Don’t Fall Into Tick Box Culture

26 September 2018

In 2016, the CEO of Amazon Jeff Bezos wrote in his letter to shareholders something that stuck with me. He talked about resisting proxies – about not letting the system or process become a proxy or substitute for generating actual results.

You start doing things just because it is a step in the system, not because it is the thing that will take you to the outcomes required for the business.

During one of our team meetings, I noticed such behaviour in my team…

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Whether you’re the leader of a massive corporation with hundreds of employees or trying to manage the culture within your tight team of superstars – you are still the driver of culture in your business.

In your business, you get what you tolerate – culture is not something that is ever just ‘set’. It is always in motion, and every single day is a new moment to lead the culture, earn success and teach best practice in your business.

As Jeff Bezos said – it is always day 1.

Hi, this is Shweta. I want to share something with you, something very interesting that happened during our Monday morning team meeting. So we have a new hire and she’s the head of the finance division. We were going through the top focus and the top achievement from the last week and what needs to be done this week.

What My Team Members Said

And I happened to check with her just one simple thing, “Did you manage to get that particular job done?” She was meant to have followed up with our outsourced bookkeeper.
She said, “Yeah, I sent an email to her.”
So my question to my finance person was, “Is the job done?”
And she said, “No, I’ve sent an e-mail to her.”
I simply listened and observed and said, “Alright, fine, we’ll talk about it later on.”

Then I moved on and interestingly, pretty much in the same meeting, there was another person, and again we were just having a quick discussion.
He said, “Yeah, my top goal for the last week was XYZ. But then I couldn’t really complete it because, actually, it’s sitting with another director for approval.”
So just listening and observing, I had to share this with my team and I thought this would be of interest to you as well.

Our Business Culture is Not About Proxies

What I told my team, was our culture is not a culture of making systems a proxy. It is not about ticking boxes and I’ve seen many times, subconsciously and consciously, team members do that. Sometimes you and I do that and it’s something to be aware of, that we’re not here to tick boxes. We’re here to focus on the outcomes, the deliverables, the progress, the movement forward.

Many times I’ve seen people saying, “Oh, I gave it to you to check, but it didn’t really happen.” Or, “I sent an email, but I’ve not heard back.” This is a different mindset compared to a mindset where one totally owns that particular job, that task, that outcome. Even if your team member has to follow up with you two or three times, then they should do it. I said this directly to my team members: if you have to pick up the phone and follow up with your director, please do that because you are the owner of that particular task. Whatever is required, you do it, because it’s possible that for the other director, this is not on his top priority list. But it is for you, so you have to own it and prioritize it for yourself and the same for the finance person.

It’s not about sending an email and saying I’ve ticked that box, but it is actually about picking up the phone, chasing, and following up, because business is a contact sport. If you and your team member (and it is more often your team members I have seen) think you are doing your role by ticking boxes and doing the next step and the next step, you may feel like you are getting closer to your outcome, but there is a distinction you need to help your team members make here. That it is that total ownership of that task is what is required. Because ticked boxes are not the actual way to achieve the outcome.

Immediate Implementation

Obviously, I take a huge amount of pride in my team members. Once I gave this constructive feedback to them, within a few minutes I would say, after the meeting, both team members sent me an email confirming that they have picked up the phone and talked to the person and things are actually moving forward in the right direction.

So, look, we all need reminders. We all need to help each other stay accountable. Just make sure that your business and your culture is not about ticking boxes. Even if you’re ticking boxes we’re totally owning the task and we’re actually making sure that the outcome is being achieved.


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