Ask the expert: how can I create a positive culture for my fintech?
Greg Watts is our resident expert. He is the founder of Demand Creation Partners, a London-based growth consultancy that helps fintechs and paytechs to scale. A visiting lecturer at the American University in Paris and regular industry speaker, he was previously head of market acceleration at Visa Europe.
QUESTION: How can I create a positive culture for my fintech?
Fintech CEOs are typically under pressure from the board and investors to do more, faster.
With hyper-growth comes the urgency to identify and secure top talent. The question is, how can you create an environment that attracts the best and the brightest, and then allows them to grow and thrive?
In this column, we’ll explore ways to identify, secure, retain and develop the right talent for your business and create a winning culture.
- Focus on behaviours
When recruiting, it’s generally a given that a candidate has the technical skills or subject matter expertise to perform the role considered.
However, it’s equally important that the candidate demonstrates behaviours that will allow them to both thrive in the role and contribute toward a culture of success. Why?
Hyper-growth fintechs typically operate at a frenetic pace, otherwise known as “managed chaos”. Such a culture is vital in the early stages of a company’s development because it helps secure investment and complete deals faster.
Some people will relish the opportunity to work in such conditions, but others may prefer more orderly, process-driven environment.
Therefore, during the interviewing process it’s important to pose questions that will help you determine if the candidate has what it takes to succeed. For example:
- Provide an example of how you delivered something from scratch. How did you go about it?
- When did you last break a rule or process to get something done? What was the outcome? How did others around you respond?
- What’s your approach to creating lasting relationships with colleagues?
- When did a relationship with a colleague not work out? What happened?
- Give an example of when something hasn’t worked out at work for which you were responsible. What was it, what happened, and what did you learn?
Use their answers to glean insights around their humility, willingness to roll up their sleeves, ability to form relationships, appetite for innovation and risk, and so on.
- Play to people’s strengths
Just a few years ago, many organisations’ cultures were focussed on creating solid all-rounders and addressing weaknesses through training and development.
Today, there’s more of a focus on playing to people’s strengths and helping them to develop and nurture their best skills. For example, if a designer loves designing, why press them into doing something else?
Research backs this up. A recent US survey of 500 employees in the professional services industry revealed that members of high-achieving teams felt “empowered to do their best work” and that team leaders “encouraged them to apply their strengths every day”.
Additionally, a Gallup report indicates that strengths-based leadership can deliver improved business outcomes: employees who say they use their strengths every day are 8% more productive and 15% less likely to quit their jobs.
Empower people to do what they love the most and you’ll see the benefit – for themselves and for the business.
- Recognise achievements, no matter how small
Small things really do matter.
Many businesses overlook under-the-radar achievements in favour of more visible triumphs such as closing a key deal or releasing a new product. This can result in teams and individuals feeling undervalued at times, and that’s a mistake because “little and often” gestures can significantly enhance a company’s culture.
Here are a few ways to recognise such achievements:
- Implement a weekly “call-out” from the CEO or leadership team to the wider business recognising both small and large successes alike.
- Set up a system for team members to recognise colleagues for going above and beyond – potentially via a regular, collated email blast.
Remember, a simple “thanks for doing that” can go a long way.
- Create a safe environment
We all make mistakes. The key is to learn from them and move on. So why are some people so scared to fail at work?
The ultimate test of team effectiveness is “psychological safety”: the ability of group members to think and act without fear of repercussion. In other words, to simply be themselves and know that they’ll be protected and supported no matter what.
Google discovered this first-hand when it studied 180 of its own teams to learn why some were successful and others were not. After multiple trials, researchers identified only one consistent pattern of high performance: psychological safety.
Leadership teams can promote psychological safety by demonstrating vulnerability. When leaders acknowledge mistakes, ask for feedback, or exhibit a willingness to listen, they show that failure – and the desire to learn from it – is just the first step towards progress.
Bringing it all together
There’s no secret formula for creating a winning culture. Generally, it develops organically over time.
However, by focusing on behaviours, strengths, safety and communication, fintechs can induce a positive, productive culture that can scale and flex as the business evolves.