive Officer of CrossLink Consulting, Declan Scott, Director of Operations for The Collaborative Way and Darin Myers, President of The Alternative Board in the CSRA.
Reynolds discussed how making a radical culture shift two years ago greatly improved many areas of his company, including employee morale, collaboration, and client service. He defined company culture as “the attitudes and behaviors of a company and its employees.” Reynolds admits prior to 2019, the company culture at CrossLink was about as negative as it could get. That year, he attended a conference and listened to a presentation by a speaker from The Collaborative Way – a workplace model that fosters greater teamwork and cooperation among individual employees to reach a common goal. He met Scott and the ideas inspired him to take on the onerous task of beginning to transform the culture at CrossLink.
For him, the first step was acknowledging his responsibility for that. “If you are in control and don’t like the situation but don’t take action, you must like it,” he states. Reynolds says creating a positive company culture often starts during the hiring process. At CrossLink, he and his team typically conduct a minimum of three interviews and focus on hiring those who best fit the company culture, not necessarily the most talented. “We’re not in a hurry to hire,” Reynolds explains. “If the mission is big enough and meaningful enough, we need to build great teams.”
Scott discussed The Collaborative Way’s five guiding principles: Listen Generously, Speak Straight, Be For Each Other, Honor Commitments and Acknowledge & Appreciate. Listening generously refers to taking the time to understand what people say to us. “Most of us haven’t learned to listen properly,” he says. “We check out.” Speaking straight refers to communicating honestly and owning how what you say impacts others. “We have this impression that we have to tiptoe around people,” Scott states. “Give people instant feedback.”
Being for each other means supporting and encouraging the success of your teammates. “It’s about cutting the gossip and assuming positive intent,” he explains. In The Collaborative Way, honoring commitments is everyone’s responsibility. “This is how we get things done,” Scott adds. “In most companies, it’s a mess.” Acknowledgement and appreciation refer to recognizing employees for their hard work and positive contributions. “This is the secret sauce,” says Scott. “When you get specific with this, it makes a difference.”
Myers knows a thing or two about how culture contributes to the success or failure of an organization. He previously served as site vice president at Plant Vogtle. In that role, he was responsible for overseeing the work of 1,000 employees. “Culture is extremely important,” says Myers. “It trumps everything, including you” (as a business leader). He illustrated this point by using the Challenger explosion as an example. While NASA blamed the explosion on a mechanical failure, “Culture was the root cause,” he states. Myers explains changing a company’s culture isn’t an easy or quick process. “We are a self-gratifying society,” he says. “It’s going to take you a lot of time.”