Bringing your vision and culture to life

Mainitaining a positive workplace culture will drive collaboration, innovation and creativity

I HAVE a classic kitchen-bench start-up story: creating avocado sandwiches with one hand for my baby daughter while preparing PowerPoint presentations with the other.

This was back in 2006 when I was a graphic designer and tech geek who loved PowerPoint.

I was clear and focused on my vision of ‘making PowerPoint sexy’ for my clients.

At the start, our culture, values and vision were loud and clear. As a result, my business really took off and grew.

Yet as I added more and more people to my team, it became tough to adhere to those values, to keep cultivating the kind of creative culture I had longed for.

The mission evolved into helping our clients experience the value of their presentations, and we hired for passion and proof of our values: being creative, supportive, passionate and collaborative. ‘Vision’, ‘values’ and ‘culture’ have become buzzwords that are bandied about in meetings and by organisations.

There’s a lot of talk acknowledging that “we need them”, but how many of us can define what they are exactly? More importantly, how do we bring them to life, especially as the business grows?

Be transparent

The overall vision of the organisation must be set by the leader. It should describe the future direction that everyone in the team and throughout the business is heading in.

It’s only when people feel like they are part of something bigger that they start to achieve together as a team.

As a founder, leader or someone in the executive team, it’s essential to provide regular, consistent updates to everyone.

Without constant communication, the vision gets lost, and motivation to meet the goal dies a slow and painful death – and can be really hard to resurrect.

Your culture really dictates how everyone behaves in your business. It’s made up of the shared values and beliefs that you set and say are essential

I’ve found that being transparent about the numbers and my role, and what I’m doing day-to-day, is crucial.

Be present and connect with your team, and be there to listen to their ideas and challenges. Transparency alone doesn’t equal trust; that comes from consistently leading by example and asking questions, listening and communicating clearly.

This also means being open and honest with your team when things are not going to plan, or tracking well.

There is nothing worse than working for a business and feeling like you’re just being lied to – transparency is the key to trust and a thriving culture.

lt has a massive impact on your bottom line.

Celebrate together

Your culture really dictates how everyone behaves in your business.

It’s made up of the shared values and beliefs that you set and say are essential.

These values, however, are more than slogans on posters or co­ffee cups.

While a lot of people bring in the big guns to help come up with a few summary words, they require much more than just a set-it-and-forget-it activity.

For example, one of our values is creativity, so we regularly get together to help boost each other’s creativity through:

  • presentations to each other about our personal passions
  • popcorn sessions at which we watch videos, animations, TED talks or debates
  • creative food days – when di­fferent recipes or new cuisines are shared walking meetings through the centennial parklands
  • life drawing and watercolour classes in locations throughout the city
  • sharing life experiences and listening to each other’s stories as a way of connecting and exploring

We invest lots of time and energy in creating activities that include the whole team.

It’s not about drinking or holding office parties. (Many of our team don’t drink, and that’s the same throughout many businesses I know.)

Instead, the focus is always on a mix of di­fferent things to ensure everyone is included.

Strengthen your team

When you facilitate this kind of collaboration, even if it’s not 100% work-related, then each of us becomes more innovative, and the office becomes more fun overall.

As I have experienced, keeping the culture going is the biggest challenge you have as your business starts to grow.

When there are only a handful of people in your team, then really everything is just an extension of you – your passion is felt across the table and in a small room, and it’s easy to make that felt.

As you expand, it’s vital to strengthen your management and build a leadership team that is responsible for ensuring the message – your vision, values and culture – is clear and translated to everyone.

 

Emma Bannister is passionate about presenting big, bold and beautiful ideas. She is the founder and CEO of Presentation Studio, APAC’s largest presentation communication agency, and author of Visual Thinking: How to Transform the Way You Think, Communicate and In­fluence with Presentations.