Posted: November 04, 2011

A tale of two cultures: From purgatory to paradise, Part 2

In with the new!

Lisa Jackson

Editor's note: This is the second of two parts. Read Part 1.

What's different at Moxie Sozo?
When I was interviewed by the Creative Director at Moxie Sozo, I was told "You and Chris are running Business Development. That means you figure out how to do it. I hired you because you're good at what you do." He said it and he meant it. That has been exactly what I've been doing ever since. This built a real sense of trust between me, my boss and my team.

Our organizational structure has very little hierarchy. The Principal/Creative Director oversees creative aspects of all work but there are no "bosses." All departments and employees work side-by-side.

Decision-making is vastly different here. Everyone trusts everyone else and their decisions. It all begins with the hiring process. Most staff here were referred by a current employee. We have people calling all the time asking us if we're hiring. We bring in people we know and trust, and trust builds. It's open and transparent - nobody holds back. We all know clearly where the business is headed. Issues are brought out on the table, and there is no gossip and chatter - there's never a need for it. It's truly one of the strangest things I've ever encountered in a work environment-all 38 of us genuinely love working together!

It does mean you need thick skin. If someone doesn't agree with what you're doing, they'll let you know. It's an effective way to correct mistakes efficiently, instead of feeling in the dark. All of these elements make Moxie Sozo feel like a family - a functional family. There's really no employee turnover here. I've been here for over a year now; one person left because her husband took a new job in Chicago. The people here make things fun and everyone is truly in it for the long-haul. Nobody dishes on past employees because nobody quits.

I'm incredibly productive here. I feel the sky's the limit with what I'm pursuing. I know the Principal of the agency is invested in me, which makes me feel invested in the company. I want the success of Moxie Sozo as much as I want success for myself. My partners and I aren't competitive; we cooperate and approach each opportunity together. At this point I don't care about who is the lead on an account; I'm excited to pitch because I know they'll be happy as clients. We want to work on projects we have a passion for, and we can afford to be picky that way. We all work side-by-side; the designers even help with business development. Earlier this year one of our designers poked his head in my office and said: "Can you go after RTD, I would love to design for them, I know I could do amazing work for them!" I am thrilled to report that RTD recently hired Moxie Sozo for creative services. That same designer helped me with the visuals of our proposal to RTD as well.

And that spirit is an exact mirror of our relationships with clients. In 12 years we've never lost a client to another agency. I truly believe that is fundamentally a result of our nurturing work environment here at Moxie Sozo.

I WANT to be here - I wake up and can't wait to start the day. I LOVE it here!

Here are a few lessons on building company culture that can be drawn from Jen's experience:

1) Trust is everything. If you have a trust problem in your culture, it undermines everything. How does a CEO learn if they do? This free culture self-assessment - pay attention to questions 7, 13-16 and 24.
2) Praise publicly, criticize privately. No matter how unrealistic ideas are or how much you disagree with them, never criticize someone publicly or behind their back. Provide all feedback directly to people. See #1.
3) Collaboration requires openness. If you live by titles and hierarchy, there's a good chance you have turf wars. Place more attention on clarifying decision rights. This is more effective in driving collaboration than a false sense of power through titles. If you want people to reach across boundaries, talk about it in your staff meetings and encourage cooperation.
4) Be customer-centric. Everyone wants to be part of winning and that always means happy customers, put your money where your mouth is. Reward behaviors that delight the customer.
5) Hire right. Jen said it well "It all begins with hiring the right people." Never compromise on a hiring decision with someone who doesn't fit your culture. If you make a bad hire, fix it. Fast.

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Lisa Jackson is a corporate culture expert on assessing, defining, and improving culture's impact on business performance, especially during mergers and strategy shifts. Look for her new book "Fit to Compete: 9 Truths for Transforming Corporate Culture" this fall or visit her on the web at http://www.jacksonandschmidt.com.

 

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