What Too Many Company Cultures are Missing

There is a lot of bad news in the news these days. Especially when we just look at people who should be leading–if not formally, then informally due to their position as a public persona–but aren’t leading anyone in the right direction.

Uber’s last CEO was…ahem, interesting. Hollywood is, sadly but not surprisingly, spilling over with less than great “leaders”. Even the U.S.’s most recent leadership changeover has been rife with turmoil, mud-slinging, and finger-pointing from all sides.

A company. An industry. A country. Leadership at any level is hugely contested and highly scrutinized. And it should be. The fact that it’s in the news, while sad and frustrating, is also a good sign of people noticing terrible leadership and calling it out.

I was in a discussion on Twitter recently about leaders, and someone mentioned that we glorify CEOs a bit too much. Y’know, they’re probably right. But CEO’s do carry a lot of the weight of a company. They make major decisions that influence the minor decisions of everyone else in their company. So, like with Uber or any of the previous examples, when the culture turns toxic, the finger points straight to the top. The top is setting the rules which allow for the toxic culture, so of course to some extend, it’s their fault.

But leadership is so much more than just making the rules.

Leaders should be promoting good. You aren’t leading without making a positive impact; you’re just dragging people down. And yes, a positive impact is really the only option, because neutral just doesn’t cut it anymore. People get away with too many bad things in a setting that isn’t actively establishing a positive culture.

Leaders should be lifting people up.  Company leadership, especially, has so much influence over the lives of others: their pay, their schedules, their environment for 8 of their waking hours, and to a great extent, their happiness. They should be rooting for the people they lead to succeed, because when the people around us succeed, we succeed. When the foundation succeeds, the top usually does too.

Leaders should be kind. They should be courteous. They should be communicating. They should be positive, team-builders, people who listen to the people around them and do the right thing, or as close as they can. Basically, leaders really just need to be good people. 

This doesn’t just apply to the top levels of leadership. We are all leaders in our own spheres, or we can be, especially within companies. Any employee has the opportunity to lead the way with new ideas or new traditions, good daily habits or conflict resolution. Employees can call out leadership that isn’t behaving like leadership should. It isn’t easy. It takes being brave, and sometimes, standing alone. But it’s so worth it. Years of bad behaviors and toxic cultures could be reduced or avoided if more people were willing to step up and say,
“We will not accept this behavior anymore.”

Like I mentioned before, we’ve seen a lot of that recently. It’s been great. Harrowing, but great.

Plenty of people will say: “But what about making money? Aren’t top company executives, like CEOs, there to watch out for the interests of the company?”

Of course they are! And they should watch out for their companies! They should be trying to help their company succeed! Yes, yes, and yes!

That doesn’t mean they can’t be people-conscious, or build good cultures. Culture is what you do and how you do it. So yes, they should be making money. The way they do it, as any news report these days will tell you, matters more.

Businesses–or simply, making money–isn’t inherently bad. Businesses bring out great ideas, they improve peoples’ lives, they provide safe and stable employment for people. I, for one, am so grateful for grocery stores so I don’t have to grow my food, hole-in-the-wall restaurants that make way better food than I do, technology companies that help me communicate across the country to my family, and every single company that employs one of my family members. I’m even grateful for Hollywood, because gosh I love movies. I hear they even do little things like, y’know, stimulate local economies where they shoot movies because they buy food, hire extras, stay in hotels, etc.

Business can do so much good, and we want them to do well. But when it comes down to money or people, we should be picking leaders that always pick people first. Without hesitation, even, dare I say it. We want CEOs, presidents, managers, supervisors, and employees who make solid business decisions and treat people well too.

None of these ideas about leadership are new. Integrity, honesty, communication, and kindness are simple and ancient concepts. A general sense of altruism is what sets humans apart from the animals. If every one of us committed to being a great leader–from any position in a company or society–our companies, our communities, and our cultures would be much better places to work, live, and grow in.

We shouldn’t be glorifying great CEOs anymore. We should just be choosing more of them.

How can YOU be a better leader?

How can YOU be building a better culture in your workplace?

I don’t care what you do or what level you’re at. There is always some good to be done. Let me know what you decide to do by commenting below or Tweet to @McCall_Culture.

