Creating a Culture of Trust

This post originally appeared on Medium

How the “Appreciate” Changed our Company Culture for the Better

I’m always a little amazed that we can work around other humans on a regular basis. It’s no surprise, I mean if we take an inventory of how often we feel slighted or moderately bothered by one of our colleagues, it’s probably at least once every few weeks if not more. I guess to a certain extent, it’s to be expected. We all have different goals, visions for the future, and personalities.

I think a lot about how to make a culture where people enjoy working alongside one another. I want people to like one another and really enjoy working together. But things do happen, and a colleague not fulfilling a promise or a personality conflict can cause a real rift to form between people.

It doesn’t help that sometimes it can seem like negative criticisms can overpower positive ones. That can make it really difficult to get an accurate picture of what’s working well and what isn’t working around the office. It can also mean that often times we think our co-workers have a more negative opinion about us than they really do.

I was doing an annual 360-degree review with an old colleague of mine a few years back. When we finished talking through what his teammates thought of him, he said that he already knew the areas where he let people down but really wished people could have told him what they appreciated about him throughout the year.

My old colleague didn’t have a positive feedback loop.

With most company cultures, people will bring up the negative things. Most colleagues will bring up when they’re frustrated with each other.

When I took over GAN I wanted to fix that problem of only bringing up the negative.

After digging around for awhile, I came across an idea that I adapted from John Mackey at Whole Foods that has almost single-handedly changed our culture for the better.

I had wondered what would happen if we could have a company culture if whenever something good happened we were able to bring it up with some kind of regular cadence. What we came up with was a weekly “appreciate.”

Here’s how it actually works in practice and why it’s been so impactful.

Every Monday at the end of our team meeting we take turns picking out a team member. Everyone in the room then shares what they’re thankful for about that specific person over the last week. After that, we pick out another team member and repeat the process.

By the end of the meeting, every person will have shared what he or she is thankful for about each person on the team.

The whole process takes around 30 minutes for seven of us. It sounds so simple, but what this has done for our company has been phenomenal. This simple routine has meant that we all know where we stand with our colleagues. That’s a powerful change.

At our meeting you will hear things like, “I really appreciate how you stepped in to help me this week when I was struggling.” You may hear “I’m thankful for how you talk to our clients as you’re so warm, engaging and thoughtful with them.”

This simple ritual allows us to know what our strengths are — but we hear about it from a trusted source. We hear about our strengths from people who work with us for 40 hours every week. It gives other people the opportunity to actually hear about the impact our good works are having. That means we spend less time in meetings trying to awkwardly talk ourselves up.

This one tweak has helped us to create a culture where we can really feel confident in our abilities.

There’s nothing magical about it, when so many of us are worried about how we are doing, we actually know. It’s easier to see that your colleagues believe in you. It’s also a great confidence booster.

We’ve created a culture based on trust with one another.

This hasn’t been a panacea for all of our issues, but if I could recommend one practice we’ve adopted that has changed the way our company works together — this is it.

Happy New Year And Appreciating.