What makes a great culture and how do you shape that world? Ask Monica Sagrario, Managing Director at Sila Solutions Group. That’s exactly what I did.
First, some background as to why I chose to do that:
At the beginning of May I had the privilege of participating in the Face of America bicycle ride (https://www.wtsevent.org/faceofamerica/) with a team of Sila Solutions Group employees. The ride is an inspirational and challenging experience. About 700 people all “riding the same road”. I experienced something else that weekend I found intriguing and wanted to investigate a bit more; the Sila culture. I experienced that culture in action from the 12 people I was riding with. They were welcoming, caring, driven, bright and problem solvers. There was a camaraderie and collaboration amongst the group that you don’t often see. Each person seemed to care as much or more about the person next to them in the group than themselves. They also treated each other with deep respect. The mix of the group included employees that were newer, more tenured, and in between. Though hierarchy was never discussed nor apparent, there was an office manager, managing director, team leads, and other technical folks. There were those that had done the ride multiple years and those that had never done it. And of course, me, the only non-employee.
After the ride, I decided to talk to the Managing Director who basically has responsibility for developing the culture. However, we both acknowledged that it’s certainly everyone’s responsibility and only part of her role. She didn’t participate in the ride and wasn’t aware of what I had experienced as an “outsider”. When I spoke with Monica I had a list of talking points to review about culture. The first one, ‘describe the culture’, she was ready for.
Monica said she gets asked to describe Sila’s culture in interviews all the time. She started to embark on her answer when I asked if I could interrupt at the mention of Sila’s values. I told her they were spoken of but not listed on the website and asked if I could try to name them based on my research and experience with 12 Sila folks on the ride. She had me give it a shot. Although the values are not yet posted on the website, they will be evident if you’re around Sila employees (I was pretty darn close in my answer).
- Long term perspective
- Entrepreneurial spirit
- Authentic relationships
- Active collaboration
- Realizing significance
We then talked about how to make sure those values are permeating the culture. Here’s what we discussed:
- Scrupulously recruiting and finding people who align with the values
- Ensuring that you decipher the core attributes through the questions that you ask
- If what is important to the interviewee does not align with the core values, then regardless of their skill they are out of the running
Protecting and rewarding the culture based on the values:
- Being quick to let people go if they are behaving in a way that does not align with the values
- Formal and informal recognition that aligns with the values
- Create ongoing opportunities to reinforce the values including regular management meetings
How the management team reinforces the values and culture:
- Live it by example
- Care about people, then they will care about others also
- Non-hierarchical where there is not just one point of failure in terms of a person having to get 100% from their direct manager. They have significant touch points with others so that if one manager is not 100% living the values, they will experience it firsthand from someone else.
- Reward behaviors that are aligned with the core values
When asked why people stay when they could potentially get paid more elsewhere, Monica said, “Other organizations do what we do but it is how we do it that makes us different.” Knowing who you are is critical and that is a differentiator for Sila. They are not trying to be the larger firms where people must compete for seats, positions, and opportunities. They have an environment where people can find opportunity. They can become part of a collaborative, innovative environment where people are treated with concern as human beings, and where work, life, and growth are important. It takes time, effort and ownership. I could feel that ownership Monica has coming through the phone! This is a true, caring organization that does not only exist to make money but to make a difference.
Jim Collins wrote in an article about aligning actions with values:
Core values are not something people “buy-in” to. People must be predisposed to holding them. Executives often ask me, “How do we get people to share our core values?” You don’t. Instead, the task is to find people who are already predisposed to sharing your core values. You must attract and then retain these people and let those who aren’t predisposed to sharing your core values go elsewhere. Creating alignment is a two-part process. The first is identifying and correcting misalignments. The second is creating new alignments, or what I call “mechanisms with teeth.”
Thank you, Monica and Sila Solutions Group, for the opportunity to experience your culture in action and to look under the hood a bit more.
If you would like more information on how we can help shape your culture to match your values please reach out.