Let’s get out there and be leaders of good.

Photo by Ben Rosett on Unsplash


5 Ways for Small Businesses to Make a Great Office Environment

Big businesses can walk in and turn the dingiest spaces into works of art.

Small businesses, weeeellll…have less to work with. But they can still make an impact with their design choices. In company culture, the little things go a long way.

Whether you’re looking to start your culture on the right foot or start fresh, your office environment is one of the easiest and most tangible ways to begin your company culture.

Make sure you’ve established what you want your company culture to be, then get started on these five ways to make your office a great place to work:

#1: Pick a Color Scheme

There are a ton of choices that go into design, but color may be one of the biggest. It’s so simple, but when you have limited space or resources, color alone can be the obvious signal of “this is our brand, and this is our brand’s home base”.

Choose colors that match your logo or compliment it. Alternately, set a specific mood: bright, vibrant colors for a fun, energetic space, or soft, soothing colors for a calm, peaceful environment.

If you have a rented space that doesn’t let you paint walls, use decals, wall art, or furniture in the right color scheme.

#2: Get Your Layout Worked Out

Every office needs different things, but in this day and age, long lines of cubicles just don’t cut it.

Figure out what your needs are: small office spaces? Lots of community space? Big meeting rooms? Think through what you get done in a day and what you need space for. Maybe find ways to create flex space for things you don’t need every day, but still need. Keep in mind things you want to include in company culture; this may mean having a cart full of yoga mats tucked away for company yoga day or a snack bar in an easy-to-get-to location. Work it all in for a cohesive and intuitive flow, unless your company culture is one of making people lost and confused.

Remember that current trends aren’t always right for your business (and sometimes, aren’t even great trends to follow anyway). Do what works best for you, and don’t be afraid to rearrange or keep trying until you figure it out.

#3: Choose the Right Furniture

It’s tempting to just grab whatever furniture fits your budget. If you’re less likely to have customers visiting your office directly, maybe that’s okay. Or, maybe you just like old couches you find on the sidewalk. Whatever floats your boat.

But otherwise, select carefully. You don’t have to spend a fortune. Plenty of great furniture comes from thrift stores. Make sure what you choose reflects what you want to convey. Like with colors, the type of furniture sets a tone: law offices don’t usually have bean bag chairs, for example, and fashionable boutiques don’t tend to have dark, heavy furniture.

As usual, though, your company can have any tone, voice, or culture you give it. Choose furniture that speaks to that.

#4: Decorate

Nothing says “this isn’t a permanent establishment” like having absolutely no decorations, so make sure you look established with décor that suits your company.

Signage, in particular, is a huge part of office space culture because it puts a particular tone of voice on display. If you have neon signs and walls covered in colorful graffiti, the persona of your company is totally different than one with rustic signs made from old pallets and twine. Neither is wrong, but they do say different things about your company.

Décor isn’t just the pretty stuff. Show off your company values with the things you establish around the office. Is there a corkboard for showing off everyone’s adventure? A post-it wall full of compliments to people around the office? A sign-up sheet for this month’s community service project? Most of these things don’t cost much besides the time to establish the space for them but they speak volumes about your company believes in.

#5: Establish Your System

Don’t forget your internal systems of organization. You can plan your desk space and colors all you want, but if you can’t find or store anything, you’re doing yourself no good. There’s huge merit to the phrase, “A place for everything, and everything in it’s place.”

Whether that means long rows of filing cabinets, an office supply cart, or wall organizers, as with all else, find what works for you. If you don’t have the money for what you’d like to do, DIY what you can: paint those ugly filing cabinets, use mason jars on shelves, whatever suits your company. There are plenty of ways to stretch $5.

Talk with your team and figure out their needs. Look at what piles end up in common areas, or what things never seem to have a place to go. Even in a creative, less organized environment, having a place to find things regularly will help productivity and keep your office a little more sane (and a lot easier to clean up when you want or need to).

Bonus #6: Have Fun with It!

Don’t forget to do what works for you and makes you happy! If your logo is blue but you want a bright yellow chair, do it. If kittens have nothing to do with your business but you just have to put that fuzzy kitten meme on the wall, do it.

It’s your business!

