Mojo to the max! Annette Zinky shares secrets of company culture

Getting your employees’ mojo to maximum levels is a huge part of building a successful company culture, said Annette Zinky, president and CEO of the Northern Arizona Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology.
Zinky spoke on defining and creating a unique business culture at AZ Tech Beat’s December Lunch and Learn.


Runtime: 30 minutes

But, ensuring a rise in mojo can be a challenging process. Here’s what Zinky suggests you do to build that excitement and create a culture that pushes your productivity to the max.
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Know your culture
The first step to building a culture is identifying your core values and principles and knowing for sure what you want that culture to be, Zinky said.
“For us, we’re a business incubator and our number one value is respect,” Zinky said. “I’ve got 30 clients that all have different kinds of businesses, we’re a very mixed use incubator.” It’s important Zinky said for their incubator not to decide on a startup because one is ‘sexier’ over another, it’s about building businesses. “We’ve prioritized our values and respect is number one.”
In order to spread those values through the company, it’s important to keep your values as simple as possible. This can come in the form of a mission statement, Zinky said.
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But it’s critical to keep that mission statement unique to your company instead of a cookie-cutter line.
“You don’t have to have a formal mission statement, but you should have something that’s driving you,” Zinky said. “It gets really fuzzy if it’s not simple.”
Company parables
Once you’ve boiled down your mission and values into a simplified form, company parables or stories can be a great way to spread those ideas to new employees, Zinky said.
“[What can] help every person totally get what your culture is about is a story that they can pass on,” she said. “The urban legends, the parables, the creation myths of your company. It doesn’t totally matter if it’s entirely true if it embodies the personality of your company.”
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When the myth properly communicates the values and teaches a lesson about the culture, it can be annette zinky NACEThuge for helping employees buy into your company’s mission, she said.
Finding a fit can be complex
Hiring employees that will resonate with your company’s culture can be extremely difficult, especially when you base everything off of an interview, Zinky said. And liking someone may not be enough because “we like people who are like us,” she added. Likability doesn’t mean that person will be a good fit.
“You have to figure out people who get excited about the same things, but [sometimes it’s] not the people who are just like you,” she said.
In order to find employees that resonate well, you should know the team you already have. Every employee has their quirks, strengths and weaknesses, and understanding them is key when adding new team members, Zinky said. She recommended taking personality assessments as an element of figuring out what makes your employees tick.
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It may even be helpful to “try before you buy” when hiring new employees. Seeing how a person works with others on a project may be more valuable than knowing if he or she interviews well. You might want to hire that person for a short time or ask if he or she would help on a task. When “trying” an employee, you should always make sure to communicate your intentions clearly so that if the person doesn’t work out, you can let he or she go amicably.
Let employees find their mojo
But perhaps the most important thing that Zinky touched on is that once you have your team and culture in place, you need to do everything you can to let your employees shine and play to their strengths.
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