I recently commented in a piece that ran in Fast Company, called 16 ways leaders can set achievable expectations for their team to grow. The goal: to inspire individuals, motivate teamwork, and achieve better outcomes. 

For the article, my input centered on company culture. It’s something I care deeply about, and something that I’ve put a lot of thought and effort into throughout my evolution as a leader. I wanted to share those thoughts here and expand on them. As I said to Fast Company, 

Yes, managers should clearly communicate their expectations for every role and project. But to drive great results across the board, your expectations must truly be part of your company’s culture and DNA. Company culture is how people make decisions when you’re not in the room. With a solid culture, great decision making becomes instinctual because it’s based on what you value and reward every day.  

That line—culture is how people make decisions when you’re not in the room—is a frequent saying of mine. If there’s a major disconnect in the vibe and decision-making when a leader is in the room versus when they’re not in the room, that leader has a problem. That company has a problem. Aligning these two things starts with authenticity and transparency. It also involves a great deal of trust. A strong, positive, company culture can never stem from micromanagement or fear.  

Focus and clarity 

The fostering of company culture feeds into something I’ve been calling “Management by Haiku.” It’s the idea that your mission, purpose, and values must be able to be articulated in a clear, succinct fashion. A haiku is only seventeen syllables, but those seventeen syllables have to count. When you pare your mission, purpose, and values down to the core—removing everything that’s superfluous—it’s much easier to generate alignment. Everyone knows where they’re going. Everyone knows what to expect from you. There’s not a 600-page handbook to digest. It’s simple, straightforward, and undeniable. 

Move faster, together 

It doesn’t have to literally be seventeen syllables, but sharp focus is critical. When you manage by haiku, everyone in the company—whether you’re in the room or not—can hold every decision up to that clear purpose.  

Does it fit? If so, proceed.  

If not, do away with it.  

This clarity and alignment fosters faster decision-making and innovation. It codifies expectations into your company DNA. It’s like having bumpers on a bowling lane. If you know exactly where the guardrails are, you can feel safe to aim for a strike. 

Psychological safety 

I use that word “safe” intentionally. Another part of creating a strong company culture is promoting a sense of psychological safety. Alignment isn’t the same thing as homogeneity. Strong cultures are built on the diverse ideas, perspectives, and backgrounds of everyone in the room. People need to feel safe to bring their whole selves to work, to take risks, to fail, to challenge upward, and to keep trying. 

How do leaders make this happen? Reward risks. Reward failure. Reward innovation. Walk the walk by celebrating risks and embracing failure for yourself.  

Invite challenges—yes, even to your “haiku.” If the haiku doesn’t stand up to challenges, that means it can be better. 

It bears repeating: to drive great results across the board, infuse expectations into your company culture. Keep it simple. Make it authentic. Keep listening. 

Each year, Alludo gives employees a number of days off for volunteering. The company doesn’t tell people what cause they should support or how they should spend that time, and that’s what makes it so awesome. People get to reflect their values and leverage their skills in myriad ways.

We loved seeing the stories and photos pour in of employees’ volunteer time. For some people, this was an opportunity they hadn’t had before, and they embraced it. Others volunteer regularly, and Alludo’s program is a chance to spend work hours giving back.

Many of the stories touched our hearts and gave us inspiration.  Here are a couple of highlights:

Meet Douglas

Douglas King works in professional services at Alludo, and has been doing volunteer work for more than two decades. He says that in most volunteer jobs, you go out and help people. “But in ours, we go out and really hope people don’t need our help! But if they do, we’re there 100%.” Why does Douglas hope he’s not needed? Because he volunteers for St. John’s Ambulance (SJA) Canada, an organization with a long history both in Canada and internationally. When there’s a crisis, Douglas and his team show up.

Douglas has volunteered with SJA Federal District (Ottawa Ontario Canada) since before he started with Alludo, holding several roles in the organization over the years, while always performing first aid/medical first response.

I’ve seen and done a lot that I’d never have done without SJA. I’ve met several Governor Generals of Canada. I was backstage for the Tragically Hip. I’ve ridden in an Armored Personnel Carrier. I’ve walked 20km in one day on shift. I’ve had my patients taken away by helicopter…. the list goes on. 

                                                                                                        -Douglas King

For Douglas and his team, this is no casual volunteer gig. The standard of training is at the level of a firefighter: Medical First Responder with Basic Life Support CPR, as well as some mental health training.

“We also have a therapy dog unit here in Ottawa, which is a whole other level of awesome!” says Douglas. He used his first Alludo volunteer day to help provide medical coverage for Prince Charles’s visit to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police stables.

Douglas has received several awards through SJA and was inducted into the prestigious Order of St. John as a serving member in 2018.

Meet Birgit

Birgit Burkard is an EMEA Order Management Operations Specialist at Alludo. Since 2019, Birgit has used her photography talents for perhaps the most meaningful gift imaginable. She volunteers with Dein Sternenkind Stiftung (Your Angel Baby), an organization that supports families who have lost their babies or know they won’t survive. “We often take the first and, sadly, last photos of the baby,” says Birgit. Dein Sternenkind Stiftung has 750 volunteer photographers across Germany, Switzerland, and Austria.

When Birgit was approached to become a volunteer photographer for the organization, she says she wasn’t sure if she’d be able to do it because of the emotions involved in the subject. Today, she’s so glad she joined. “You feel a special atmosphere,” she says of these photography sessions. “It is not only sad, but also fully loaded with love and trust.”

