Some time ago we set out to create one of the greatest places to work in America. We borrowed workspace ideas from Google. The concept that everyone gets benefits from Starbucks. An open, collaborative environment from multiple software and computer gaming companies. And, above all, a zealous cultural dedication from the likes of Zappos. But along the way in creating our ideal place to work something would occasionally get in the way: us.
You see, when you strive to create a great place to work you can influence it and shape it so far. But ultimately there will come a time that you must step aside and let it grow on its own from the seeds you have sown.
For instance, early on we would shut down the main office at 4 p.m. on Fridays and break out some adult beverages to kick off the weekend. Everyone seemed to really enjoy it and it became something that the whole office looked forward to at the end of the week. Initially, it was just our employees—bonding outside of the nine to five routine.
Soon, however, spouses, friends, and even entire families began showing up. Our initial reaction was that this metamorphosis would defeat the original purpose of the gatherings. Here we were shutting down early so that our people could bond and build relationships with one another and they were bringing in outsiders, people not employed by the company. Should we limit participation to only employees? Would this alienate those who attend? Or should we just let it naturally evolve and see what happens?
Ultimately we stepped back and let it evolve. What a great decision. Everyone loves our Friday happy hours that often stretch well into the evenings. Our people have bonded during these times not only with each other but with each other’s families and friends. In short, we created the concept but left it to our people to develop the culture that they wanted within that concept. We let go.
As a result, our culture, and by extension our company, is better than ever.
So how do you create a great place to work while letting go? Here are four essential steps to do so:
1. Figure out the type of workplace you want to create. What is important to you as you build your business? Dedication from employees? An enjoyable place to work? A collaborative atmosphere? Whatever the case, create your blueprint of what you want always allowing for tweaks along the way as the business grows.
2. Hire the right people that have a similar vision for the workplace. Sure, competency is a given. But hiring people who are great at what they do but do not fit within your vision for your growing business will not serve your ultimate goal. Spend a little more time in the hiring process and bring on only those who are not only great at what they do but who also share your vision for the future of the business.
3. Plant the seeds of your vision within your workforce. If you are trying to create and fun atmosphere set up happy hours, friendly competitions, celebrations of accomplishments, whatever. Allow for others to bring forth similar ideas and act on those ideas. In short, enable the workplace to become the place you envisioned it to be.
4. Most importantly, let go and get out of the way. A culture is organic and once in place it should be permitted to grow. If you have hired the right people you do not to control every aspect of the evolution of your workplace. Sure from time to time you should be there to help guide it along in a general sense. But if the office wants to dress up for Halloween and you typically do not, buy a costume. If the office wants to dress like your favorite royal for the wedding of William and Kate be ready to do so.
In short, once the blueprint is constructed and the right people brought on board you’ve got everything you need to create a great place to work. Now it’s time to let go.