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  • Writer's pictureEva-Maria Zoll

5 ways to start the work on culture - for leaders, founders, and CEOs

Culture starts with you

Here are 5 pointers on how you can start to think and work on your company culture if you are a founder/ CEO or filling a leadership role.

  • Almost 80% of founders and CEOs we meet and talk to, don’t see culture as part of their responsibility. Oftentimes, they refer to their HR or people role to be responsible or “in charge” for culture & people. Even if they understand that culture is an essential part of creating a successful business, they often don’t know where to start.

  • What we also see is, that in companies with good, healthy, and thriving cultures, founders, and the c-suite continuously thinks and shapes company culture and have culture-related topics as a clear priority.

  • Then there are the people in founder and CEO roles that have understood that it is important, but either business school, or leadership programs, or incubator and accelerator programs have given them pragmatic and sufficient tools and perspectives to work on culture straight from the start.

1. How do you work best?

Sit down, and reflect back on a situation where you felt in flow, supported, and thriving at work.

  • When was this?

  • Where were you?

  • Who was working with you?

  • What were the 3 elements creating that state of flow?

Now think about your work-life today: How often do you feel in flow and thriving? Are you actively working on creating your work life around your needs? If not, what is one thing you could start doing right now, which will improve your quality of life and work?

For your team: Start having a conversation with your team and ask them the same questions, ask them how you can support them in reaching their best way to work.

2. Role clarity

Creating clarity on your own roles and responsibilities is an easy and pragmatic way to feel less drowned.

Take a moment and write down:

  • If you have to split up your work, what are all the different roles you are filling?

  • Which one of those are your favorite ones where you feel in your power and flow?

  • How much time do you spend working in his role vs. the ones where you do the work but don’t think you are particularly good at it and the work drains you?

  • Is there a way you can give away the work which drains you or find a new way of approaching the work which feels less heavy?

For your team: Do the role exercise with your team and lay open the roles to create visibility and clarity. Maybe people can auction off the roles they don’t think they are the right ones to do.

3. What does leadership mean to you?

Now that you are in a position of leadership and accountability, do you have clarity on what leadership means for you? Where was your understanding of leadership formed? Who did you look up to? What qualities do you admire in former bosses/authorities? Do you know how people you work with experience you as a leader?

a.) To get more clarity, take 15min and write down answers to the following 3 questions:

  • How do you want to lead?

  • What is your definition of leadership?

  • What are the two most important things in how you want to work with people?

Reflect on where you see the biggest gaps between where you are right now and where you want to be.

b.) Ask two people you trust to give you feedback on your way of leading. This can be your founder, early team member, but even good and trusted friends who know you well. Ask:

  • What do you like about my way of leading?

  • What is one thing I could improve on, and how?

This might not be easy, but certainly very fruitful for you to hear. The way you lead, behave, talk, and act is massively influencing your company culture. The more clarity you have about that for yourself, even about your weaknesses, the better and easier it will be to communicate about it, search for support and just work with it rather than be ashamed by it or overcompensate. The days of the superhero manager are over anyway.

For your team: Ask your team members what leadership means to them. Start to have an open conversation about what everyone needs more, less of.

4. Power

Power is needed to make business happen. We execute power the moment we make decisions and spend budget. We believe it's very necessary to be aware of it especially if you want to avoid an abuse of power.

Reflect on the following questions:

  • If you think about your team/company: Who has power? Why?

  • Who has no power? Why not?

  • Do you have power? How and why?

  • How do you feel "being in power"? Would you rather not? Or do you feel comfortable?

  • Again, ask people you trust to help you reflect on your own power and help shed light on blind spots.

5. Meetings

Meetings are the smallest unit of a company, where you can easily design the culture. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • Who runs/facilitates/ hosts meetings in your company? Is it you? If so, why are you running meetings? Because you lead the company, because you like to, because you are good at it? Because there is no one else capable of doing it?

  • Meeting purpose: Do you have clarity on why you meet? What does the team expect and need from the meetings?

  • Meeting structure: Is the agenda of the meeting designed in a way that you can achieve your goals?

  • Time: Do you use your time effectively? How much time do you spend in meetings? And from how many meetings would you say they are successful and good?

  • Moments of connection: Are you strictly talking agenda items, actions steps, and goals in the meetings? An easy way to strengthen relationships and enrich meetings is to include small but powerful moments of connections. Check those two blog posts for inspiration on consciously designing the beginning and the end of a meeting: 52 questions to start your meeting with, & 52 questions to end your meeting with.

For your team: Get together with your team and ask, how do your meetings make you feel? Do they feel effective? Ask, what everyone could contribute/change towards making them feel more human and more valuable.


We are excited to hear from you and understand if this was helpful and if you would add any other points? Send us a message to We love reading and hearing from you.


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