Who Are You Working For?

When you’re looking for a job, what are your priorities? Money*? Agency size? Client roster? I’d suggest that an important one should be the philosophy of the leaders of the company. First, find out who the leaders are. A good place to start is at the top. Here’s a quote from Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh:

I think of myself less as a leader, and more of being almost an architect of an environment that enables employees to come up with their own ideas, and where employees can grow the culture and evolve it over time, so it’s not me having a vision of “This is our culture.”

Maybe an analogy is, if you think of the employees and culture as plants growing, I’m not trying to be the biggest plant for them to aspire to. I’m more trying to architect the greenhouse where they can all flourish and grow.

That’s a pretty rad vision for the culture of the company. Here’s the full interview.

*When you’re looking for your first job, money should be near the bottom of your list. I know this can sound crazy, especially when you’re trying to pay for rent and student loans, but the money will come later if you focus on the other things. More on that later.


Agency Culture. Client Culture. Leadership.

These are pretty intangible things, but when you start working at a place, or for a client, you can get the feel for them pretty quickly. Here are five questions that can help gauge an agency’s or client’s culture:

1) Are the people in the meetings empowered to make the decisions, or does everything need to run all the way up the chain of command?

2) Is there a culture of trust, or a culture of fear? In other words, do the people at the top trust the employees to do their jobs and support their decisions, or do they micromanage?

3) Are big ideas that fail celebrated or punished?

4) Is there an overall spirit of collaboration or competition?

5) Do people make decisions based on what they think is right, or are they guessing what their boss will think is right?

Company culture flows down from the top. Leaders who trust their employees create a culture of trust. Of empowerment and collaboration and big ideas. You can often feel out what kind of company you’re dealing with by sitting in a meeting or two and listening to how people make decisions.

For more on leadership, I recommend Good To Great, by Jim Collins. The cases are a little dated, but the content on leadership is great.