One of my favorite things about our community is the unexpected jewels that exist — people and organizations — often without as much notice as they deserve. So when a person or organization does receive big-time attention, that’s as thrilling as finding these gems in the first place.
Drake Cooper, a local (plus Seattle site) marketing and branding firm that receives more awards than most other organizations its size, just made “Outside” magazine’s list of “Best Places to Work” for the fourth year in a row.
That’s cool enough, but what really struck me was CEO Jamie Cooper’s blog comments after the announcement.
He’s passionate about culture in his organization:
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“I care about culture. I care about it earnestly and work on it with intention.”
Full disclosure: I’ve studied Drake Cooper and several other organizations in terms of how they shape, spread and grow cultures. And Cooper’s statement captures one of the key elements I’ve learned about organizations and the leaders who develop cultures they want: They do it deliberately.
An organization will have a culture, whether a leader is purposeful about it or not. But if a leader wants the organizational members to act in certain ways, he or she must be intentional about the values and actions that matter. That’s what Jamie Cooper means.
The members of Drake Cooper talk about the firm being a “please and thank you” place — politeness, caring for others and showing it. It matters to them and contributes to it being a great place to work. The firm has even “fired” clients who acted in ways that were inconsistent with the firm’s culture. More important, it’s not just Cooper who protects and cherishes his firm’s culture — employees also talk about it being a reason they stay as long as they do.
So, when you consider how to increase your competitive advantage, think about culture. You have a culture in your organization already. Now ask: Is this what we want and need? Is this something that can help attract and keep the types of people we want?
It starts with you, your intentions and your willingness to focus on making something as intangible as culture become a real asset. Who knows? Maybe even one that can get you to a “best places to work” list.
Nancy Napier is distinguished professor and executive director of the Centre for Creativity and Innovation at Boise State University. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org