Real growth requires a shift in mindset that’s facilitated by innovation, learning from failure, and open communication.
Culture, defined as a company’s set of values, beliefs, and norms, drives decisions, and, ultimately, business outcomes. While the quantitative growth of a company may be reflected in balance sheets and quarterly reports, it’s realized through an organization’s culture.
To build a high-growth culture, startups must incentivize employees to embody the values that make sustainable growth possible — and eliminate institutional obstacles that may get in the way of this goal. To begin laying the groundwork for this type of growth-driven culture now, focus on these three factors.
1. Enabling Innovation
Personal growth is only possible when you recognize that the person you are does not define the person you can become. You can learn new skills and gain strengths through consistent effort. For startups, the benefits of cultivating a growth mindset at both an individual and organizational level go hand in hand.
Ultimately, it comes down to innovation — i.e., being willing to try something new. There’s no need to accept current limitations because “the company doesn’t do that” or “that’s not the employee’s job.” When companies provide the necessary resources for self-improvement, employees are better able to embrace this mindset in their own work. And empowered individuals generate bolder ideas about the potential of the company itself.
In practice, this means you should be making continuous investments in your employees, treating them as assets with the potential to take on new skills and responsibilities beyond their initial roles. It means going out of your way to introduce opportunities for professional training and enrichment. Most importantly, it means that startups should be staking out new ground, taking on new initiatives, and disrupting traditional industries with novel approaches.
2. Failing Fast While Not Repeating Mistakes
Innovation rarely comes without its fair share of failure. With that said, accepting failure — let alone “celebrating it” — is easier said than done. In order to encourage risk-taking and foster employee growth, failure has to be tolerated and valued as a learning opportunity.
For “fail fast” to be more than an empty mantra, startups should be precise and deliberate about how they treat failure (and build resilience) within their cultures. Communicate clearly with your employees about where the opportunities for innovation lie, and what policies or processes are set in stone. Provide support and incentivize employees to explore new opportunities, but don’t allow recklessness to overpower measured risk-taking. Most importantly, establish a framework of regular feedback and encourage employees to think critically about their progress to ensure that even in failure, valuable lessons are learned.
3. Developing Organizational Self-Awareness
Growth isn’t possible without self-awareness. The best way for a startup to bolster self-awareness among employees — that is, to help them gain a sense of their strengths and weaknesses — is to promote honest feedback among team members and open up channels of communication across the company hierarchy. This radical transparency not only encourages employees to do their best work; it also helps a company to evaluate its strengths and weaknesses on a holistic level and move forward in a way that best utilizes the resources at hand.
Establishing a culture of growth requires candor at every level, from the C-suite to entry-level employees. Leaders should create a forum for honest communication in which corporate policies can be challenged and employees are encouraged to rethink “the way things have always been done.” In doing so, startups can ensure they’re growing in a sustainable manner.