Make your Business a University Led by Your Team

by Peter Strauss

Summer is a special time of year.  For the parents of young children, there is the last day of school followed by the prospect of unscheduled (or superscheduled) days.  For older students graduating from high school or college, it is the jumping off point into their next chapter. Each year, wisdom is shared with these graduates by celebrities, business owners, politicians and others who have been invited to say something both inspiring and instructive to these young people as they head out into the world.

Some years, these speeches of wisdom are little more than words in the wind, breezing right by me. But this year, as I listened to Hamdi Ulukaya, CEO of Chobani, address the MBAs graduating from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, I actually had to stop my car, pull over, and listen carefully.  His words were striking. What I heard cut to the heart of my intention for my own corporate culture. He spoke directly to the values I aim to instill in each and every member of my team, each and every day.

This is what I believe makes purposeful corporate culture a force for good in the world:

First, we all need to aspire to attain the best education we can acquire, but rather than use it as a badge to impress others, we should make that education work for ourselves and our organization. Mr. Ulukaya told the Wharton graduates something that his own employees had suggested, “It’s great that you have an MBA. But please, don’t act like it.”

Humility and integrity will get you further than ego and credentials will, any day of the week.

However, even more powerful is the imbued message that our education never stops.  It needs to be ongoing. Whether we have been educated by the world or are MBAs, PhDs, JDs or MDs, we never stop growing. This continued lifelong learning may come through formal online courses and education but perhaps more importantly, it can come from the environment all around us.

So stay open: every member of our team has something to teach us.

I have seen the senior members of my team who entered the workforce before the internet was born, learn and grow from the millennials who don’t remember a world before the internet.  The younger generation is fearless and comfortable with technology, and as a result, has a lot to share with the team.

So stay open: every member of our team has something to teach us. Click To Tweet

On the flip side, those of us who have been at it a while definitely have some hard-won wisdom to share. This includes: best practices in business (and in life); a cultivated empathy and understanding that can only come after years of experience; and a calm and attentive attitude that is the result of learning to maneuver in difficult markets and business conditions.

Our goal should be to create a culture of learning and listening across our teams.  We certainly don’t all approach problems in the same way—and that is by design. Now, we can all come together and share our skills and individual wisdom in a way that drives our business forward and makes each of us a better team member and all of us better people.

Mr. Ulukaya concluded with some words we can all take back to our teams and to heart:

Be the kind of person, be the kind of leader that other people want to sacrifice for…Ask others for advice, no matter their jobs. And listen – really listen – to their answers.

I’ll leave you with that. Because true wisdom lives in each and every one of us.

Are you our next author?

Learn More