How To Implement Company Culture Through Sound Mind, Sound Body Leadership
This article has been written by Daniel Dümig, New Business & Innovation Manager EMEA at ASICS Corporation.
In any startup’s earliest years, company culture is vital in securing those first milestones. From forming an MVP, transitioning from seed to Series A, B and C etc., culture is at the heart of it all. However, as Jeff Bezos said: ‘In a weak culture people veer away from doing “the right thing” in favor of “doing the things that are right for me”. That being said, it’s all too easy as a founder to believe that your team believes in you or your vision by default. Wrong. Any good leader should know that she/he needs to lead by example. Any great leader is able to implement that example with honesty and authenticity. So, where does it all start? How does a great leader actually lead? Leading through the Sound Mind and Sound Body perspective helps to create company culture in more ways than one:
True happiness is not something that comes easy. But when we look at the science behind Happiness, we can understand that it is a series of chemicals that are released in the body when we feel or do certain things. Dopamine, Endorphins, Oxytocin, Serotonin are all “happy” drugs our body can produce and in understanding them we suddenly make this pathway to personal Happiness that is much easier to comprehend. Science tells us that the feeling of Happiness can be triggered by certain acts. So, make sure your day-to-day life is filled with these acts and in turn your day-to-day will be filled with opportunities for happiness. Let this happiness be lapped up by your team; a mind is at its most creative/productive when it’s at its happiest and your best growth in your earliest years (Seed stage) comes through creativity and being productive at very high levels.
I can’t count the amount of times I’ve fallen back on the ASICS’ philosophy of ANIMA SANA IN CORPORE SANO – A Sound Mind in a Sound Body. Strength can come from both mind and body and not one is more important than the other. However, the pathway to a sound body is often easier to run than that of a sound mind. The physical activity industry is now valued at $828 Billion and with good reason (GlobalWellness Institute).
Look after your body, eat well, exercise, stretch, embrace it don’t abuse it. These things, in turn, help you as a leader to look after your mind. Although there’s so much more you can do to look after your mind, becoming self-aware of this and looking after your body is certainly a first step. This brings me on to my next point, mental health.
An incredible and frightening 94% of founders reported burnout, panic attacks, severe anxiety, depression, addiction or loneliness. (Thrive Global).
Leading with mental health at the forefront of your mind and your team’s mind is vital in making sure your startup is successful. Prioritize your health, give your team opportunities to work on their mental health within their working day. Yoga, mediation sessions, “brain food”, awareness workshops and classes and more.
Jörg Rheinboldt, founder and CEO of APX, recently spoke on this topic in his article “Higher, faster, further: startup founders at their mental limits” (Link). He argues that great founders and leaders often share the same qualities of passion, a will to change and courage. However, these three qualities can be the very three that lead to burnout. Rheinboldt goes on to explore that in a startup’s earliest years it’s often lead to believe that more work means more power, more work means more success. Right? Wrong! In order to lead from a healthy mindset a great leader must know when to delegate or share a workload, she/he must constantly look towards optimizing processes and most importantly focus on the mental well-being of the team as a whole. It’s okay to talk about Health and especially Mental Health (yes I’m capitalizing it!) within the workplace.
There’s a huge importance on community in today’s world. We see it with the ever emerging need for coworking spaces. For all that social media was expected to do for our society, in making connections easier by being digital, there’s now a cry for genuine human connections. The majority of founders reported having a close network they can count on in times of stress, yet, only half of them can be vulnerable with their teams, and that number drops to a mere 30% when it comes to investors and board members. (ThriveGlobal). Build a community you can count on around yourself, both within your team and within your personal life. Value people, their time and the experiences you have with them. Steve Blank, who has been teaching entrepreneurship at Stanford since 2011, talks of the growth he’s seen within teaching the subject. One of the biggest changes he’s seen is the inclusion of community, he says “the community you’re building is a set of additional components that never existed before.” We’re gifted with the tools to be able to build a community around us and to do so easier than ever before. In embracing community you make yourself a more personable leader and distance yourself from that haunting word, failure. Lead from a community that you learn from, value and most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask them for help from time to time.
“It’s not uncommon in an early startup for introverts in the company to have to pitch and make sales calls while extroverts are forced to sit at a desk and grind away in a CRM” (TechCrunch).
In early years your team will be pushed outside of their comfort zone so I cannot stress enough the importance of leading with Empathy. In following the above avenues to lead from, they will all guide you to becoming a more empathetic leader. In understanding cultures through community, placing health and happiness at top of mind and giving yourself opportunities to build strength in body and mind you allow yourself to be a more empathetic leader. Understand your team and try to get a healthier gauge on the culture you are building. Pave a pathway to success that is ultimately honest, authentic and driven by the Sound Mind, Sound Body mentality.