Geben’s House Rules are the guiding philosophy. These 10 statements guide how we choose what work to take on, how we interact with each other, personnel decision, what community partnerships to get involved in … and so on. As early as the interview process, we keep these business values front and center so that no one can ever forget them and we protect the essence of Geben, even as we continue to grow.
Too often, I think, business owners create mission/vision/values statements (that end up reading like corporate jargon), post them on the website and perhaps in the company break room, and rarely—if ever—discuss them again. But what exactly is the point of having business values if you’re not acting them out?
Whether you’re defining your business’s values for the first time or looking for guidance to make them an active part of your working environment, here are four touch points that I’ve found critical to getting Geben’s House Rules to stick as our guiding philosophies.
We talk about the House Rules during the interview. From the very beginning of connecting with any new hire, we’re assessing whether they’d “play” by our rules. Did they do their homework? Are they familiar with the House Rules and our culture? Does this approach to work align with their approach to work? Which House Rule(s) do they gravitate toward the most?
By making your values a central part of your interview process, you let candidates know right from the beginning that they are an active part of your workplace culture. This gives candidates the ability to self-select whether they’re a good fit for your team and whether they’ll align that the values you’ve defined.
Once we hire someone, there are various meetings during our onboarding process that touch on culture in general, along with one session in particular that reviews the House Rules in detail, which I still lead. (It’s so important that it’s the one part of onboarding a new employee that I refuse to give up.)
In that meeting, we talk through each of the House Rules, including specific examples of what that behavior looks like in action. Typically, a couple other longer standing team members will join in on that meeting to share their own real-world examples. This meeting is so critical to making the House Rules come to life as more than just empty words on a page.
As soon as they join #TeamGeben, each employee is assigned a mentor within the office. During the onboarding period, new hires meet with their mentors weekly—typically for a coffee or lunch date—to build a relationship and help with the transition, including living out the House Rules.
That mentor can provide feedback if they notice that you’re struggling with a House Rule or can praise you when you embody House Rules. And because the mentor is never a direct supervisor—and in most cases, we aim to make it someone outside the person’s daily team—they serve as a helpful sounding board for questions and concerns.
Building mentor relationships has been so critical for us in solidifying our House Rules as an active part of our culture—particularly once Geben started to grow quickly. It’s a program I highly recommend for maintaining culture in periods of fast business growth.
Even after the initial hiring and onboarding of a team member, positive reinforcement is key to making the business’s values an active part of the working environment.
Because one of our Geben House Rules is “Celebrate Success,” we’re constantly looking for ways to do just that. In Slack, we have a “Celebrate Success” Slack channel, where we praise client wins, as well as recognizing situations when the House Rules come to life.
In every company’s life cycle, there are periods of fast growth, growing pains, challenging decisions that need to be made, and crossroads that shape the future. Making these decisions becomes much easier when guided by a core set of beliefs. At the same time, employees, contractors, partners, and other stakeholders have a consistent experience across the organization when your team is grounded in a core set of values. This shared philosophy ensures that no matter what tough decision you’re forced to make, or what rapid changes are thrown your way, you’ll protect the essence of your company.