Some companies have ways to communicate around the office: whiteboards, post it notes, in-office mailboxes, you name it. Some have inspirational posters, others have brainstorming stations, and some have clean, formal spaces with miniature rock gardens on end tables.

It’s your business!

The attitude your employees develop in large part from the vibe they get in the office, which affects how they interact with clients. Even some small changes around the office can impact the image of your company. Add some plants, paint that wall, put up a giant whiteboard, or find some way to mix things up and define your culture through your space.

Check out my Pinterest board on office space culture here for some great ideas on how to update your space.

Photo by Mia Baker on Unsplash

How does your office show off their company culture through their workspace? Tweet your answers to @McCall_Culture or comment below!

How to Support Employees that Work from Home

People love to work from home. With flexible hours and the means to enjoy a better work/life balance, it can be a huge perk to allow people the option of remote working.

But it’s one thing to say “go ahead and work from home” and totally different one to actually give support.

I’ve heard plenty of stories that follow a similar pattern: the employee is hired, told they can (or should) work from home, then are given no guidance or support until finally the relationship crumbles and the employee finds somewhere else to work.

This situation was entirely avoidable. It’s also exactly what happens to a lot of remote workers, since we are used to a very traditional sense of “work”.

Here are some easy to implement ways to avoid that situation and support your work-from-home-ers:

Be Clear about Schedules

Working in the office has some definite up-sides, including the fact that everyone maintains the same general schedule.

Remote workers, less so.

Be clear on when they are available, and when you need them available. They work from home, and that tends to make the usual “strict hours” less strict. So maintain a few slots of time they must be working (maybe one in the morning and one in the afternoon) and otherwise, let them work until midnight if they want to. Just make sure the times are clear and agreed upon.

Agree on Communication

Your method of communication depends on what needs to be communicated and the number of people involved, as well as how time sensitive the information is. Phone calls, video chats, or emails are all great ways to stay in touch.

You may want a very regular communication (“check in every morning when you start working”) or more casual (“check in if you have questions”). Be clear about how you want to be informed of things and make sure you know how and when works best for them as well.

Keep Things in Writing

Have a schedule and an agreed on communication system?


Now go write it down.

Consider it the rubric of their employment. When you have what you expect written down, you keep everyone accountable and it protects both you and your employee from sudden changes, disagreements, and overall chaos and confusion. You always want to be able to refer back to what was agreed on. Plus, it makes it clear for your employee on how to proceed so they can work independently of you more easily.

Meet Regularly

Having a face-to-face meeting (even if it’s through video conferencing) keeps a remote job from feeling too remote. Meetings let employees report in on their time, clarify what they are doing, and ask for what they need, while giving employers the chance to clear up confusion, change the arrangement as necessary, and introduce new projects. Make sure these are scheduled so they can be prepared for and time can be used as efficiently as possible.

Arrange for Training

If you have an HR department, check that they are handling this, or do it yourself if your company is too small for an HR department. Anything your in-office employees need training on, your remote workers will need too. Also, make sure you ask what they may need; for obvious reasons, your employee may know better than you do what areas they are weak in.

Investing in your employees is really an investment into your company. Plus, it shows your remote workers that being out of sight does not mean out of mind.

Be Accountable

Your employee isn’t the only one with responsibilities in the employer/employee relationship. Maintain your end of the bargain.

If you say you won’t bother them on weekends, then don’t bother them on weekends. If you say you’ll forward that e-mail so they can get the details they need to do a project, then forward it. Your employees depend on you doing your job so they can do theirs. Make sure anyone who interacts with your employee within the office is treating them like they would anyone in the office: by doing what they say they will, when they say they will.

Make Them Feel like Part of the Team

Being part of the company is more than just being an employee. Keep them in the company culture too.

Have a remote worker “welcome package”, with basic office supplies and some company bling. Or order a pizza to go to their house and video conference them in to the office party. Send them funny emails or take time in your meetings to get to know them. Be creative! Make them feel included and they will repay you by including themselves in how your company is doing.

Be Kind

Often, we say things through a computer screen we would never say in person. Remote workers, like in-office workers, will sometimes slip up or make a mistake. Don’t be overly rude or critical just because you don’t see their face every day.

