What do you do when you find yourself in a company culture that doesn’t fit? Even worse, what if the culture is toxic? As an entry-level employee who is just beginning a career, you may choose one of these:
A. Suck it up: Be grateful for the paycheck and hope that as you continue to advance you’ll find opportunities to “lead up.”
B. Throw in the towel: Tender your resignation and hope that your next position is a better fit.
C. Create something of your own: Spend time gaining experience and learning lessons about what works and what doesn’t to apply to your own venture.
Scott Thompson chose option “C.”
After spending several years working for organizations whose cultures were broken, he had a realization. Thompson explains, “I realized I could craft a culture on my own. I wasn’t subject to ones that already existed.” When he considered the possibility of starting his company, he was excited to create a culture that he could be proud of and one of which people would love to be a part.
Thompson and his business partner, Lauryn Sargent, work hard to continue to create and maintain the culture of their company Stories Incorporated. He admits it’s a challenge, but one he readily accepts. One of the ways they tackle the challenge is by actively living and leading by the company’s agreed upon core values. “Whenever there’s a decision to be made, one of our first moves is to turn to our core values,” explains Thompson. The partners discuss how those values inform the decision they’re faced with and try to act accordingly.
A Healthy Culture Communicates Openly
One of those core values is to communicate openly. Transparency was an issue in the organizations Thompson worked with early in his career. “There was this opacity around what other business units within the company were doing. Important strategy decisions weren’t being made transparent. Arguably, there was no reason everyone within the company shouldn’t be aware of what the company was doing.” Thompson admits he didn’t love working in that atmosphere.
As a result, he and Sargent make a great effort to share openly and honestly with their team. He has found that this transparency builds trust. Even interns feel safe to communicate openly and “call out” the partners! Scott recalls one former intern, Pam, who spoke up when she noticed that he and Lauryn weren’t taking the breaks they encouraged the rest of the team to take. “Pam felt comfortable enough to call us out for not practicing what we preached,” he remembers. That incident was a sign that they were on the right track. He adds, “I was happy Pam did that. We’ve changed accordingly. Lauryn and I are making an effort to set a better example for the people on our team.”
Having a culture of openness and transparency translates well to the work Stories Incorporated is doing. The three-year-old business helps organizations to communicate and celebrate their cultures by bringing their unique stories to life. Stories Incorporated uses a variety of mediums to document an organization’s culture, history, and mission. Clients then use those multi-media stories to educate both customers and team members.
Scott Thompson doesn’t take his leadership role at Stories Incorporated lightly. He recalls a keynote message given by Simon Sinek at a recent Conscious Capitalism conference. Sinek suggested that being a leader isn’t just about being in charge, but more importantly it’s about being responsible for the people in your charge. Thompson explains, “You have to remind yourself that your team has joined your cause, and they need to know that you have their back.” Thompson strives to ensure his team feels trusted and trusts that the leadership team will guide the company in the right direction. It’s one aspect of a culture that he’s proud to be a part.