Communicating Culture to New Account Executives: Modern Performance Expert Roundup
Cultural onboarding is an often overlooked but crucial aspect of adding new staff. Cultural role models, attitudes towards wins, accountability, and interaction are all rooted in culture. Modern Performance asked managers at top firms such as Lever, Upgrade, Intercom and Affirm to weigh in with some of the methods they’ve found to be effective in tracking progress, and communicating culture when adding new team members. From collaboration to transformation, from proactively coaching to mandatory book clubs, the more quickly and effectively a manager is able to assimilate new team members into an existing positive team culture, the better a new hire’s chance for success.
How do you communicate culture when adding new team member?
Sales culture and sales values should support company culture and company values. Before new hires even arrive for their first day at Mode they all have our values doc. They’ve read through it. I’ve talked them through it. They already have a pretty good feeling of what it’s like to work at Mode and on the sales team. Leading by example is also really important. It’s Management 101, but it’s something that gets overlooked more often than not. In sales we tend to have earlier hours.
“I’m one of the first few in the office every day. For me, personally, it’s one of the ways I like to lead by example.”
I also try to make it fun to be on our sales team. I hold team events. I get new hires in the mix. Making sure they’re getting to know everyone is also really important.
The most important element is exposing them to people who embody culture in the organization, including high-performing peers, cross-functional partners, leaders who represent our culture. You’ve really got to see the principles of the culture in action. If I want this person to really understand the value of transformation, I’m going to expose them to a leader who came out of a background like theirs and was able to do something in their career. I also need to be aware of the set of capabilities that the new rep takes into the role, to know where they’re indexing really high and where they’re indexing low.
“I’m going to expose new hires to a set of people who are going to help fill in the cultural blanks for them and I’m going to be really explicit about that when I introduce them.”
What I do outside of that is create some sort of track or progress for that new hire to say like, “Hey, I want to see your progress on collaboration. I want to see your progress on transformation over the course of the quarter. Bring me updates in our one-on-ones or send me updates over email that are showing how you’re developing in that aspect of our culture.
Culture is very important to me. I’m a very analytical, data driven, factual person. So we don’t talk too much about feelings, but I try to get to the core of why something didn’t go right.
“Culture is about how people on the team interact with each other, our approach to accountability, and our attitude toward wins and losses. It’s ever-evolving and every new-hire should have something to add.”
Culture is actually something that needs to be worked on every single day. and it’s having the right attitude about your work and the people around you and having really positive reinforcement around those attitudes. When, for example, a partnership falls through, we sit down and we do postmortem. We talk about how we would structure it next time. Revenue and sales teams will have wins and will have losses. It’s how the team communicates in those situations that can either tie them together or break them apart.
I think getting a new team member integrated and excited about working with a new group of people begins with creating a collaborative culture of learning really quickly. Before they join, I issue them a book that they’re required to read for a sales team book club.
“We have a book club every Friday morning from 8 to 9 AM to read roughly 2 to 3 chapters and discuss. This is not a monthly, “Hey, come along, hopefully you make it,” Every Friday morning, it happens, and if you’re late you can expect to get called out by coworkers. It institutes a learning culture from day one.”
It’s also a very open environment where people can talk about their experiences from reading this book and get comfortable expressing themselves. We go to work to learn, so if once you stop learning, you might as well quit.
Engagement always starts with our leadership team. Our leadership team needs to take an active role, not only in hiring and onboarding, but in the day-to-day. Really setting the energy for our sales floor. As a manager, whether you’re an experienced leader or newly promoted, you’ve got to budget your time well so you can take a proactive approach to coaching.
“One practice I really believe helps to set the tone is something I call Active Coaching Daily. Managers should devote three quarters of their day to rep training where they’re either sitting side-by-side in deep-dive individual training with reps, or plugging into sales calls.”
Coach for one or two specific areas of focus. I believe in doing a lot of live call monitoring. You can do it sprinkler style, plug in to one rep after another for five minutes, listen to calls, take notes, do some coaching after each call. Then, be willing to jump on the phone yourself. We do something we call Power Hour, where we get on the phone ourselves, perhaps to lift the energy level on the floor or create more competition amongst the reps. I think a good manager should always lead from the front. In terms of building culture, it starts with your leadership team. If we’re high energy and we’re highly engaged and we’re really focused on improving our team around us, that’s going to translate to our team.
Our CEO just recently completed a mission/vision/values exercise. We present it to every new hire during ramp camp, so they know the mission, the vision of the executive team, and the five core values we try to instill in our new hires.
“We also have them take a color test. It’s a means for separating team members by how they prefer to communicate. Some people are very direct and like direct feedback. Others might be more analytical, and have different feedback needs. Each style has a corresponding color.”
We determine where people sit in the color spectrum, and then share it with the rest of the organization. We have the big color wheel in the office. It has everyone’s face paired with a color. At the end of the 2-week ramp camp, we have them wear funny hats with their color on it. We have a larger company meeting, with speakers, where they’ll learn about our marketing strategy, deep-dive into different features of our product. Our CEO does a session on a day in a life of our customer — the recruiter. A lot of our new hires, and not necessarily just sales, but engineers, and product, and marketing, have never been in the world of recruiting before. So for two hours, they learn about the challenges that recruiters face every day so they develop that empathy and understanding from day one.
Learn more from our experts, and see full profiles, here:
Justin Roberts, VP of Sales at Lever
Jeff Rothenberg, Director, Customer Service at Upgrade
Daniel Barber, VP of Sales at Datanyze
Chris Schwass, Head of Relationship Management at Intercom
Alexis Zhu, Director of Revenue at Affirm
Annelies Husmann, Director of Sales at Mode Analytics
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