Before I started at Rocksauce Studios, I trained as a classical chef, working everywhere from restaurants to weddings to living rooms. My current role doesn’t require as many hours in front of an oven.
But the lessons I learned in the kitchen have helped me build better teams and a stronger workplace.
Just like a meal is only as good as its ingredients, a company’s culture is only as good as its people. Everyone knows adding mayonnaise to rice would ruin the recipe, but not everyone understands how different personalities and skill sets blend together to create a better work environment. And in a recent study, only 15 percent of respondents felt their company’s culture was properly set.
Successful companies form when teams with complementary skills share a vision. At Rocksauce, we’ve discovered that strong culture improves employee performance and reduces turnover. That doesn’t mean everyone shares the same tastes — on the contrary, diversity is critical. Thanks to strong leadership and shared core values, we maintain a common respect for our differences and accomplish more together.
The Right Ingredients
Both chefs and CEOs are responsible for seeing their recipes through to completion. As the leader, you must understand not only how to hire the right people, but also how to help them work together toward the best result.
Better cultural leadership starts with honesty. Be honest with your team about your vision and goals so they understand how their work fits into the overall strategy. By promoting a positive culture and a team-first attitude, your team will think more about the big picture and cooperate to meet shared goals.
Cooking the Perfect Culture
Building the right culture for your company isn’t hard. With a dash of this and a pinch of that, these strategies will help you improve your company culture and get the most from your team.
1. Update your menu as a team.
Once you set your core values, don’t let them sit forgotten on a poster in the hallway. Understand how your values drive your company forward, and measure employee performance in relation to those ideals. According to research from Baylor University, companies that reward employees who champion company values see reduced turnover and improved job performance.
When we first crafted our mission statement, we went around to our employees and asked them about their personal values, what they thought Rocksauce’s values were, and where those values aligned. This helped us solidify meaningful values that we could celebrate as employees hit wins that mattered to them and to the company as a whole.
2. Leverage taste testers.
Don’t make values a top-down initiative. Instead, involve your team members — ask them what they think is important, then dig further to find out what those values look like in action.
When you hire new employees, encourage current team members to evaluate the culture fit of incoming hires as part of the interview process. Even the most skilled employee can drag down overall production if the culture fit isn’t right.
3. Build up your sous chefs.
When problems arise, don’t keep the debate behind closed doors. Branch out from executive leadership to see what the rest of the team has to say. Startup founders and leaders often struggle to delegate, but the more you learn to trust your team’s input, the stronger your culture will grow and the more informed your decisions will be.
4. Spice things up.
Even the most well-crafted values and culture can get stale fast. A high-quality company culture can bring employee turnover down as low as 13.9 percent, but employees will still come and go. As that happens, the culture will inevitably change, and old approaches may no longer fit your evolving staff.
My team uses a core value assessment in annual employee reviews. We then chat with team members about how they can work on aligning their personal values with what we look for in our culture — or whether our culture may need a change.
By focusing on your team first, you’ll find a foolproof recipe for success. There’s no secret ingredient — simply follow the strategies above to build a great company culture and see the results for yourself. Bon appétit!