Draw Inspiration From the Classroom to Build Your Company Culture

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As a tenured professor before starting Digital-Tutors, I taught classes of various sizes. One common denominator, though, was that each class had a variety of students with different backgrounds. They were all in the same room, but each person had unique motivation for being there.

The same is true for a company. Employees might walk through the same door each morning, but the reasons why they come to work each day are different. Every company gives its employees a basic paycheck. Few go further to truly meet the team’s needs by giving them a sense of belonging, affirmation and, meaning: BAM.

Humans are hardwired to belong to groups. We want to be a part of something. That’s belonging. Affirmation comes when we feel those around us truly appreciate our contributions to the tribe. Finally, the ultimate goal is meaning. Everyone wants to feel like their work means something. You’re not just punching keys in front of a computer screen — you’re making a difference in someone else’s life.

By offering employees BAM, you’re directly hitting each person’s motivations for working at your company.

Setting Expectations Through Rituals

From orientation to morning announcements, there are systems set up in a classroom environment to eliminate confusion. Students know exactly where to go and what’s expected of them. Do your employees have the same sense of clarity?

At Digital-Tutors, one of the rituals I established to create that level of clarity was meetings. Meetings had a very specific cadence that helped set the pace for everyone. Every month, the entire company met up. The team leader for each team shared what they’d accomplished in the past month and what was on deck to be completed in the coming month. This helped each person see the bigger picture and understand how their own projects aligned with the overall direction of the company.

This meeting cadence trickled down to the team level, too. Every week, each team would meet to review what was done in the past week and what was going to be done for the next week. Every morning, the team would meet up for a couple minutes before starting work to discuss what was accomplished the day before and what each person on the team would be doing that day. These weekly and daily team meetings were great for making sure the work being done was beneficial to the direction of the company.

Hold Your Own Office Hours

The classroom isn’t the only place learning happens. As a professor, I held office hours. My students knew I was available during these times to answer any questions they might have.

After starting Digital-Tutors, I kept the tradition of office hours. The only difference was that as a CEO, I got to have my office hours at a bar. It was a set time to visit with me outside the office walls.

Everyone in the company knew that on Mondays from 6-8 p.m., you could find me at a pub down the street from the office. Anybody was welcome to join me. Show up or not — it was completely up to you. Sometimes it’d be just one other person, and we’d talk about our families, video games, or whatever. Sometimes it’d be a big group, and we’d chat about our favorite movies or talk through some challenges with a project at work. Other times, no one would show up and I’d read a book and enjoy a drink by myself.

The beauty of this ritual was its consistency. Anyone could walk into my office at work, but this was an open-door policy in an off-site, low-key environment.

A great teacher can communicate to their entire class in a way that everyone understands. The goal is for everyone to be on the same page. The same is true for business leaders. The goal isn’t to be the supervisor for a collection of individuals. When each person in your company understands the company’s goal and is armed with a passion to hit the goal, that’s when you’ve created something bigger than a team — you’ve created a tribe.

Piyush Patel is author ofLead Your Tribe, Love Your Work: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Creating a Culture That Matters.

By Piyush Patel