This is part of why meetings and inclusion are so important; you shouldn’t let your remote workers simply become a name on a screen that gets things done for you. Treat them with respect and appreciation, like you would for any employee you actually see every day.

Be Honest

If it isn’t working, it isn’t working.

Some remote workers just aren’t great at being remote workers, and sometimes remote workers just don’t fit with how the employer wants things run. It’s okay to say either of those, or whatever your reason is.

This includes being honest to yourself. As the employer, sometimes its easier to just move on then try to make it work when you have so many other things to get done. Have you really tried to make it work? What are your real reasons for letting this employee go?

If you have made your best effort and it still isn’t working, then it’s best to allow everyone to move on.

Employees who work from home can be great assets to your company, if given the support they need. Make sure you communicate clearly, maintain accountability, and make your employees feel like part of the company team. When you make an effort to support people, they will support you in return.

How does your company support your at-home workers? Comment below or Tweet your response to @McCall_Culture!

Controlled vs. Uncontrolled Company Culture

I talk a lot about how to influence culture, ways to do it, and what direction you should steer it in.

But why?

Won’t your company just grow that way?

If only it were that easy. Intent, however, isn’t everything.

When your company is small, culture is easier to control. When you have ten employees that interact on a daily basis, culture is derived from what they do and what you tolerate, and it’s easier to come to a general understanding of processes, traditions, etc.

But even when you grow to 100 people–which is still a pretty small company–you aren’t interacting with everyone every day anymore. You aren’t directly in charge of how everyone does what they do. The interests and backgrounds of your group have become that much more diversified, so traditions may change.

When you grow to 1,000 people, 10,000 people…the culture widens even further as the disconnect from each other widens. Culture, by this point, is only naturally less controlled.

Welcome to company parenthood.

When you were a kid, your parents controlled your culture. They decided what behaviors to encourage or discourage, what traditions you would follow, what foods you ate. If they told you not to do something, but they did it themselves, you probably didn’t take them too seriously. If they encouraged you even when you failed, you probably developed decent self esteem and trusted them more.

Unlike in a company, families don’t clearly state their culture (usually), they just live it, because families are small and don’t (usually) grow to be so huge that you’re all disconnected. But the same concepts apply.

Values + actions = culture.

Now you’re the one in control of the culture you build. And the subtle undertones of how things are done speak louder than many deliberate actions. There’s a lot to be said for culture coming from the top down.

If you only control your culture by not doing anything, miscommunication is more frequent, conflicting attitudes flourish, and engagement diminishes. If you say one thing but do another, trust doesn’t grow. An uncontrolled environment, with no checks, balances, or attention to it, grows however it wants, and sadly, that’s not always for the better. Again, controlling culture is just as much about the deliberate actions (parental leave policies, meeting schedules, etc.) as the ignored actions that are out of line with the company values (gossip, pessimism, lack of teamwork, etc.).

You wouldn’t leave your child to figure out how to cross a busy street by themselves; don’t do that to your company. Actively guide your company culture by having a plan for it. State your values, make processes clear, treat people on every level in a fashion that represents your company well, and expect others to do so as well. Make sure the lines of communication are understood. By deliberately controlling the culture, you build trust and healthy culture thrives.

Not every action will be perfect. People have bad days. Some employees aren’t great fits in the positions they’re in, and you’ll have to make changes. No one said business was sunshine and daisies. You may not have company picnics or employees of the month or a trendy office, but if you are paying attention, monitoring how people within the company behave, and keep the WHY as important as the HOW, you will put yourself in control of building a company culture that will withstand anything that’s thrown at it.

How to Make Your Employees Feel Prosperous

“Space is a commodity.”

Someone said that to me the other day, during a discussion about tiny houses of all things, and I had never thought of it that way. Space is a commodity. When you have space, you’re doing well. Rich people live in mansions. They have the most space. Then you have people in houses, people in apartments, and people with nothing at all.

Space. Commodity. Prosperity.

We often associate prosperity with wealth, and that’s usually a good connection, since with more money you can buy more things. But it’s not the only thing that makes people feel prosperous.

