Fostering a Positive Company Culture

You hear the word’s company and culture placed together quite frequently, but what does it really mean? You can think of culture as the glue that binds the company together, with the CEO being at the center of it. Company culture is increasingly important to millennials as they begin to graduate college. Let’s talk about company culture, why it’s critical for success, and why it’s up to the CEO to set the tone.


It isn’t just about perks, though fancy lunches out are nice. Perks won’t grow the business. Company culture is really about the everyday environment that CEOs provide for their team. Embracing the same vision and company values, employees should be thriving and growing, not competing and underperforming. The idea is that when a team truly comes together, customers will notice and the business will grow.


At the base level, addressing company culture means the CEO needs to address the company’s values, standards, and organization. The CEO should lead by example, consistently demonstrating company values. What does it take for someone to be successful in the company? When new people join the team, they will look to others as an example. What behavior is encouraged and rewarded? What behavior is punished? This sets a tone for the company. It also comes down to the talent that is hired and encouraged to grow with the company. Unqualified team members, or those that simply don’t fit the vision for the company, are going to negatively influence company culture.


CEOs need to stop and listen and watch. What are employees saying and how are they behaving? If CEOs take the time to listen, they will understand when employees are struggling with a project or feeling overwhelmed by their workload. Open dialogue means employees should feel comfortable talking to the CEO, because they know he or she is the one who will take action to fix it. If the company is large or it simply isn’t possible for each person to talk the CEO, an employee satisfaction survey should be made available. An overworked, overwhelmed team will not grow, and it’s up to the CEO to address that.


Collaboration is crucial and should be encouraged. Consider a game where teams are pitted against one another. If there are only 2 strong people on the team and they carry the bulk of the responsibility, they will easily be overpowered by another team that works together more effectively. Employees want to belong on a team—not compete with one another. The team atmosphere will increase motivation, innovation, and job satisfaction.


Fostering a positive company culture takes time, effort, and commitment, but it’s the right step for your business if you’re hoping to be innovative and successful in the long-term.



Fighting Conformity and Fostering Originality

In Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, Adam Grant acts as a masterful guide to sparking creativity and change. A professor and expert on finding motivation and meaning in life, Grant has been recognized as one of the world’s 10 most influential management thinkers by Thinkers50. He also made Fortune’s list of 40 under 40. Originals, a New York Times bestseller, was released in 2016 and has acted as an effective guide for leaders and teachers nationwide.


In Originals, Grant addresses the idea of changing the world by becoming original and saying goodbye to conformity and outdated traditions. There’s an obvious challenge to originating new ideas, policies, and practices without risk, but he stresses the importance of championing new ideas that go against the grain.


The stories included in Originals will leave you feeling inspired and motivated—no matter your field. Grant includes stories about an entrepreneur who pitches his start-ups by naming reasons not to invest, a woman under Steve Jobs at Apple who challenged him anyway, an analyst who overturned a secrecy rule at the CIA, a financial guru who fires employees when they fail to critique him, and a television executive who saved Seinfeld from being cut but had no prior comedy experience. From these stories, you’ll learn that success doesn’t always come in all areas, but broadening your perspective and stepping out of your comfort zone can make you more predisposed to success, satisfaction, and innovation.


For instance, Grant introduces the idea of middle status conservatism, or middle level mediocrity. This becomes an issue when you are too familiar and comfortable in your field and lose creativity. Middle management often suffers from this, while those at the top and bottom rungs of the ladder are more likely to avoid conforming.


Grant offers a unique, unexpected perspective—touting artistic pursuits that will encourage innovation in other areas and noting the benefits of procrastination (it triggers creative and productive results because it lets the brain process a problem or project right up until the deadline). He doesn’t just stop at adults, either. He uses his teaching expertise to discuss the merits of teaching children to foster a sense of originality.


These stories and studies will teach you to explore different ideas, understand when they are good, and recognize when they should be acted on. Many people struggle with speaking up for fear of being shut down, but Originals will teach you how to effectively speak up and build a team of allies that will support you.


As an executive and CEO, what are you doing to be “original” in your thinking? Many have found our coaching assistance to help develop such thinking and action.

7 Words CEOs Should Avoid When Giving Employee Feedback

Your team is important to you. They’re your backbone. So the last thing you need is a team that’s upset with you for using words or phrases that make you appear passive aggressive or worse, weak. As the boss, discussing job performance with your employees is inevitable, but you can avoid offending them by throwing these 7 words (and phrases) out of your vocabulary.


“If you want to succeed”

There are many definitions of success, and your employee might define success differently. Your definition of success does not determine how or if your employee is successful. Not only can this phrase come off as passive-aggressive and offensive, it may also sound threatening if it’s used in a job performance review.



‘Fine’ can make you sound weak and mediocre, not to mention indecisive. No employee wants to hear that the project they’ve been working on all week is just “fine.” It also doesn’t provide the employee with much of a gauge as to how to improve, or if they even need to. Try being more specific instead.


Using “seems” seems to be weak and indecisive, much like using the word ‘fine.’ It’s weak if you’re using it to avoid being honest about employee work not being up to par, and it’s indecisive if you’re using it because you can’t make up your mind about how you feel about something. Try saying exactly what you mean instead.



“Be more like”

They say that comparison is the root of all evil. Don’t compare people, especially not your employees during a performance review. If you think an employee would do better if they behaved or worked a certain way, get to the root of the problem and provide concrete examples for improvement.


‘Always’ is a strong word, and you should avoid it when speaking to your employees. It’s probably not true that they are “always late” or “always moody” or “always forgetting to save files to the network.”  




