Culture Spotlight – 360 Live Media

How seven tenets can steer a company

Aspire sat down with a few team members from one of Washington’s Best Places to Work (a 2015 winner) 360 Live Media this month to hear about what it’s like to be a part of the 360 Team and how their credo, The 360 Way, guides their day-to-day work and shapes their culture. Read on below to learn more about how their seven-part credo creates a culture of accountability, collaboration and empowerment, and how you can bring some of those cultural best practices to your workplace!

Chatter comes from a long dining table against a wild chalkboard backdrop. Talk of upcoming trips, grandmothers’ visits, and client deadlines intermix as 360 Live Media’s employees break for lunch. Yes, a lunch break. Nearly extinct in the modern workplace, but not at 360 Live Media. Every day you’ll find 360 employees circled up, chatting about ideas and their personal lives. How did a culture like this come about?

Most companies have a mission-driven culture. But most leave talk of those missions to career fairs, annual celebrations and websites. Unlike most companies, 360 Live Media is committed to actually driving impact through its credo, which they call The 360 Way. The 360 Way, written four years ago and still standing strong, is a guiding light in the daily lives of each employee and creates an enviable culture at the company. The 360 Way improves the quality of work at 360 Live Media and creates a culture that Amira El-Gawly, Chief Strategy Officer and Executive Vice President, describes as “a work family of high-achieving, super-loving, hyper-intelligent super humans driven by excellence, obsessed with everything that matters.” 

We sat down with leadership, managers, and new employees in a buzzing office to learn how a credo can help drive the type of culture most companies only dream of.

So first things first — what are the seven tenets of The 360 Way?

Impact. Love thy client. The authority. Everything matters. Own it. I’ve got your back. Tune into W360.

Short, sweet, and to the point. Now, how do these tenets impact the company? 

An Attitude of Personal Responsibility

One of the first things a new employee at 360 Live Media sees is the “Own It” piece of the 360 Way. Throughout the interview process, candidates meet nearly everyone they would be working with on a daily basis, and those people have a veto in the hiring process. From the get-go, you can tell 360 Live Media is a meritocracy, an environment where everyone has a say and the best idea wins, not the idea from the most senior or tenured team member.

This culture of personal accountability and empowerment translates into each employee taking pride in every single one of their work products. You can sense even the newest employee isn’t simply executing on the directive from a higher up. As Cameron Feller, a marketing strategist told us, “In previous positions, I didn’t feel a sense of pride in my work one way or the other. You’re given a lot of ownership and encouraged to express ideas and try something new. That’s really scary but really appreciated.” 

Employees love the authority over their own work. They see that colleagues and managers alike appreciate what they bring to the table, and that they’re being set up for success. Being surrounded by likeminded, client focused colleagues who consistently deliver high-quality product generates confidence in your own work, and in others’.

Founder Don Neal says The 360 Way is “the cultural center of gravity that unites our team.” Neal says it’s what attracts the best people and, in turn, the best clients to 360. “It’s exciting to see even the newest member of our team say ‘I’ll own that.’”

360 Live Media employees are also responsible for owning their professional development. 360 Live Media provides its employees the resources and opportunities to achieve their professional development goals, but it’s up to each employee to take advantage of them. You’re encouraged to spend an allotted amount of money to help you gain authority — or as they put it, to be an expert and share your passion. 

El-Gawly believes in personal responsibility as a method to consistently drive better results: “To create a culture where great ideas can emerge, team members balance a strong sense of personal accountability and ownership with the knowledge that collaboration breeds even better ideas.”

The Language of Collaboration

Because each employee deeply believes in his or her ability to impact a project, and that those successes will be attributed to their hard work, 360 Live Media is able to foster a highly collaborative environment.

Kate Blackburn, one of 360 Live Media’s newest employees, put it this way after a high-intensity client deliverable was successfully completed: “Every single person was proud to present to the client. When everybody is all in and invested in something, you can tell in the end product. It was an amazing team effort.”

Selecting employees who will invest their heart and soul into projects and empowering them to always do their best work organically creates a collaborative environment. Leadership intentionally seeks to reflect the collaboration of employees in physical space as well. El-Gawly told us about seeking new office space:

“A year ago, we were on the hunt for our new office… As we designed the space, we consciously invested 50% of the footprint on individual space, and the other 50% on creative collaboration and team space. The creative spaces are homey and bright, always inviting us to take a break from our personal space and work with each other.”

As you’ve likely guessed, “I’ve got your back” is the tenet that codifies the collaboration at 360 Live Media. Amanda Mitchell, Business Strategy Director, can’t believe the commitment of the team to each other: “24 hours a day – every member of this team has your back. I’ve never seen a team so willing and ready to help each other.”

The dining table serves more than one purpose. Not only do people get a chance to disconnect and take a break, they get to chat about projects they aren’t on. You might be listening to someone talk about where they’re stuck on a project, and share a solution you’ve implemented before. When everyone is rooting for each other, you win big.

Strength-based Organization

Finally, collaboration allows all employees to play to their own strengths and to develop skills they’re both excited by and talented at. El-Gawly describes how 360 Live Media invests in its employees:

“We are a strengths-based agency – and that means we are invested in building roles around people’s natural talents and strengths. Everyone who joins 360 Live Media takes StrengthsFinder, a Gallup assessment that identifies what you naturally do best (and ultimately, where you will find the most success with experience). We are finding this to be a liberating and energizing force for our team – and are working to build more strengths-focused coaching and communication around our team initiatives.”

Extensive self-discovery lets employees find out how to do what they love every single day. Encouraging employees to embrace their best qualities creates a serendipitously balanced team that responds to challenges with flexibility and innovation.  It also ensures that everyone feels valued for what they bring to the table.

“If you succeed, I succeed” is the mantra of the office and guides employees at every level to do what they do best and take advantage of their teammates’ talents. There is a palatable culture of possibilities in the 360 Live Media office. There’s a need for what you do. Your strengths align with the company’s needs and you’re asked to take pride in them and share them with your team.

Taking the 360 Way to Your Office

The undercurrent of The 360 Way allows personal responsibility, collaboration, and strength training to flourish. It seems incredibly difficult to align a team to follow a rudder. How does 360 Live Media keep a rapidly growing team in line with the 360 tenets?

The interview process at 360 Live Media rotates around the 360 Way. The final step of the process is to present on two tenets of The 360 Way and how you’ve already embodied it in your personal or professional life. That places values on a pedestal immediately for all employees. The credo naturally embeds itself in the working culture of every new hire, regardless of their different personalities and work styles. Everyone is an achiever and cares about the team they join. The 360 Way naturally grows from there. 

To keep The 360 Way top of mind outside of interviews, 360 Live Media holds Café’s every Monday morning to talk about what everyone is focused on and who’s collaborating with whom. To drive impact, you have to get everyone out of his or her silos. They have to talk about what’s working and what needs work and why. You have to tune in to W360.

Relying on the whole company to perpetuate The 360 Way is the only way to have a credo with impact. El-Gawly put it best: “Leaders shape the culture, leading by example – employees take their lead from those running the company. But ultimately, culture is cultivated and maintained by the entire company ecosystem. It’s why we are so adamant about culture alignment in our hiring process – we all want to work with people we respect, admire and know will always have our back.”

Think your Washington, D.C., company should be featured in Aspire’s Culture Spotlight? Let us know how you’re making your workplace better!