The culture of a company is shaped by the values and behaviors of its leaders. In an interview that N.Y. Times columnist Adam Bryant had with Vocalocity CEO Wain Kellum, we see how one leader’s values influence the culture of an organization.
In answer to an interview question, Kellum said:
are some core tenets about culture that you have to have to be successful, but
nuances of it vary dramatically. One tenet is that you have to have a core belief in others and a respect for the individual. It’s about how you listen to each other, because I think that teams have the best ideas, not individuals. If people don’t share that belief, they need to go work somewhere else.
Another one is to embrace diversity, because people from different cultures and different backgrounds communicate in different ways. If you don’t learn how to embrace diversity in a context of respect, oftentimes you lose the best ideas and the best thinking.
The third one is that people have to sign on to the belief that we have to grow — not just growing revenues, but people have to want to grow as individuals. If you buy into growth, then you buy into being open to feedback.
If I’m hired into a company, my first priority is to help people understand that things are going to change quickly. The more people absorb the fact that things have to change, the less likely they are to hang on to the way they used to be. You also really empower people who want to step up to be part of the new thing.
If a company is bringing me in, they have less than optimal performance, which means you always have a people problem. Sometimes people just need more help. They need more focus, they need more structure, they need more feedback on what they’re doing.
Sometimes people are just in the wrong job. Some of those people are in the wrong company. People who want to win care about me weeding out the people who are not contributing their fair share. But they also watch very closely how you let somebody go, and how you treat them.
The experience of Andrea Whitmer, a customer of Vocalocity who happens to be a blogger, suggests that the actions of the company are aligned with Kellum’s values. Kellum says he values respect for individuals, growth and change, and helping people get into the right jobs. This alignment is evident in customer service and quality of the products that Whitmer reviewed. Of course, this is the experience of only one person, and someone who is pretty clear about what she needs from Vocalocity. However, there is no doubt that the company is trying to create a culture consistent with the values of its leader.