I had a GREAT TIME at the 2008 Phoenix BarCamp today! I was a little… OK maybe more like VERY nervous about having to stand up in front of people and tell them about things that I might have some expertise in. But once I saw that everyone else was just as informal, I got into the grove of things. All the discussions were very informative, some of them so much so they were over my head, but thats ok!
I’ll just go over some of the great points some of the speakers had regarding their topics and discussions. Anyone that was there, feel free to pipe in regarding what you thought was interesting, points I missed, etc.
Pam Slim author of Escape Cubical Nation started off the day speaking about how growing start up companies can avoid becoming the cubical corporate environments that the entrepreneurs came from to begin with. There was a fairly voiced concern from the business owners in the room regarding how to avoid becoming that which they didn’t want to employed by to begin with.
Pam offered a simple common sense approach to really keeping the soul to your company, meet and get to know your employees. That a business owner should know what his/her employees really want to get out of their time with the company, and to realize there really isn’t any binding contract for these employees to be invested in your company if you don’t return their investment by investing in your employees. She mentions that open, honest communication is key to this relationship between employee and employer.
To really spend the time to know what each of your employees is interested in and their personal investment and interest in your company. She says to build on what your employees want to learn and do, this will enforce trust in you and foster a real value of your company to your employees instead of merely being a “job”. This will help take the pulse of your company’s true interests and values from the ground up.
Understand that perhaps some of your current employees final goals in their career may mean starting their own business, or moving away from your company in some other way. Foster this growth in your employees, perhaps once they have broke out on their own they’ll send business back your way, or other potential employees that will be a great fit for your company. Make sure you aren’t buying into the mafia mentality of you’re either with us or against us, and if you leave you’re against us for sure.
Open, honest communication allows for huge growth potential in your company when your employees are allowed to honestly express their ideas and true feelings on company projects and directions. Instead of wasting six months on a dumb idea, Fred over in development, will simply be able to express… “you know that’s not the brightest idea, but I’ve been toying around with this other thing and I think it might work…”. Don’t make yourself or your employees “check their soul in at the door”, make sure everyone is in agreement that all your companies practices align with your company’s overall goals and values.
Derek Neighbors from Integrum Technologies spoke regarding rapid business growth and how your company can live through culture changes from creative culture to command culture and back again.
Derek started out with a recap of Integrum’s rapid growth due to new projects and contracts that they were taking on at a very rapid pace at the very beginning, and that when you loose sight of your company’s core values things can get messy VERY fast. They had become a beast of command and control with sour employees.
So, once they finally realized that they had become the beast that they tried to run away from, they revisited their core company goals and values. Then they took the pulse of their employees, finding out what really motivated them every day to get out of bed and drive to work, and how those motivators aligned with the company’s goals and values. Aligning your employees goals and the company goals will make each teammate personally responsible for their part within the company, allowing for self-motivation and interest in the company as a whole. Making you less responsible to your immediate manager and more responsible to the company as a whole. Derek says, “Sometimes people have a hard time figuring out who’s the boss when they visit the office.”
Derek sighted that these key communication between employee and employer was an extremely important part of really getting back to their creative, coordinated company that they had originally envisioned. Today, Integrum is a team of eleven VERY talented, VERY driven close-nit people that get things done and done right. But, without that reassessment of their goals and how their employees fit within those goals was key to that success.
I asked Derek, as part of a fast-growing company, what can I do as an employee to help foster that feeling of a creative culture instead of a command culture. Derek’s advice was to share my opinions and ideas candidly, build team activities that bring us closer together as a whole, and become entrepreneurial within my own company (build activities to promote and foster teams and the company within itself).