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Simon Sinek: What should your company culture be? Start with verbs.

Culture of a company is like the character of an individual,” says Simon Sinek in his Big Think+ video, “Starting with Why: Build a Culture by Design.” We know that when we look at someone’s character, we wonder things such as what they’re like when they’re stressed. How do they behave in good times, and in bad? How do they treat people? Do they maintain their compassion, humility, and positivity no matter what? It’s the same for a company. Your company will have a culture. The question is whether you want to leave its development to chance or consciously go about constructing a culture in which your employees and business are at their best.

Zeroing in on what culture really is

Assuming you have a vision for the company and your own set of values, you need to assemble the values you want your business to hold. This isn’t a whiteboard list of the obvious qualities that everyone thinks all good people and organizations should have. “I mean,” says Sinek, “if you have to write honesty on the wall, you’ve got bigger problems, right?” In fact, he asserts, it’s not really about scribbling down qualities — nouns — at all. Sinek suggests you think about verbs when you’re at the whiteboard.

“True values are how you act when you are at your natural best,” says Sinek. They’re not descriptive of things you want to be — they’re about things you intend to do. For example, “It’s not ‘Innovation.’ It’s ‘Look at the problem from a different angle.’” Verb-based values described in actionable form can be measured, and we can be held accountable for them.

Hire the person, not the resume

To protect the company’s culture, Sinek cautions against hiring strictly on the basis of credentials or a knack for being passionate in interviews — these aren’t necessarily good indicators of future performance. “I like it when we treat it like a marriage or a relationship. In other words, go out for dinner with them.”

His point is that getting to know a candidate on a personal level is critically important. “You’re going to let them into your house. You’re going to give them keys to the house and maybe even give them responsibility over your other children. You probably want to do that a little carefully.” What you really want to know is if they’re your company’s type of person since “You have a culture and you want to protect that culture more than you just want the skills.”

If there’s no opportunity for a hiring “date,” bring the candidate on for a six-month trial. This allows them to test you as you test them. At the end of the trial, you’ll know each other. That’s when the real job offer can be extended.

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