Just like with the word ‘always,’ avoid speaking in absolutes whenever possible. You immediately lose credibility when you tell an employee that they’ve never done this or never done that. Soften your word choice and use something like ‘rarely’ or ‘often’ or ‘consistently’ instead.


It might seem impossible not to use the word ‘you’ or some variation of it when providing feedback. After all, you are speaking directly to someone. However, constantly saying ‘you’ or ‘your’ puts the employee on the defensive; it comes off as accusatory. It might sound awkward and unnatural to refrain from the word, but it makes difficult feedback a little easier to swallow. Consider using “I’m noticing a lack of communication and I wonder if it’s because the workload is too high” versus “You are not communicating and I think it’s because you can’t handle the workload.” See the difference?



If necessary, write these phrases down so you remember to avoid using them. Better yet, write a script or bullet points about what you’re going to say so that you aren’t making it up as you go along. Even practicing your feedback out loud can be helpful. Oftentimes, hearing the words out loud sounds differently than how they did in your head.

Executive Evolution: How 2-D diversity helps accelerate growth.

The diversity conversation has changed. The old view of diversity, focusing on adding women and people of color to an organization, missed the mark in a big way. By focusing on physical characteristics, the well-meaning became the irrelevant. The current culture asks for authentic identities and potential clients can quickly locate mimics in the digital era.


Businesses have taken note.


With many chief diversity officers, as well as greater involvement from the CEO, background diversity, rather than physical diversity, has climbed up businesses priorities, and there is a method for how. It’s called 2-D diversity.


According to the Harvard Business Review, the model for 2-dimensional diversity is gaining a full head of steam as of late. In the 2-D model, there are two forms of diversity: inherent and acquired. Inherent diversity refers to an individual’s gender, or ethnicity. Acquired diversity is gained from unique experiences Companies that have three traits from inherent diversity and three traits from acquired diversity are considered as 2-D.


The benefit of 2-D is to capture markets in different demographic, as customers are more likely to buy from members that have a deeper understanding of their general background. In certain cases, 70% of businesses that practiced 2-D captured a new market, according the Harvard Business Review.


Employees within the company are also more confident to express new ideas. Leaders encourage their teams to be innovative and to make themselves heard. They search for the authentic market, and the authentic market requires the authentic voice. Companies that value difference are sure to support ideas from outside the usual perspectives, making funding for diverse employee projects attainable. The effect trickles down, as members from diverse backgrounds that take on larger roles set an example for entry-level employees.


Essentials of the 2-D model include:


  • Allowing each employees voice to stick.
  • Apparent support for the proposal of original ideas.
  • Giving team members the authority to make impact decisions.
  • Sharing credit for team achievements.
  • Offering abundant feedback.
  • Allowing and acting on critique from teams.


Companies that stress the importance of diverse output can see a greater response from their current staffs. It is not a process that requires to reach for rosters exclusively outside of their business, although, it may draw better prospects in.


True 2-D diversity impacts decision-making and builds implicit trust between team members and layers of management. It opens new markets, new ways of thinking, and creative problem-solving for your company. What could be better for a high-growth oriented, driven company?

Who Should I Have on My Executive Leadership Team?

Everyone’s answer is different. And every business’s situation is different. In the first days of running your business, it is natural to want to do everything yourself. From strategic planning to calling clients, to taking out the trash, starting a business is about a willingness to do anything and everything to get it off the ground.


As a business grows, founders and owners find themselves stretched thinner and thinner. You will find that you just can’t continue to oversee operations, marketing, cash flow, and fulfillment yourself. It’s time to bring on a senior team that’s able to manage all the critical areas of your business at a much higher level. Obviously, the individuals and job titles that are needed on your team will be different by company size, industry, and goals. Here are few essential roles to consider as you get started.


Chief Financial Officer (CFO)

This is about handling the money. Bottom line, top line, regulations, and strategic spending decisions all flow through this office. Most businesses start with outsourced accounting, tax preparation, and legal compliance teams. This officer handles those issues and more.


Chief Operations Officer (COO)

This role is all about measurements and details. Can’t figure out why your profitable business becomes less and less profitable as you grow? Bring on a COO. A Chief Operations Officer will develop the ability to measure things like employee efficiency and spending trends to find ways to shave dollars off the bottom line as your business scales. This is a great person to have by your side.


Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)

Many current business battles are battles of marketing. Because of this, corporate strategy becomes marketing strategy. Instead of a VP level marketing professional, your head of marketing should be a key player in your strategic team. This role is especially important for any business or industry that plays out primarily online.


Chief Technology Officer (CTO)

Security is huge for growing businesses. Most may assume CTO’s are early members of executive leadership teams for technology businesses, but consider a CTO for other industries as well. Technology systems continue to be some of the highest cost investments that businesses make and missteps in technology investments can cost a growing business in time and money. The Chief Technology Officer is there to represent you and make sure your technology partners are delivering on their promises.


Chief Executive Officer (CEO)

Wait, you say. I’m the CEO. I founded the company so I will lead it as the CEO. Maybe that’s the best way, but maybe it’s not. As time moves forward, you may discover that your skills and talents are better used elsewhere – sales and business development or new product engineering for example. The best of us recognize our weaknesses as well as our strengths. And you may discover that hiring an experienced CEO whose skill sets lie in business strategy frees you up to enjoy your favorite aspects of the business you started instead of trying to steer a ship you’ve never steered before.


After realizing just what skills you need on your executive leadership team, the next challenge comes in finding individuals that can fill those roles. CEO Solutions can help with both. We specialize in helping emerging growth businesses plan and build their leadership teams, partnering with them at every stage. We know great people. And we can introduce you to the ones who fit your business.