Company culture is a phrase that continues to capture the attention of Silicon Valley CEOs and sociologists alike. It refers to the sum of personalities, management style, office amenities, and anything else that could influence the quality and nature of work accomplished within that company. Anything from having an open-door policy to placing a profusion of potted plants around the office, could positively impact company culture.
Advanced Marketing Strategies’ President and host of The Show Runner Marketing Podcast, Kathy Cunningham, sat down with Donna Otis, Chief Executive General Manager of the Bridges at Rancho Santa Fe, to talk about her leadership brand. An interesting conversation that led to a discussion:
“Is there such a thing as leadership, in terms of company culture?”
Donna talked about the atmosphere she helped create, and her leadership skills were evident. “My desk is here,” she said, gesturing abstractedly to a patch of air. “But really my desk is out there- “ Donna waved to a different patch of air- “in the 300 acres. I’m not afraid to pick up a broom and sweep if I need to. The ‘do as I do’ concept. The team believes that too. You really have to set the example. I am only as good as my team… My team has their own titles and job descriptions, but at the end of the day, it’s my responsibility to be compassionate and take care of them so they can do their job.”
Trust and compassion are vital to fostering a positive corporate culture that will empower employees to work as efficiently and creatively as possible. They create an open and safe environment, which is possibly more important than a company swimming pool. Donna says that her leadership brand is compassion, and that translates to a company culture of compassion.
Establishing a culture of continued learning
At Advanced Marketing Strategies, we try to establish traditions and spaces of continued learning. One such example would be our weekly Podcast Palooza. A team favorite, Palooza is a half hour weekly meeting. Three members of our team share a podcast they’ve listened to and drawn inspiration from. Topics range from Microsoft migration to inspirational speeches to tips and tricks from the top.
We challenge ourselves to learn, grow our own company culture, and share success stories to inspire each other to greatness. Last week, Kathy was among the three presenters at Podcast Palooza. She presented an Onward Nation podcast hosted by Stephen Woessner titled, “How to Create a Contagious Culture with Anese Cavanaugh.” What auspicious timing, to have a presentation about corporate culture coinciding with Donna Otis in our studio. It was then and there the idea for The AMS Podcast Palooza.
“I liked this podcast so much, I bought the book and wanted to share it with everyone!” Kathy said, holding up her copy of Anese’s book, Contagious Culture: Show Up, Set the Tone, and Intentionally Create an Organization that Thrives. Kathy shared with the team the idea that the energy in a room can be affected by a single negative source. This idea had particular currency and resonated with everyone in the room. The importance of self-care is also necessary and productive because as Kathy explained to us, the state of one person’s well-being infuses itself into the climate of the company.
Introducing compassion to the workplace
Care and compassion, two recurring threads in both this week’s Podcast Palooza and Donna Otis’ interview, foster a company culture that is welcoming and supportive. Sometimes the care is simply in the details. Advanced Marketing Strategies is fortunate to have Bonnie Carlson, our office manager, who makes infused water for the office when she can. This week featured a refreshing combination of watermelon, mint, and lime.
“Why mention flavored water? Who cares?” says Kathy, “We care!” “The infused water, albeit a minor detail, is a contribution to the culture in our office.” Corporate, office culture is not how many plants are placed on desks, or how many breaks employees take, or even whether we have Bonnie’s fruity water waiting for us. “Things like the infused water helps lift spirits and give people something to smile about,” Bonnie said. “Food and smiles make for happy workers.”
Company culture shapes and is shaped by the people who inhabit that space, and whose behaviors and personalities contribute to the mood and expectation of that space. Bonnie’s water says she cares. Kathy’s dedication to the team’s inspiration and continued learning through Podcast Palooza says she cares. Donna’s open-door policy says she cares. Caring is fundamental to our brand of culture.
The verdict: the leader of the company dictates the nature of its culture only in that they hire the people who contribute to it.
More on the Showrunner Marketing Podcast:
The Show Runner Marketing Podcast was born of Kathy Cunningham’s dedication to recognizing female leadership in communications. Show Runner is a space that is dynamic and inclusive, where women have a platform to share their experiences and learn from each other. Each episode is a vehicle for inspiration, combining to create a network of influential industry executives. These are leaders of their respective field who just happen to be female, and Show Runner seeks to highlight their stories to celebrate and normalize the presence of women in executive roles.
“I enjoyed hearing Donna’s take on leadership and how she creates a culture of compassion. She is truly an articulate and inspirational example for me, and I am a better leader for having known her. I like to think of our culture here at Advanced Marketing Strategies as one of continued learning and positive impact. We exist in a world of marketing and communication that is changing every day, and we must keep up and innovate.”
-Kathy Cunningham, Founder and President of Advanced Marketing Strategies and Host of the Show Runner Marketing Podcast
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