Ryan Kellogg is a veteran of the US Army, where he learned to adapt to his surroundings very quickly. He also realized the military has a very strong culture, something that was very different when transitioning into civilian life.
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What’s your take on corporate culture?
When I think about corporate culture and I lean back on my experiences when I was in the military, I think about why the culture there was something that I was really involved in and something that I was extremely passionate about. Then getting out, why was it that I bounced around a bit, I didn’t know my way. During that time that I transitioned out. I consider myself a very positive person, but I found myself complaining a lot. That’s not healthy for anyone. If you’re going to complain about your role, let’s figure it out and be happy.
What’s your plan for optimizing culture?
Part of my step-by-step plan is always to start off as an individual with that mentality. You have to think about culture as something that you own, not necessarily something that you’re stepping into. So often corporate culture is a buzzword, something that people just close over, or they think about as the way it is here in their current role. But by owning that culture and creating your own environment, I think that that is going to make an immediate impact for you. Sometimes people have a hierarchy that doesn’t believe in corporate culture, but you need to think about, “What can I do today to influence either my direct report? What can I do to influence that environment in a positive way?” An acronym that I always run with over the past few years is culture. Can you lift teams you are engaging? Can you go to work today and make an immediate impact with the team that you are engaging on a daily basis? To me, that’s contagious, that’s culture. In a nutshell, it’s how you can impact it as an individual instead of complaining and constantly talking about it.
Let’s take ownership there. What can I do for my company? But from a company standpoint, that’s your mentality. And if you can hire individuals who have that mentality or you can empower individuals to begin thinking that way, you will be in a much better place. As a senior leader, as an organization, you need to take a step back and look at your plan, look at your company and be honest with yourself, be mindful of your culture, and determine what you need to do to change it if it requires change. Sometimes it’s small tweaks with a change in leadership or an adjustment in a role, but other times it takes a full-on rehab plan that people need to be aggressive with. I would say there’s no better time to plant a tree than today. This is the time to take action and change things. As a senior leader, I would completely start from scratch, take a step back, identify different ways that you can survey your company and gauge that culture, gauge specific attributes that you want to make sure that your company is fulfilling and then measure it.
What pitfalls should organizations avoid regarding corporate culture?
You have to put ownership in the hands of the leadership team, but at the same time, you can’t put all of the ownership in the hands of the leadership team. And what I mentioned with mentality, is if just the leaders are the ones putting out corporate culture or putting out their solutions to what they perceive the corporate culture to be, it could be a huge miss, and that’s important. You have to understand what’s going on there. Very often, whether it’s gauging corporate culture or even providing feedback to your employees, there’ll be a midyear review and an end-of-year review or a company survey that’s sent out once a year to determine where the culture is – an employee satisfaction type survey. And that is very much check the block. You have to follow up, you have to understand, and you have to put things into action. So, by checking the block, although you believe you are doing the right thing, it comes across as disingenuous and actually can set you back. Your employees might roll their eyes next time they hear the term corporate culture as opposed to what I had depicted as diving head-first into the situation.