005-architecting-positive-corporate-culture-part-3

Architecting a Positive Corporate Culture Part 3: People

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In this edition

This week’s newsletter continues on the topic of cultivating a corporate culture that is characterized by positive mimesis.

But before we go there, I’m hoping I can get your attention and help with something I’ve been working on.

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Let me know what you think, and thanks for reading.

Architecting a Positive Culture (Part 3): People

This week we continue our discussion of how to create a corporate culture that is conducive to positive mimesis. Last week we spoke about the environment—a structure, a set of core principles, code of conduct, terms of engagement—that is fertile ground for positive, constructive desires. This week, we are talking about making sure we populate that environment with people who want that and are willing to do the work to make it happen.

Let’s face it: if nearly three-fourths of the global workforce is disengaged, there are a lot of people (a) who are poor models, or (b) who work for people or companies that are poor models. How can we choose the right people?

Expand what it means to be a “good fit”

We tend to view candidates as a “good fit” when they have work histories and backgrounds similar to our own. This is natural: we value our own experience, and finding people with similar trajectories give us a sense of comfort and familiarity. The trouble is that this approach can obviously lead to groupthink and reinforce mimetic behavior (good or bad). To cultivate a more dynamic and innovative team, we should be thinking more broadly.

We can do this by expanding how we view the two components of fitness. One component is related to skills and experience, and the potential to develop them further. The second is the behavioral traits that ensure you bring people in with the character and constitution that furthers the organization’s goals.

Skills, experience, and potential

  1. Focus on skills: Evaluate candidates based on their underlying competencies and skill sets, rather than their specific career paths and corporate or graduate school pedigree. (By way of example, there are plenty of great business leaders who don’t come from “elite” MBA programs, and plenty of great developers who have never worked at Google.)
  2. Value diverse experiences: Recognize that similar skills and experiences gained in different contexts can be highly transferable and enormously valuable. A team’s dynamism often arises not from uniformity, but from diverse and complementary viewpoints. Candidates who bring different perspectives can significantly enhance the team’s approach to innovation, problem-solving, and decision-making, making it more effective and resilient in the process.
  3. Go out of your way to seek that diversity. To attract a diverse range of candidates, employ a range of tactics. Don’t just post on LinkedIn, share on online professional communities and industry-specific forums. Collaborate with professional organizations and educational institutions, including universities and vocational schools with diverse student populations. Actively participate in or sponsor networking events and job fairs, particularly those focused on underrepresented groups in your industry. Engage with people who have pursued non-traditional training programs like coding bootcamps and online courses, which often attract career-changers and self-taught individuals with unique perspectives and experiences. Remember: diverse perspectives can combat groupthink and foster innovation, directly contributing to a minimally mimetic environment.
  4. Hire for skills you need today, and tomorrow. Look for candidates who not only meet the current job requirements but also have “runway”, meaning that they possess skills that will be valuable for them and the company as time goes on, and have demonstrated this in the past as well. Adaptability is an undervalued trait.

By treating skills and experience in this way, you encourage a hiring process that looks beyond conventional markers of compatibility, focusing instead on building a team that is diverse, well-rounded, and capable of meeting challenges with creativity and effectiveness.

Cultural fitness/Behavioral Traits

  1. Hire for low ego and high self-awareness. Look for individuals who show humility and a strong sense of self-awareness. These qualities are often indicative of team players who prioritize collective success over individual glory—critical traits in people managers.
  2. Hire for compassion and genuine empathy. Seek candidates who demonstrate genuine empathy and compassion in their interactions. These traits are crucial for a supportive and collaborative workplace culture.
  3. Hire for agency. Seek individuals who demonstrate initiative and the ability to act independently. They should be capable of making decisions and leading projects without constant supervision. They will also have the courage to contribute to the company’s culture, providing valuable feedback and energy to the team.
  4. Hire for accountability. Look for candidates who have a track record of owning their actions and results. They should be able to take responsibility for their successes and failures alike.

Tactics

In terms of interviewing tactics, try these—both for hiring and promoting:

  1. Use behavioral interviews. Incorporate behavioral interview techniques to understand how candidates have handled situations in the past, giving you insight into their problem-solving, teamwork, and leadership skills.
  2. Establish an interview structured for objectivity. Structured interviews where all candidates are asked the same set of questions will reduce unconscious biases and ensure a fair and consistent evaluation process.
  3. Use diverse hiring panels. Include diverse perspectives within your hiring panels. If you are hiring a commercial person, bring someone in from the product or operations team to participate. This not only helps in reducing biases but also ensures a more holistic evaluation of candidates. That said, be sure to maintain a streamlined and respectful interview process for candidates. You want a process that is thorough, but not overly burdensome or repetitive.
  4. Continuously train on unconscious bias. Regularly train your team—everyone, including executives—on recognizing and mitigating unconscious biases to ensure a fair and inclusive hiring process. It’s real, and the fact that each of us has these biases is indicative of nothing more than our shared humanity.
  5. Capture candidate experience feedback. Gather feedback from candidates about their experience in the hiring process. This can provide valuable insights into how inclusive and welcoming your process is perceived to be.

As with the section on environment, there is a lot to do behind each one of these points. What matters is getting started.

Notice what we are doing here, though. In our pursuit of the right team, we’re not just focusing on achieving our goals, but also on how we achieve them. While maintaining the importance of traditional qualifications, we’re expanding our definition of ‘fit’ to foster a culture of positive mimesis. We seek individuals who bring not only the requisite skills and qualifications but also demonstrate adaptability, breadth and diversity in perspective and experience, self-awareness, and a strong sense of collaboration. Each hiring decision is a strategic step towards creating a team that doesn’t just succeed; it succeeds in a way that reinforces constructive practices and leaves a positive and enduring impact.

Next week, we’ll talk about the building the resilience of the organization over time.

LinkedIn Roundup

Here are the things I talked about this past week on Linkedin.

Here are all my posts on LinkedIn.

You can also read my articles on a host of topics related to leadership and execution at my website.

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