When TINT grew from 4 employees to over 20 in just one year, we knew there were going to be some growing pains. One of the less obvious ones was a slowly disintegrating company culture. Our original company values, which guide how we approach work and interact with one another, were written with a team of five people, and they didn’t quite fit a company four times as big.
We started to witness a lot of infringements on our company values, in part because a lot of people either didn’t understand them or flat out didn’t know they existed. This was partially a lapse in our onboarding process, but also made us realize that we needed to make our guiding principals fresh and relevant to everyone.
Our old company values:
A company of 20+ people has different dynamics and issues that arise, so we set out to amend our culture to fit this larger team, with an inclusive process that allowed everyone to have significant input into the finished set of values. Here’s how we approached the process of redesigning the values, and what we came up with in the end. We hope they reflect all the lessons we have learned in our first year as a growing startup.
“There were many successes and challenges along the way,and we wanted our new value statements to reflect what we learned.” – Tim, CEO.
Our quarterly retreat was a month away, so we formed a small 5 person committee to develop a process to amend our values that would allow the whole team to participate at the retreat.
Our Process for Inclusive Discussion
Making sure that the process took everyone’s opinions into account was very important to us. We took great care to make sure that we designed a process where everyone felt happy with our final set of values, and felt that their concerns and suggestions were heard.
Before we began, we held a “cultural humility” training session, where an expert helped us recognize unconscious biases in our communication. This gave us a common language and understanding to discuss otherwise fraught topics, such as gender bias and different definitions of respect, as we moved forward.
“It’s so refreshing to be part of a company that calls on the employees to shape a positive and healthy culture. This company is so diverse and I think our company values reflect that and demonstrate the level of respect we have for one another.” – Kelly del Curto, Happiness Hero
Here’s the process we used:
- Sent out an anonymous Google Forms survey to gauge employee familiarity, understanding, and concerns about our existing culture values. We opted to make the survey anonymous to encourage the most honest feedback.
- Evaluated team feedback as a committee and identified patterns within the data.
- Hosted a session at our quarterly retreat to present our identified patterns and facilitated a discussion. This session allowed for small and large group discussions to drive deeper insights and to establish a team consensus.
- We broke into groups of 4 or 5 (the groups were pre-determined based on employee tenure to get a diverse opinion set in each group) and gave each group a set of anonymous responses from our survey and asked them to categorize examples of culture violations into our existing values, or come up with an amendment or a new value to address the issue.
- Reconvened as a committee to review results from the session and draft an updated proposal for the team.
- Sent out our proposal via Google Doc for final input from the team. With this, we polished the final draft.
- Assembled as a team at our Friday Meeting and voted on each individual value, leaving room for last minute discussion and amendments.
- With the final approval from the team, we updated our About Page with our amended values.
- We plan on displaying our new values around the office to serve as a daily reminder of what we’ve created together.
Our New Company Values
The major changes we made reflected issues of respect, work-life balance, and trust. We also made a number of minor amendments and additions to ensure our values and culture stay up to date with what we want out of the company, and leave less room for misunderstanding.
1. Trust yourself and trust others
Much of the team was confused by the notion of “better to ask for forgiveness rather than permission” and we realized the original value we meant to convey was lost in translation as we have grown. Often in practice this turned into “we can do whatever we want as long as we say sorry afterwards.”
As a startup, we want to move as quickly as possible, and we want to give our employees the autonomy to pursue any projects knowing they have the full support of the team. We decided to focus the value around trust and the idea that we trust ourselves and we trust others to to act in TINT’s best interest. We will not be able to create an amazing customer experience and have our customers trust us, if we cannot trust ourselves.
2. Cultivate transparency both internally and externally.
We unanimously agreed that we excel at transparency. From open door meetings, exposed financials (including compensation) and group based decision making, we set a high bar for our internal transparency. However, we sometimes forget transparency has an upper bound. There are some topics that are personal and private and should be discussed with only the affected parties. We also wanted to address external transparency and maintain a degree of openness with our customers.
3. Stay humble; be tenacious
This value changed very little – it continues to push and challenge our team but also remind us to be modest about our achievements. We are all rowing in the same direction and we are working towards the same goals. We did add a line about our new feed-forward process and how we should look to embrace the suggestions we receive from our peers on how to better ourselves.
4. Strive to be of value
We struggled with the original wording of this value (“Strive not to be successful; but to be of value.”) It suggested that we were frowning upon being successful and that is not the attitude we want to propagate. Success is great! We want everyone on our team to be successful and we want the team to be successful as a whole. The main point we wanted to get across was that success (and profit) should be a byproduct of adding and delivering value to our customers.
5. Better yourself every day.
There was an overwhelming concern about the lack of addressing the work-life balance topic. We found that “bettering ourselves everyday” also means taking the time to live your life. It is essential to encourage taking breaks and pursuing passions outside of work to maintain happy employees. It’s also important to remind the team that working hard is not the same or as effective as working smart. These holistic guidelines will help new hires anticipate expectations and avoid burnout.
6. Seek to understand, and then to be understood.
In addition to amending our five existing cultural values, we ultimately decided to add an entirely new culture value to represent how we feel about respect and understanding one another. We used our new knowledge from the culture humility training to create our new value statement. We put emphasis on “Seek to understand, and then to be understood” which is meant to encourage mutual respect and comprehension. We often have ingrained ideas of what another person or group of people will say and we project those ideas without ever taking the time and effort to listen and understand their point of view. Our goal for this value is to remind us to try and make sure we understand where somebody is coming from before we respond.
“Having a clear, concise and inspiration set of values means we can grow and fail intelligently, building our strength and supporting culture as we move into our next stage of expansion” – Stu, remote team member, Director of European Expansion
Company Values at TINT
“It’s extremely rewarding and inspiring to collaboratively create a direction for what TINT is as an organization, who we are as people, and the values we believe in and live by every day” – Gurtej, Happiness Hero
“Having our entire team collectively decide on our culture allowed us to ensure it truly represents how we feel about the values our work-family should uphold and what we hope to instill in future teammates.” – Brandon, Head of Growth
“It is amazing being part of the active process to refine, cultivate and grow team TINT’s culture in a very real and actionable way. It’s incredibly exciting being a part of a company that goes above and beyond to make sure culture is a priority” – Corey, Director of Sales
Culture is the lifeblood of TINT; it is our differentiating factor. We wanted to create a culture and set of values that supports the needs and wants of everyone on the team, and we will continue to refine them as we grow. Our values are what keep many of us coming back to work day in and day out.
We fully believe our culture is the driving force behind all of the success we achieved as a team and will continue to enable us to reach new goals. These values create the common bound amongst our employees that we extend to our customers to give them the best experience possible. We hope that you’ll find our process or some of our values helpful as you work with your own teams.
“Culture is what you do when your bosses aren’t around. It’s an invisible force.” – Nathan, Director of Marketing.
This blog post was co-written by the Cultural Values committee that designed the process: Rohith, Brett, Jessica, Saachi and Edward. Tweet us @TINT if you have any questions!