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How a Feel Good Manager can Foster and Grow Culture

by Ben Linders on May 05, 2014 |

In the article culture is the true north Arne Roock talked about the “feel good manager”: a role which helps to foster and grow the culture in an organization. InfoQ talked with Magdalena Bethge, Feel Good Manager at Jimdo, about supporting the culture and collaboration, happiness, and helping employees to find their work-life balance.

InfoQ: Can you explain why Jimdo decided that they needed a Feel Good Manager?

Magdalena: When the three founders of Jimdo noticed that there would be a big growth of employees in the next months or maybe years, they knew about the risk of loosing the feeling of being a startup with things like direct and easy communication, way of collaboration and the way people know each other. It would be a big task to keep the Jimdo culture as good as it had been from the beginning. That’s why they decided to look for a person who can take care of these topics and the Jimdo employees.

InfoQ: Culture is very important at Jimdo as Arne described in Culture is the true north - Scaling at Jimdo. How do you contribute to the Jimdo culture?

M: One of the first things I did when I started my job at Jimdo was to capture the Jimdo core values. If you want to work on such intangible topics, you have to make sure that everybody knows and follows them and of course is able to behave properly according to them. That’s why I made an open survey about the way of collaboration at Jimdo, the way people behave and treat each other. All the answers were summarized and written down to our Jimdo Core Values. That helps everybody in making decisions, knowing about the things you can expect from your colleagues and what they expect from you. This helps especially new employees a lot.

InfoQ: Culture evolves over time. You cannot really control it. Can you give some examples where you influenced developments in the Jimdo culture?

M: A good example of targeted influence is the aspect “We train and motivate new team members to act with personal responsibility in their work.” (One aspect of our Jimdo Culture.) In 2012 we didn’t have really good results in the query of this aspect. So I decided together with our Flow Manager and the person who is responsible for human resources to improve the on boarding process at Jimdo. We established a mentorship program, a regularly feedback system and gave feedback workshops to everybody.

The results of our Culture survey in 2013 regarding to this aspect were a lot better. What a great success :)

InfoQ: My view is that culture and collaboration go hand in hand. Culture is how people work together, how they communicate, how they discuss and solve issues together. What’s your view on this?

M: I agree with these statements. Every group/company has its own way of collaboration. The core values of a company influence the way of collaboration in the teams. In my opinion, culture influences the way how people treat each other, taking care of each other and office belongings as well.

InfoQ: Focusing on employee happiness can give benefits. There are organizations that measure and analyze happiness. Do you do this at Jimdo? Which benefits does it give Jimdo?

M: At Jimdo we do not measure happiness. What we do is an annual survey which verifies our culture core values in terms of satisfaction and importance. That gives us a feeling for topics we have to work on or can be improved.

InfoQ: Can you give some examples of topics that came up in the surveys, and how you have addressed them?

M: We make the results of the survey available to every team member. If we have topics that differ a lot from the last year, I address them to the founders and a group of people, who work regularly in a team which is called "organizational development". This is the place where topics that belong to organizational development structures are discussed, together with ways to solve them.

InfoQ: I've read that you also help people to maintain their work-life balance. My experience is that people differ a lot in this. Some want to keep a clear division between their work and personal lives, while others prefer to mix it. How do you help people to find and maintain their personal work-live balance?

M: The different conception of work-life balance of every single person is what’s important here. You have to have open eyes and ears and be emphatic. Understanding their problems and their way of thinking helps you with finding the right personal work-live balance.

The way employees differ in relation to their work life balance affects various areas: Some people need a quiet place at work while others like to be in the middle of the office life. Some people need to quit their working day right in time while others enjoy a beer with colleagues, having a smooth transition into their finishing time. Some people need a structured workday while others divide their work tasks spontaneously. The main part is to know about these concerns and try to give everybody the office and working conditions as close as possible to his needs.

What did you learn from being a Feel Good Manager? Any tips for people who want to become a Feel Good Manager? For organizations who want to introduce the idea of a Feel Good Manager?

M: The content and tasks of being a Feel Good Manager are highly dependent on each company. In my opinion it is important to be part of the company to enable sustainable results, to work together with different interfaces like human resources, giving a voice when it comes to organizational development and most important: not being the only one who is responsible for culture and core values - every employee is as important as he can be!

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