There are countless examples of companies and organizations that don’t do the right thing – all in an effort to maximize profits or “save the brand.” The University of Southern California (my alma mater), Michigan State University and Wells Fargo are all recent examples of this.
As leaders, we have the opportunity to make doing the right thing a central tenet of our businesses and organizations. In so many cases, doing the right thing is actually a profitable exercise. These win-win situations provide opportunities to positively impact the world, your employees, your customers and your bottom line.
The more I learn about company culture and inclusion, the more I realize how it’s a win-win situation. The more evidence I see of culture producing better companies and diversity producing better workforces, the more I’m shocked that more leaders don’t embrace culture as important to their businesses as their products or revenue.
I recently attended The Culture Conference in San Jose, California. This two-day conference brings the top leaders in culture and inclusion to discuss the opportunities and challenges with building create cultures and achieving better inclusion. I was empowered in knowledge and instruction, and inspired by the opportunity we have to make a difference.
I interviewed a number of business leaders and culture experts while at the conference. Here’s their best advice on how you can take action right now to build better culture or teams. Take the time to learn more about the benefits of culture and inclusion – and how it can it help you and your business.
1. “Have fun” – Cheryl Hughley, Southwest Airlines
Cheryl Hughley, managing director of culture at Southwest Airlines, emphasized how important it is to have fun – and for fun to be a central party of work life. “Life shouldn’t turn off when you come to work,” says Hughley. “We bring life and fun into our work – and it’s a part of everything we do.”
It’s easy to see the ways Southwest puts that into action. Free bags, free snacks, colorful planes and employees with a sense of humor are all ways to have fun – and help customers have fun. And there’s real benefits to fun. Customers laugh and feel at ease while traveling – which can be stressful for many people.
“Fun gets labeled as unproductive, wasteful and irresponsible,” Hughley mentioned. “We believe that when you make fun a priority, people bring their whole selves to work.”
2. “Take ownership as a leader” – Greg Clark, Symantec
He mentioned that things won’t change if you simply pass off diversity and inclusion initiatives to your human resources team. You, as a CEO or leader, need to make it happen and give it as much importance as any other part of the business. Clark also stated that if you want the best of what the workforce can offer, then you must employ a diverse workforce.
3. “Set the tone for authentic expression and trust” – Cherie Healey
As a society, we create masks that keep others from seeing who we really are. We do this because society rewards the perception of success, happiness, money, strength, etc. But what is behind the mask? And what if we could bring our whole selves to work?
Cherie Healey, a Possibilitarian and Coach who works with Google, among other trailblazing companies, entrepreneurs and change-makers, offered this perspective from her experience, “No one brings their whole selves to work because the performance ratings don’t measure or reward all that we have to give.”
She continues, “It’s up to you as a leader to set an example by sharing the parts of you that you hold back, or the parts that hold you back. When you do, you create the trust for your team to do the same. When we have the freedom to bring all our gifts to work we’ll see greater creativity and innovation than ever before. Gone are the days of survival mode. It’s time to calm our nervous systems so we can get back to solving big problems instead of protecting ourselves.”
4. “Start at the top” – Jenny Sauer-Klein, Play on Purpose
One big theme at the conference is the idea that leaders need to focus on diversity and inclusion at the top of the organization, and not just down the organizational chart. Jenny Sauer-Klein, CEO of Play on Purpose and creator of the Culture Conference highlighted the importance of starting at the top, “Improve inclusion in your company by hiring diverse people at the top.”
She continues, “Setting a foundation of diversity among the organization’s leadership will have ripple effects for many years down the line. A diverse set of role models should be visible at the top if you want to attract more people from those demographics.”
It doesn’t take much to see how great cultures lead to great companies. Patagonia, Southwest Airlines, Google and other companies thrive from their culture. I think it’s fair to say that all companies, especially in tech, have much more work to do with inclusion and diversity of company culture.
We all have the opportunity to create change while also creating the business results we want. Win-win situations like this don’t come around every day. I invite you to answer the call, turn opportunity into action, and enjoy the benefits of strong culture and a diverse workforce.