Why is cultural fit so important for companies starting up?
Well for one, these are people that you’ll be spending more time with than you ever have with family and friends. When you are still early stages of building your company, you have to like these people whether you are working with them side by side or from opposite hemispheres. You have to trust them, you should have an inkling of shared interests and a level of respect that encourages collaboration and productivity. Let’s look at the challenges of finding the right cultural fit for distributed teams and how to overcome them.
- They don’t work as hard as the rest of your team.
- They don’t really get along with other team members.
- Other team members complain about them a lot.
This is something that I don’t take lightly when it comes to finding the great people that just click with Mailbird. It starts on the first interaction you have with the person, whether it be an intro from someone or an email or application cover letter. If they pass that initial screening, then we proceed to the next step, and then the next. The true test is once they start working during the probationary period, when they start communicating with the rest of the team, with individuals on the team and with me.
The next part of this is how does the rest of the team respond to that person, if there is synergy and character there, you’ve got a good fit which is critical considering how much time that person will be spending with the team. We also use time and task management tools to provide transparency to what all team members are doing. The whole team quickly knows who’s pulling their weight and who isn’t, and it gives you the chance to have that discussion early with the new team member for feedback on fitting in with working culture so not to create any tension within your team.
Depending on the working culture you’ve established for your team, it’s important to communicate those expectations so that any new team member, no matter where they are in the world, can assimilate and feel welcome. In our case, we choose the “work hard, play hard” culture that allows us to also feel empowered within our roles and feel happy doing what we do in our high impact contributions to the team and business. We also embrace holacracy (see Evan Williams on Building a Mindful Company) in building our company structure with minimal hierarchies and minimal bottlenecking in processes, enabling us to stay agile.
Should there be tensions between team members, we make it practice to encourage open communication in addressing tensions up front. We encourage listening, respect and mindfulness here as well and mediation if needed which has worked really well for us. If you do get to a point where a team member is not able to make the cut with a remote working setup, with being able to work productively and effectively with the team, and the rest of the team reciprocates the mismatch then it then be time to make the tough decision to cut your losses. You can avoid all of that though when you start with hiring the right people and ensuring there is a great cultural fit with that person and the rest of the team.
Want to know more about this remote work phenomenon? Read “The Joys and Benefits of Working as a Distributed Team”