Parents invite you to their emotional and private world and I am very thankful that they share this with me, that they trust me. I am the one that can ensure they don’t lose the memory by just taking photos. Isn’t that simple? It won’t cost me a lot, but I can do so much for the family.

                                                                                           -Birgit Burkard

Birgit recalls a particular photography session where the baby, Cedric, was supposed to be born on Birgit’s birthday. The family found out in advance that Cedric wouldn’t survive, and Birgit came to do a session with the family while Cedric was in his mother’s belly. He was later born sleeping on Birgit’s mother’s birthday, and she was able to visit the family again. “It was kind of a miracle; we have so many connections,” Birgit said. “It looked like Cedric picked me to get to know his family.” They’re still in touch, and now have a “rainbow baby.”

In addition to photography sessions, Birgit volunteers to edit and retouch photos sent over by parents or hospitals, “to create a nicer version” of whatever pictures they’d been able to take. “I am very happy and thankful that Alludo provides these volunteer days, so I can be available to step in if I am needed urgently,” says Birgit. Of course, many of her sessions aren’t planned in advance and are requested via an alarm on an app. Birgit relishes knowing that she can say yes and use volunteer time for it if needed. “The families are thankful for Alludo, too.”

Birgit and Douglas have very different volunteer roles, but they share a commonality: they’re willing to step in during people’s most difficult moments, in the middle of a crisis, and be a force for calm and support. It takes an incredible caliber of character to step up like that, and we’re proud to have them among our ranks. That goes for the many, many other Alludo employees who use volunteer days to make a difference in their communities.

At Alludo, we’re firm believers that culture can’t be dictated. Our CEO Christa Quarles often says that culture is what happens when you’re not in the room. Corporate culture should be a representation of the individual personalities, skills, backgrounds, and experiences of the people who work there. These stories from Birgit and Douglas—and the many other stories that we continue to hear—are an indication that Alludo’s culture is generous, resilient, empathetic, proactive, brave, resourceful, and so many other good things. It’s a reminder that giving happens in so many ways; energy, time, skills and resources. It might look different for everyone, but a corporate volunteering program is essential to building a culture of giving.

When your company is committed to helping the world be more creative, you better believe that you’re going to have a lot of creative employees.

In case there were any doubts—hint: there weren’t—about the incredible creativity among our employees, we’ve put them to rest with our 2022 Halloween costume contest.

People really outdid themselves, posting pictures ranging from hilarious to creepy to extremely on-brand (hello, brand team dressing as the brand police!). We got to see a lot of extra ‘coworkers’—that is, kids and pets—and have loved viewing all the submissions.

Employee Engagement

As part of the contest, we encouraged employees to post their costume pictures in a Teams Chat.  From there, fellow employees voted for the best costumes in 5 categories: Individual, team, chronotype, pet, and brand-inspired.  And through a companywide ballot, one employee was voted the 2022 Alludo Halloween Costume Champion.

We’re all winners for getting to join in on the fun and mayhem of Halloween together. It turns out that the intersection of creativity + friendly competition is a seriously busy place at Alludo.

Embracing the Future of Work

We don’t take for granted that we’re able to do things like this together without being, well, together. As we at Alludo build the future of work, we’ve put a lot of thought into how to cultivate a strong company culture even when you’re spread out all over the world.

We talk about facilitating virtual engagement, connectivity, brand loyalty, and of course, plenty of that friendly competition. We say over and over that it’s not only possible but essential to invest in company culture in a remote-first workplace.

Of course, we definitely walk the walk. When Alludo launched our rebrand internally, it was clear that we had an amazing group of employees who were ready and willing to show up for the brand. They participated in contests and games, read every email (seriously!), and embraced the swag in a big way.

The external launch was now nearly two months ago (!!) but we’ve kept that momentum rolling. The Halloween costume contest is just the most recent example, and we see the engagement and excitement continuing with future events, contests, games, and celebrations. Halloween may be over, but we think being an Alludian is a treat any time of year.

Happy Pride!  

As we express our identity and values as a company, a key theme keeps coming up over again: the power of authenticity.  

Kicking off June and Pride month, we’d like to state that we believe unapologetic authenticity is integral to working better and living better. All genders, races, ethnicities, religious beliefs, identities, and sexual orientations are honored here. At Corel, we not only welcome diversity, but we enthusiastically champion it.  

Beyond being compassionate and the right thing to do; it’s also smart business. Diversity drives innovation. It breaks through plateaus. It challenges status quos and paints new possibilities. It’s at the very core of not only our employee culture but our offerings. We deliver a space to create, ideate, and share because individualism matters. If we lived in a world where everything was the same, nothing would be worth sharing. 

It’s one thing to write that we welcome and champion diversity at Corel, but we recognize that’s not enough. We also want to unequivocally state our company’s support for LBGTQIA+ rights. Supporting our LGBTQIA+ employees, partners, customers, friends, and allies in the greater community isn’t political; it’s about humanity. 

In this context, Pride Month feels especially important as we continue to place a high value on creating a safe space where people can show up fully as they are, bring their whole selves to work, and enrich our community with unique perspectives, backgrounds, identities, beliefs, and capabilities. 

Wishing everyone a safe, authentic, and happy Pride!