By Elva Carri
When I started the tech company I run, I knew exactly what I needed. I needed to be organised, to sit at a computer, a logo and business cards, to choose the right clothes to give off the right impression. When I got to a point where a team was involved, I’d need to make sure everyone could work to their strengths and on things that made them happy. It was going to be perfect. It was all so simple. What I didn’t realise was that a big part of my job would actually be difficult, but incredibly rewarding, personal development efforts. Every day I discover new flaws, fears and frustrations in myself. That’s not just uncomfortable for me, if not approached correctly, it can have some pretty negative effects on your business. I felt I understood the importance of a good company culture from day one, but what I had set about trying to create was a culture that was perfect for me. Guess what? Other people are different humans to me with different needs. Shocker, right? You’d think that would have been obvious. However, two heroes arrived on the scene before I managed to make a mess of my own mind or the business. Deborah Byrne of Virago Coaching and management consultant Tom Mitchell got to know myself and my co-founders through some simple surveys (check out Forte Profiles) and some great chats. I
cannot overstate how useful it’s been to us already. While I know from my time with them that everyone takes away something different, these were the three greatest lessons for me.
1. Strengths = Weaknesses
The things that are great about us, can also be the things about us that are our most challenging for others. For example, one of my strengths is that I’m creative. It sounds great, but if I’m too constricted by rules, I can’t be creative, so I shrug them off. Great for me, but imagine how difficult that could be for someone trying to manage a team’s schedule week to week? Instead of seeing them as someone try to pen me in, I need to see that their organisational skills are another strength we need.
2. We Are All Different
This leads on from the previous point, but comes into how you approach company culture. How you like to be rewarded, how you like to be communicated with, when you’re most productive will not be the same for everyone. Ask people what they prefer instead of assuming everyone likes it the way you do. It doesn’t mean anyone is doing it wrong, you just need to tailor your approach to suit the individual.
3. Watch, Ask, Listen, Talk
It’s often easy to see when someone is bothered or uncomfortable, but many of us are guilty of reacting to that in one of two ways. Either we also become annoyed because they’re ‘wrong’ for being bothered, and/or we assume we know what the problem is. Ask. Ask nicely. Ask one-toone, and then properly listen. Don’t listen to argue your needs, listen for theirs. Then lay out what you need. There just might be a glaringly obvious solution once all the information is out in the light. Don’t be afraid to talk, be afraid of staying silent, because that’s a much slower way to solve a problem. It sounds so simple, but summoning the initial drop of ego and spark of courage to initiate the conversation can be tough. But you’ve got this far, so I say brave it.
Elva Carri is the founder of girlCrew. Girlcrew.com. twitter: @elvacarri