In an interview in the New York Times, Simon Anderson talks about the way he’s used a democratic approach to help build the corporate culture at DreamHost. (link to the article)
“What I always say is: ‘I don’t have an open-door policy. I have an open-mind policy. An open door suggests that you’re coming to me in my space, whereas an open mind helps you hear things, good or bad, from someone who is an expert.”
Anderson goes on to say: “We’ve also gone through a very democratic process of crystallizing the values that DreamHost has as a company and as a team. For example, everyone has a voice. We also practice shameless honesty, which is a fantastic value used in meetings regularly.”
When asked to elaborate on “shameless honesty,” Anderson says: “Our employees came up with it. You can be sitting in a meeting and you can say, ‘I’m going to be shamelessly honest.’ Boom. Now there’s respect and it’s not rude honesty. It just gives us permission to have those hard conversations and get to a point where the elephant is not in the room.”
What Anderson is doing as CEO is very important to building a high-performing organization. He’s helping to create a culture in which his employees can experience high levels of trust and high levels of “spark” – the creative latitude that sparks unconventional thinking and leads to new products and services. Trust and spark are, in my view, the lynchpins of high-performing cultures.
Coincidentally, the selection process Anderson went through to become DreamHost’s CEO reflected the same kind of unconventional thinking. A search team narrowed the field to several candidates. Those candidates were then interviewed by employees at a company town hall. Following the town hall, the employees voted to elect their new CEO. Anderson garnered the most votes. Democracy at work!