If your employees feel internally wealthy working for you, they will stay with you, they’ll be happier, and your whole company thrives. Here are a few things that help people feel prosperous in their jobs.

Pay Them Well

I spend all that time telling you that money isn’t a requirement for prosperity, and here I am telling you to pay people.

Well, guess what. For better or worse, fair or better pay makes people feel like they’re prospering.

Nothing degrades or devalues a person that not being able to take care of their family. That’s why you pay them fairly. So they can maintain themselves and their families.

You pay them better than fair to make them feel important, valued, and respected. You pay them better than fair so they can take their kids out for a Happy Meal. You pay them better than fair so they can take a day off without stressing that they won’t be able to pay their bills.

You could have the best company culture out there, and if they aren’t able to take care of themselves or their families because they aren’t paid enough, they’ll leave you. Keep a smaller staff if you have to, but pay well, provide bonuses, and make sure people have more than the bare minimum.

Give Them Space

Back to where we started: space is a commodity.

There’s a reason cubicles suck. They’re closed off, there’s no light, there’s no space. It’s not good for our mental health to be stuck in a box for 8 hours a day.

People feel prosperous when they have space for more than themselves, when they can spread out, invite people into their space, and not worry about bumping into someone else constantly. They have a little privacy, which is a whole other commodity in and of itself. They can arrange things in a way that makes sense to them, which helps them be productive.

Giving people space also helps them feel a sense of ownership. People take care of things that belong to them. People feel loyal to things that belong to them. People contribute to things that belong to them.

When you give people space in your office, you give them that ownership over a piece of your company. They want to take contribute and take care of it because they feel trusted and valued. Your employees will do better (and feel better) when they are given more than a cubicle’s worth of space.

Treat Them Like the VIP

You know what rich people get?


They walk into restaurants and get seated immediately. They walk into stores and managers ask how they can help them specifically. People ask their advice.

While a lot of that is honestly just obnoxious, so much can be applied to making people feel internally wealthy. You just don’t see those things very often when people deal with less-than-rich people. You also don’t see a lot of wealthy people with confidence problems.

When you make employees your priority, ask their advice, and recognize their accomplishments, you give them some of your time, and your time is valuable. By giving them something valuable, they feel valuable. Value fosters prosperity. And when employees prosper, you prosper.

Provide Extras

Nothing like a little luxury to make you feel prosperous, am I right?

Funny thing is, it doesn’t have to be truly luxurious to feel like an extra. And almost any extra makes people happy. (Unless it’s extra work. Or extra stress. Avoid those.)

Good extras include everything from snacks at the office to gift cards for a massage. They include company parties and thank you notes for a job well done. Great benefits packages (or even having benefits at all) can be an awesome extra. Any time you go the extra mile for your employees, they feel valued. Any time they can brag, “Hey, at my job, they give me…” they feel successful.

Not all companies, especially small ones, can give a lot extra, especially when you’re already paying well. But look for the small things you can do. Your efforts will pay off.

Room to Grow

Success isn’t stagnant. That’s why it’s important employees have room to grow.

That could be in terms of finances (pay raises), responsibilities (promotions), or education (training or further schooling). People don’t like being stuck in a “dead end job”, and you don’t want them to feel that way at your work. Make sure they are given opportunities to grow, and the time and flexibility they need if it requires any time outside of the office.

A Voice

We covered it a little when we talked about making employees feel like VIPs. Well, guess what?

Having a voice gives people power, and power is prosperity.

Employees have a voice when they aren’t afraid to tell you their opinions. They have a voice when their concerns and suggestions are taken seriously. They have a voice when the line between management and employee is a line of pay and responsibility, not a line of “my word is law”.

If you need an HR department to handle suggestions or complaints, get one. If you just need to be more open to what your employees are saying, do that. The needs and circumstance of every company are different, and your solutions will be too.


There are too many ways to count that make people feel prosperous, but it’s important that they do, so find what works for your company. Take care of your people. Employees should be valued, recognized, provided for, and heard. Companies have an obligation to do that for them. Companies will also find that, by doing that, they create a positive loop of care and prosperity, for both them and those that work for them. 

How does your company make people feel prosperous, or how do you feel you prosper in the job you’re in? Comment below or Tweet @McCall_Culture.

Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash