Understanding how terrible it can be to work in a negative and manipulative work environment, I understand the importance of building a strong and positive culture that allows everyone within the organization to feel empowered.
Q : What is the biggest challenge you have met in your career?
Jeff : The most challenging moment in my career occurred at the beginning. When I co-founded my first startup, I had just come off 5 years of financial statement auditing experience with virtually no experience in tech. Over the next two years we took a concept and brought it to life through diligence, hard work and a little bit of luck. We were fortunate enough to get funded by some of the largest funds in the Valley and everything was headed in the right direction.
In the end, the party stopped due to a fundamental issue that affects any company: culture. As founders, we were all young, we all had our own ideas on how the business should be run and over time we had developed severe communication issues internally. Communication became siloed and there was discomfort in communicating openly with one another. To me, the culture that had developed was one of secrecy and one of leveraging information to control people.
The excitement of the moment, to build a company based off a radical new idea that was gaining traction and attention, was overwhelmed by the daily discomfort in the office and amongst my peers.
When I ultimately split from the company I spent a lot of time digesting what had happened and why. The only perspective I was capable of having during the moments within the company were the negative sensations that related to what was happening in front of my eyes. I rarely stepped back and took the macro perspective. Finally being able to reflect from that vantage point proved to be powerful in my development. Realizing that our team culture was the driving force for the dysfunction opened up my eyes.
Although my experience within the company was by far the most challenging experience of my career, it was also the most rewarding. I'm grateful to have had this experience early on in my career as the lessons learned from it have only benefited me as I've moved forward.
Culture is everything and the direction from the CEO and the message he or she sends to the executive team and beyond truly effects the path of the entire organization. Every time. Period.
I've since become infatuated with studying the different philosophies and styles of leadership across industries and professions. Understanding how terrible it can be to work in a negative and manipulative work environment, I understand the importance of building a strong and positive culture that allows everyone within the organization to feel empowered.
Q: How would you describe your company culture, and what are the superpowers of your team?
Jeff : Culture is everything.
For Joy, when sitting down to discuss our culture we first defined our core values: joy, compassion, humility, simplicity and innovation. These values are who we are and what we believe in.
Through how we define these terms and what they mean to us, we use them to guide our decision making, dictate who we work with and most importantly, we use them to create an ecosystem that fosters an environment where everyone on our team feels empowered to think creatively and take risks. Mistakes will be made and not everything will turn out for how we had hoped. That is ok. Progress is made even through failure.
Understanding that there is a lesson to be learned through every mistake is the positive and productive perspective we want. Having the confidence and encouragement of your managers and peers after a mistake, creates an even stronger team member. It is the difference in feeling as if everyone on your team is with you, or everyone on your team is against you in a personally vulnerable moment. It is very easy to imagine the extreme difference in sensation from feeling supported or criticized at that moment.
We encourage our team members to get up, evaluate the situation that occurred, learn from it and try again. When there is success after failure, genuine confidence builds. That "I can do this" attitude starts to form and from there, that persons capabilities begin to become limitless. Even more powerful is that attitude becomes contagious. It is our hope that we as a company have this collective attitude towards anything we pursue.
Our superpower is simple, difficult and rewarding. We communicate openly.
Establishing a culture where open communication is not judged but seen as an opportunity to understand another persons perspective, is crucial to how our team operates. The purpose of communicating openly is so that there is clarity in the moment and everyone feels comfortable raising any topic or question without fear of judgement. We encourage questions and rebuttals because this brings clarity for all parties on whatever given topic. Our belief is that focusing on the problem at hand, leaving your ego at the door and speaking your mind is what drives the best solutions.
The hard part is focusing on the problem at hand, leaving your ego at the door and speaking your mind. Bias, ego, competition, these are all qualities of being human. But when you cater to these feelings you lose track of solving a problem and focus more on pushing a certain agenda.
Communicating openly is beneficial in many ways. Individuals can have their opinions heard and taken seriously which makes them feel like a part of the team. As a company, we get amazingly creative ideas tossed around and everyone can chime in and build off these ideas to create an even grander concept. In the end its an idea built off an idea, built off an idea with 2, 3, 5…10 peoples input that led to that final solution. A solution that would have never been talked about had it been kept to the original source because they were too afraid or uncomfortable to speak up.
Q: What are some challenges or trends you see in hiring today?
Jeff : I had to do the most hiring when I was involved with the restaurant industry. It was a challenge to hire because there were and still are so many opportunities for those looking to work in the food service industry. San Francisco specifically not only has to compete with all the local restaurants but also the tech companies. Many tech companies have internal cafeterias with a set menu and regular hours. Many workers are choosing to work there as the stress is much lower and the benefits are amazing.
When I quickly realized how difficult it was becoming to hire employees, we started to focus intensely on how we could beef up what we could offer potential employees. We started to offer above market wages, lay out the future expansion of the business to show career growth and become more vocal about our health benefits, amongst other things.
The economy has turned into more of a two way street regarding the employee / employer relationship. And I love it. I think if an employer can show an employee that they care enough through taking the steps to 'sell' the job to an employee, I think you get a more appreciative employee. A more appreciative employee cares more about your business and that attitude is evident to a restaurant customer.
So to me the challenge is that businesses have to do a lot more 'selling' to their potential employees. But again, I think it leads to a better outcome for all parties.