Our dear friend Shireen Mistree was recently featured on SHORTLIST. Read her interview below.
“Culture isn’t just one aspect of the game – it is the game. In the end, an organization is nothing more than the collective capacity of its people to create value.”
Lou Gerstner Jr., IBM
Culture is a key aspect of any organization. It is especially true for startups who want to survive past their early days, grow and expand their businesses. Startup culture is molded by the founders and the people working there.
Shireen Mistree, third from left.
What are the key aspects of building a great culture, what role does leadership play in it, how do startups hire for culture fit – find the answers for these questions below. We spoke with Shireen Mistree, who leads and manages the hiring process for ICC (India Climate Collaborative) on her thoughts on building culture and how ICC is nurturing a high-performing culture.
How do you define the startup culture at your workplace?
Shireen: ICC, as a company, is literally being set-up as we speak. We have been mindful of who we take on in our team. Apart from (obviously) the skillset, we want “Team Uplifters” – people who understand what it is to work together and collectively as a team. Shloka (Executive Director) along with other members of the leadership team work hard to ensure that we keep creating opportunities and environment where everyone feels comfortable to share their opinions, thoughts and concerns openly. We place a lot of emphasis on these aspects as we build culture at ICC.
What is your approach towards hiring for culture fit?
Shireen: We are a young, vibrant and dynamic team. We try to gauge early in the hiring process if the candidate will fit in seamlessly in our culture. Will they be open to building an institution and not just their own profile and if they will be able to take instructions and directions from somebody younger to them. We are very open and honest with the candidates, making it clear that we operate as a startup. You will have to be a self-starter, someone who is not afraid to take the initiative and contribute to the organization’s vision and mission.
What are you doing to promote a high-performance culture?
Shireen: Shloka (Chief Executive Director) is continuously invested in the individual growth of team members. She has one-on-one chats with all team members helping them understand things they are doing well and creating plans to improve for areas of development. This way, the team is motivated to deliver because the top management invests in their growth and aspirations. We ensure that the team has all the creative space to complete the task with an expectation that they uphold quality standards and deliver within mutually agreed-upon timelines.
What advice would you like to share with other startups and companies on building culture?
Shireen: Constantly check-in on the aspirations of the individuals that you hire, make sure you are able to meet those aspirations and ensure you acknowledge the team’s efforts. While achieving every milestone that the organization initially set out to do, it is essential to be transparent, leaving nobody confused or ambiguous. The team should never be taken by surprise over the decisions.
What role does leadership play in nurturing and promoting the startup culture with the growth of the organization?
Shireen: Leadership should be invested in individual growth and aspirations of team members along with enhancing their skill sets which could be hugely beneficial to the organization. It has been our experience that when leadership is invested in the employee as an individual and not just as a person who has been brought on to do a job; growth of the organization is inevitable.
Thank you Shireen for your insightful answers, your responses will be super helpful for other startups to build their culture.