Contributed by Aaron Fairchild, CEO of Green Canopy, Inc.
I recently read the PSBJ article by Rachel Lerman on elephants under the corporate table. In the article she recapped an interview between Joe Wallin of Davis Wright Tremaine and Dan Levitan, the founder of Maveron. It was striking to hear Levitan, a venture capitalist, talk about not underestimating the importance of a “holistic team where there are no elephants under the table.” He noted that the most agile and high-functioning teams have love, respect, and appreciation for each other.
It sounds like Levitan is a millennial at heart. Corporate America is changing rapidly. The 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s Mad Men era of, “do as you are told” and heavy, top down management is a thing of the past. And as this interview illustrates, the importance of healthy corporate cultural development can no longer be denied. The millennial generation has been given a bad rap and pointed to as entitled and fickle job-hoppers, however my experience is that inside every top caliber talent, whether they were born before or after 1981, exists a millennial mind and heart.
"When the right cause is coupled with a great cultural framework, magic happens."
High functioning people need to be inspired to work hard. As Elon Musk recently said, “Putting in long hours for a corporation is hard, putting in long hours for a cause is easy.” In addition to having a cause that inspires, high functioning people need to feel respected in order to contribute their all. Furthermore, they will not work for a team that they themselves cannot respect. Just look at the non-profit world. Nonprofits are all about great causes yet, we all probably know at least one or two that can never seem to live up to their potential. Having a great cause or purpose in today’s corporate America isn’t enough… creating inspiration at intersection of people and the cause results from a deliberate focus on corporate culture.
When the right cause is coupled with a great cultural framework, magic happens. Think of that framework as a tapestry of shared values. Everything from who washes dishes in the corporate kitchen to how board meetings are run… those values present themselves to the rest of the team. If there is misalignment or inconsistency, no matter how noble the cause, the ecosystem of the organization will begin to break down. Respect and love for each other is so important.
Equally important is trust, where confident leaders motivate not through the force of their egos, but by letting go of control and empowering their team to take responsibility for their own decisions. Having autonomy is a must for top tier talent (micro-managers suck) and talented people are the very people that we all want to work with. Good managers will let go of control beyond what feels comfortable and play to the strengths of the team. Playing to someone’s strengths is simply another way of saying, don’t ask people to do what they are not good at. If a team member was hired for a job that they are not good at or interested in, then management should recognize their complicity and move the individual into a role that they are good at and interested in mastering.
Lastly, when thinking about the insights of people like Levitan, consider how far we have come in managing top talent in America, and then consider just how far we still have yet to go. Thankfully, the millennial mind has been born and is demanding more from corporate America. It demands that managers earn the right to retain top talent… top talent isn’t only interested in money.
The problems we face as a nation and as a species balancing on stressed and changing ecosystems are pressing to say the least. Establishing corporate cultures that are designed ultimately to respect people and play to their strengths is a must for the successful businesses of the future, and a must for a fragile species in need of corporate solutions that address resource scarcity on a planet in transition.
The Green Canopy blog is written by our CEO and Culture Curator, Aaron Fairchild, as well as our staff and a few very special guests.