Culture is key! Don’t believe me? Just gather around the water cooler of any organisation and listen to what’s being said, what people are murmuring about. The good news is you can play a role in shaping a positive and thriving culture. One that people rave about, but for all the right reasons.

Before co-founding Thankyou at 21 years of age, I had my fair share of different jobs in a variety of work places gaining a pretty good understanding of what does and doesn’t create a great team culture.

One common thread in the not-so-great workplace cultures was the tendency of managers or employers to see their staff through the lens of their position description, instead of seeing who they were as people. They’d get so caught up in being ‘professional’, that they missed the fact that their employees were first and foremost people.

When we started Thankyou, I was determined to create a culture where people could be themselves. A place where a ‘People’ department would take place of a ‘HR’ department and valuing people would take precedent over seeing employees as a resource. Fast-forward six years, and we are now hearing staff constantly tell us how refreshing and empowering our culture is.

I could honestly write for days on this topic, but if I had to list just three things that helped us create a great team culture at Thankyou, it would be the following:

1. TRUST

My last job before I became a full-time paid staff member at Thankyou was nannying for a family with two girls. I still have this clear memory of handing over receipts to the parents for things I had just bought with their money and the mum telling me that it was unnecessary. She said, ‘We trust you with our girls, so of course we trust you with our money”. BAM. There it was: trust. From that point on I realised that I had their trust and this gave me confidence. This meant I valued my job more and it also made me want to go the ‘extra mile’ at any given opportunity. All because of this one word.

Those jobs where I had bosses micromanaging me, watching every move I made, looking at the clock as I walked in, asking why I was two minutes late for being 15 minutes early to my shift just do not compare to a workplace with a team culture of trust. It’s a word with serious weight and at the same time is so empowering. Trust is a two-way thing and once trust is established and strong, it creates a great culture among staff and employees.

2. HONOUR

According to the dictionary, the word honour means to ‘value to the highest degree’. Going from workplace to workplace there were common themes that I’m sure you’ve experienced: gossip in the lunchroom or putting down the boss. Let’s be honest, deep down no one likes negativity and no one likes working in a place where there is gossip, rumours or speculation.  And no one likes being in a place where managers are talking down on their staff or devaluing their employees. Honour is not the same as ‘respect’. You might not respect someone’s work ethics or personality but that doesn’t mean you cannot honour them as a person and treat them as you would like to be treated. Simple as that. If you can create a culture of having each other’s backs, covering for each others weaknesses, lifting up the weakest, and honouring both upwards and downwards, your team will be unstoppable.

3. WORK HARD, PLAY HARD

We all hear the phrase ‘work life balance’ thrown around so much. A lot of companies wear this slogan proudly, but many times what they are really saying is, “Here’s all the work we want you to do, now balance that.” Fun is so important yet so underestimated in many work places. When staff are having fun and enjoying life, the productivity and creativity (and hopefully commitment) soars! Sometimes life can be so intense. Especially in the workplace. If you are stuck looking at a screen all day, getting out for a few minutes of play will help you come back and see a situation from a different perspective.

Last year our team of eight (at the time) did the most epic campaign. A campaign that any other sane company would have hired four times the amount of staff to pull it all off, at least! They poured hours upon hours into film shoots, media calling, designing, developing and launching new products. After 12 months of really hard work, we went on a staff retreat. I recall being asked whether we were planning any ‘team building’ activities into the schedule. But planning was off the agenda. Instead we found random things to keep us amused, playing hide and go seek IN THE DARK till about 3am in the morning! Who does that? We don’t know either, but it was fun and we laughed till our guts hurt.

Sometimes the best way to hit refresh on your team and avoid burnout is to have fun and not take yourselves too seriously.

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