There has never been a company in the history of the world where things haven’t gone wrong. In fact, I’m a strong believer that in our most epic challenges, we open up an opportunity for our greatest learnings. This is where Claire and I found ourselves some 15 months ago.
As if time had stood still, I can distinctly remember each detail as I sat sprawled on the floor, bare feet of course, cradling an almost empty tub of sour gummy worms. Claire was on the chair across the room from me, her long legs pulled up when we started to laugh. Not a funny laugh but a more hysterical one, where your body involuntarily convulses, to release toxins it had quite literally made a conscious decision not to absorb. And in that moment, we spurted out a new set of behaviours we felt we, and our team, needed to embrace fully, if we were to see another year through. We called this very first iteration our “No Arsehole Policy”. It was absolutely what our company needed at the time. A stop-you-in-your-tracks, no-nonsense, take-ownership, and be- accountable, set of behaviours that we totally stuck by, using it as a sense check, and helping us achieve what we needed to achieve … not for the faint-hearted. We got pushback. They made the team squirm. They achieved what they needed to. Over the course of 12 months, we course-corrected a team whose behaviour had become misaligned. The policy served us well.
While it wasn’t all roses, nor solely the result of our “No Arsehole Policy”, we grew massively and solidly during 2017.
In February this year we returned to Cape Town for our annual leadership strategy week. Daphne and Prasoon joined us this time. While I could still be found sitting barefoot on the floor (my choice), things were quite different to the previous year. Working our way through our agenda meant our days were spent with deep, intense planning sessions, interspersed with fun Cape Town-specific activities and always-delicious meals. Towards the end of our week, when our brains were full and firing firmly in the same direction, we sat down to discuss our people. We spoke about perceived strengths and weaknesses, our challenges and growth areas. We worked through our comms streams to spot trends in behaviours, happiness and hurdles. Then late on the Wednesday evening, it was Valentines day, we found ourselves sitting around a small cocktail table, behind a glass wall, overlooking table mountain; and that is where, over drinks and clarity, we documented this year’s set of defined behaviours to help us drive forward our company culture and annual goals, while acting as a sense check on many of our decisions. And so, our NO BULLSHIT GUIDE was born.
30 000ft view of our No Bullshit Guide:
- Talk: nip things in the bud, say what’s in your head, ask questions, give feedback.
- Be yourself: bringing your authentic self to work is the only sustainable solution. As a global team, we embrace different cultures and personalities. We want you to bring the best you, for real.
- Embrace stress: our “No Arsehole Policy” had a version of this which made some of our team a little uncomfortable. In startup-land stress is a reality. Own it. Embrace it. Deal with it.
- Ask for Help : we constantly push against silos and fully advocate collaboration. These words though, fall short on a team of super competent humans that seriously want to overachieve. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, we are in this playground together, and really want to encourage our team to do this more often.
- Own the problem: so we all fuck up, some more than others, but owning up is more important. If you spot something that is not working well, speak out about what’s bothering you, but bring solutions. Activate.
- Love our clients: this was on last years list too but it’s absolutely essential that it appears here too. It’s too easy to give this point lip service, it’s in the doing that the difference lies, and we have room for improvement.
- We: as a team, we are in this together. Building our vision leaves little room for self-glorification. We absolutely cannot and don’t want to do this alone.
- Details matter: Being specific is critical in a fully remote team. This behaviour involves giving what’s needed to deliver excellence.
- Get uncomfortable: Growth lies beyond your comfort zone. To encourage growth and development, we want to get uncomfortable … often.
- Did: Not could have, should have, would have. Let’s rather get shit done.
And there you have it, our 2018 No Bullshit Guide. A piece of work appearing light at first glance but instead crafted on deep reflection of pivotal moments in the business, strong and weak(er) decisions, and perceived personal/team growth areas.
Two years in a row and therefore the beginning of another company tradition. I have absolutely no idea what we’ll call them next year … I feel a competition coming on! #did