Building a Great Workplace
By Ted Kouri
A few years ago, Incite was recognized by Alberta Venture as Alberta’s Best Workplace for Under 100 Employees. We are really proud of the culture, team and environment we have built at Incite over the last 15 years, and receiving this award was certainly a special moment to honour that. It was also a great opportunity to reflect on what helped us win this award.
In looking at what makes Incite’s workplace special, there are the easily identified things like our social events (i.e. Incite Alumni Reunion), our focus on family (i.e. Bring Your Family to Work Day), and our commitment to community (i.e. Annual Volunteer Day). However, I believe it is the not-so-easily-seen operating principles and beliefs that drive us.
There are three key lessons we’ve learned in our work with Roy Group that are critical to how we operate and are important reasons why Incite is a great place to work:
1. Leaders at All Levels
Everyone can lead. Leadership has very little to do with titles and roles, and a great deal to do with empowerment, engagement, and commitment. We have embraced the philosophy of building leaders throughout our organization, and firmly believe that every member of our team can and should have the opportunity to provide leadership.
We have seen huge personal transformation in people by fostering in them the idea that they can lead. Some of our best ideas have come from what traditionally would be thought of as junior roles, and we have witnessed firsthand what happens when you build a sense of self-belief in all people in an organization. On a regular basis, our newest team members coach senior management through complex issues, and members of our admin support team participate in client brainstorms. When you recognize that everyone can lead, you unlock the potential of your team.
2. Coaching Approach to Learning
We have pursued a more non-directive approach to personal learning and development. Historically, we defaulted to a “tell people what to do” mentality that, while seemingly effective in the short term, does not foster in people the sense of inquiry, understanding, or commitment an organization needs to really raise its game.
The idea that leadership is not about providing answers but rather asking better questions has changed the way we operate and is fundamental to our belief in the potential of our people. We have developed our coaching capacity with Roy Group’s The Leader’s Discipline. This encourages leaders at all levels to solve their own problems.
3. Accountability and Feedback
Finally, and likely still our greatest area to work on, is the idea that a great workplace is not simply one where people get along and have fun. A great workplace is defined more by people’s ability and willingness to provide honest feedback and to hold each other accountable to the highest standards. While not always easy or comfortable, a true friend tells you not what you want to hear, but what you need to hear.
We have seen that people’s job satisfaction is highest when they are learning and growing, and when they are contributing to impactful and significant work. People don’t just want a pat on the back, they want an honest critique of their performance in a way that helps them get better. To build a culture that embraces delivering such feedback as part of its daily operations is not easy because the truth can be ugly sometimes. At Incite, this is still a work in progress, but we know it will only make us better.
Roy Group has been a special advisor, partner and friend to Incite, and we thank them for helping us work towards our goal of creating a company that helps leaders achieve their greatness.
Ted Kouri is co-founder and president at Incite Strategy.
For upcoming sessions of The Leader’s Discipline, see Open Courses.