In a year marked by ongoing societal tensions compounded by the unending scourge of COVID-19, our agency took on the challenge of reassessing and renewing our vision of who we are through the development of our statement of corporate culture. We collectively believed that, in the midst of national and global turmoil, we had the opportunity to create something important, valuable and necessary.
Company culture statements typically are etched in stone by the founder. This was not the case for Stanton Communications. In the early days of the agency, I was too busy searching for clients to take time for reflection about what I wanted this firm to stand for. Of course, I wanted us to always deliver excellent work and put the client first; however, there needed to first be a client. Naturally, I directed my focus towards building the business without much consideration of what we actually valued.
Over the years, a method of working together emerged organically. It came to be known as The Stanton Way. This was an understanding and belief system revealed through behavior rather than a rigidly memorialized written edict. It was an “I’ll know it when I see it” corporate ethic that evolved within our firm and provided a construct for living rather than talking about our guiding principles and values.
Sounds good, but how do new hires know where to begin as they strive to fit into a running system? How do unwritten ideas reflect and address societal currents? How do we align our personal beliefs and philosophies when there is uncertainty about what our company believes? Ignoring such questions seemed irresponsible. Dictating an ethic seemed imperious. Disregarding the perspectives of individuals on the team seemed plain wrong.
Together, we began a process of talking to each other, sharing how we were feeling, what mattered to us as people, not solely as professionals, and what sense of greater purpose we would find motivating and inspiring. We approached the process as we would for a client. We applied our Matrix Blueprint structure, our proprietary strategic process, to avoid being the “shoemaker’s children” as we so often find ourselves.
At the mid-point of the year, we coalesced around the key attributes we felt were most important to us:
These seemed a good start, but what did each of these words mean in real-world terms? We spent time thinking and talking together to arrive at a degree of specificity about each one.
As we worked through this phase of the process, we quickly realized that we needed additional precision as to how we believed these attributes could be demonstrated through our work and personal interactions. That led us to the “CORR” elements of what would become our statement of culture.
We liked how these guiding principles sounded–even if we were intentionally misspelling the notion that these concepts reside at the core of all we do.
We did not stop there. In small working groups, we developed consensus on how we would live these values in relation to each of our key attributes. When we gathered for our end of year retreat, we finalized our work with a focus on how we Care – for each other, for clients, for our communities and society.
What now exists is a new expression of who we are and what we commit to. This statement of culture will be featured on a new web site, now in development, and will be shared with candidates and applied to our 360 performance reviews. It will bring clarity and focus to what previously was merely understood, though never fully articulated.
Above all else, this new statement of culture is the combined work of everyone in the firm, not any single individual, and, most importantly, not just the founder. Each of us can reflect on this and see ourselves and our contributions in what we have created together. Ideally, even long into the future, we each will be able to look back on this experience with a measure of pride in our shared accomplishment.
Ghandi once said “A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and the soul of its people.” This year, with all of the pressures, tensions and anxieties in our world, the people of Stanton put their heart and soul into this exercise. Through their work, they lived the values we mutually expressed without feeling those values were imposed on them. As the founder and a leader of this team, it is far more gratifying to know our culture is an expression of our shared values and principles than only my own ideas. It is inspiring to consider how this new expression will be reflected in the team’s commitment, creativity and energy that advances us into the new year and our new future.