When I worked as a consultant at Deloitte, I got to see a lot of different organizational structures under a microscope. The thing you learn pretty quickly is that organizations succeed or fail because of talent, and talent chooses to stay or go because of culture. A good company culture is the core of any operation. Are people excited to be here? Do they look forward to coming into work every day? Are they inspired to do their best work? When the structure of an organization promotes affirmative answers to those questions, the company thrives, almost no matter what else you ask employees to do.
So why don’t we have more of that in organizational life? I think because we’re hung up on a model of the organization that was invented in the era of mass production, a labor intensive time for workers. In this “classic” organizational model, you are interviewed, (potentially) hired, and subsequently assigned a role in the organization. The organization then expects you to work 40+ hrs/week, sitting in a cube where they monitor all of your actions. From your cube, you must complete anything asked of you, whether you like it or not. This structure minimizes your ability to express creativity, forces you into a location-dependent role, and often fails to promote your personal and professional development.
I don’t know anyone in our generation who likes to or wants to work like that. The best people I know, the people I want working with me, are creative, impulsive, and location-independent. And as bad as “impulsive” sounds to someone evaluating an employee in the classic HR framework, embracing that impulsivity is the key to maintaining the creativity it takes for a team to sustain the effort and energy to create something really new. Most organizations would like to see you sit down, shut up, and do your job. Whether they say it or not, that cultural message often permeates the organization – and no amount of company picnics can make up for it.
The Opposite Organization
Here at Waveborn, we decided early on that we wanted to start a movement and build a tribe. Since launching a successful crowdfunding campaign in April (we reached our goal of $10,000 in less than 36 hours), we shifted our focus from strictly selling sunglasses to building a brand and a culture that aligns with the key principles of entrepreneurship. Our culture focuses on teaching entrepreneurship and fostering a supportive learning environment where people can come to build their skills in new areas and acquire more career capital that they can leverage to advance (or begin) their career in new directions. That culture is what makes us different – it’s what makes us who we are.
We’re driven by an overwhelming desire to be successful, as a business and as individuals. We challenge our team members to stretch outside of their comfort zone, to deliberately practice new skills they want to learn, and to find work they love. The Craftsman Mindset can be seen in everything we create and every lesson we teach one another.
At the core of our company culture is the 15 minute meeting. With our team spread out across the country, it’s important that we find ways to connect new team members together and encourage them to create meaningful relationships while efficiently complete tasks. Need my help with something? Put together an agenda and schedule a 15 minute meeting with me. Make sure you send out the notes you took after the call. Based on the action items, I can connect you to a team of Waveborn brand ambassadors who can support your project.
Build Your Own Resume
Over the past month, we have onboarded 100+ part-time brand ambassadors to join the Waveborn tribe for the summer. Almost all of them are my friends or friends of friends (of friends). Our exponential growth is a direct result of our word of mouth marketing techniques. Once they hear about us, people tend to stick around because of our “opt-in” culture. No pressure, no prerequisites. You can do as much or as little as you want on a part-time basis and we’ll teach you what you need to know. The only restriction is that you must commit at least 10 hrs/week to working on Waveborn projects and/or personal development activities. 100 team members * 10 hrs/week = 1,000 hours of stuff getting done.
One of the first questions I ask when interviewing new team members is “What are five bullet points that begin with strong action verbs that you want to put on your resume in three months?” Ok cool, that’s what we’re going to have you do this summer. Instead of forcing you into a rigid role that’s already scripted, we want to learn about your personal and professional development goals, and then design your roles and responsibilities to fit you. So many people struggle with creating their resume filled with past experiences – we encourage you to create your ideal resume and then work diligently within our community to gain the skills and experience you described.
What skills do you need to acquire to move up within your current company? What career capital can you earn that will allow you to switch to a new company (or start your own company!) in a few months or years? We will connect you with mentors in those fields, as well as buddies your age who can welcome you into the Waveborn family and show your around our wealth of online resources, free eBooks, and trainings.
Live the Life You’ve Imagined
Waveborn is a lifestyle company, and the best part about working for a social good sunglasses company is that you can go anywhere in the world that it’s sunny and call it a “business trip.” You can redefine the word “work,” and everything else in your vocabulary for that matter. By working with Waveborn, we want to empower you to design your ideal lifestyle that aligns with your personal and professional goals. Bonus points if that lifestyle involves spending as much time at the beach as possible.
I’ve studied a tremendous amount about leadership over the past several years, and I understand the importance of moving up the “levels of leadership” by bringing up those around you. As a team captain, community organizer, and CEO, my goal is to encourage those around me to take on new and challenging leadership roles to continue their development and spread the word about Waveborn. You can accomplish monumental tasks with the support of team members and volunteers who share a common vision for what the future will look like.
Mike Malloy is an entrepreneur, competitive ultimate frisbee player, and CEO of Waveborn sunglasses. His new book, Becoming So Good They Can’t Ignore You, documents his journey into the lifestyle of a location-independent social entrepreneur.
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