The Fortune 500 Insider Network is our newest online community where top executives from the Fortune 500 share ideas and offer leadership advice with Fortune’s global audience. Val DiFebo, CEO of Deutsch New York, has answered the question: How do you build a company’s culture?
Building a creative agency culture is a delicate balancing act. It’s important to build and nurture a strong culture that makes people feel at home, but it must be flexible enough to evolve over time. Above all, it must encourage the free flow of ideas.
At Deutsch (IPG), for example, we’ve built a collaborative culture where there’s no wrong place or time to contribute, and there’s no hierarchy to whose ideas are valued more or less. Everyone — from the newest hire to the top executives — is encouraged to make themselves heard. Cultures like this work when leaders reward those who aren’t afraid to be told “no” from time to time. The key to maintaining a balance of creative freedom, honesty and support within culture is offering honest, constructive feedback. That way, employees have the confidence to go back to the drawing board and come back with something better.
Here are some specific ways a company can build a strong culture:
When you’re direct with each other, people quickly learn that taking things personally is a waste of time. Respect each other enough to applaud each great idea and accomplishment, and let others know when they’re headed down the wrong path. That respect trickles down from the leadership. Our team members, for example, know we have confidence in them and that we expect them to feel confident in each other.
In order to nurture an authentic company culture, leaders must be honest and transparent with their team. No one should have to question where he or she stands in the company or where the company is headed — they should be told. When employees aren’t worried that they’re being kept in the dark, they feel more secure in their roles, understand the status of the company, and can focus their attention on creating great work.
Don’t be afraid to change course
Part of our culture of constructive feedback is that our leaders aren’t afraid to admit when they need to course correct. No one makes perfect decisions 100% of the time, and the management here is no different. When this happens, it’s important to clearly communicate to your staff what went wrong and why, and where you’re headed next. This way, you can all learn from it together. This encourages your teams to look at their own work and have the confidence to make corrections as they go forward.
Don’t just talk the talk when it comes to diversity. Walk the walk. We have a team devoted to seeking out and nurturing talent that will bring a multitude of voices, opinions and ideas to our work. In order to effectively communicate with today’s consumers, a diverse staff is a necessity. Diversity is crucial to your team’s creative process in order for new ideas and concepts to come from a team that represents all different backgrounds, ages, ethnicities and lifestyles. While you might be coming from different places as you work to solve problems, you’ll all be on the same page with your business culture, creative process and client goals.