Disciplined Clarity About Culture

clearglassJack Dorsey, one of the Twitter Founders and now CEO at Square, sent a quick memo to his employees (that he also posted publicly on Medium) about something that may sound somewhat unimportant: using other people's names to push ideas.

In other words, coming to a meeting and saying "Bob says we should do this" or "Collette is behind this idea" while you are discussing something. It seems like an innocuous thing. Why wouldn't you make clear what others think of the idea. Isn't that being transparent?

Well, sort of. Because it's not just revealing new information--it's packaging it in a way that actually closes down the conversation. "Collette is behind this idea THEREFORE WE DON'T NEED TO DISCUSS IT ANY MORE" is really the message, although that last part wasn't stated. At Square, Dorsey doesn't want that in the culture, so he felt compelled to clarify that in his memo:

We want more passionate debates about bold and crazy ideas rethinking what we’ve taken for granted rather than discussions that end in “John wants this, this is how we’re supposed to do it.” The former will keep us agile and innovative, the latter will make us irrelevant.

Once you know your culture (and how it drives your success) you can't let your guard down. It's amazing what kinds of behaviors will creep in that can undermine or even reverse your culture without it being patently obvious. Be disciplined. Be clear about what fits and what doesn't and then hold the line. Your bottom line results will thank you (not to mention your engaged employees).

Let's Talk About Workplace Culture


  1. 28.05.2014 at 2:01 pm

    Spot on. If people understood their “WHY” – why they are there, why they are working, why they are going after the goals they are – then a “Because (John) said so” statement will never hold water.

    Unless, of course, your WHY you work is to make (John) happy and get a bigger year-end bonus from them. But those certainly not the employees / partners I want.

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