Q: How can we be sure to live our values at work and how will it help make our company more democratic?

A: Explore Communications, a Denver-based marketing and advertising firm, had staff members collectively determine the company’s values, integrity being one of them. When the company lands a new business opportunity, the staff members review a checklist of value-based criteria before deciding if they want to pursue the client or not. Recently, the company turned down work with a multi-million dollar client because it involved the distribution of tobacco products, a sector the staff does not want to support because it does not align with their shared values.

Their values-driven work springs from an environment of transparency. To foster good communication and mutual understanding, the staff members have lots of meetings and exercises to learn about each other's communications style, motivations, and behavior. For example, one exercise has everyone bring in and explain ten objects in a brown bag that symbolize the ten most important things in their life.

At Explore Communications, employees use several different techniques for providing timely and relevant feedback, including a formal annual evaluation with scoring, written feedback, improvements achieved, and short/long term goals. In addition, employees have informal quarterly individual coffee/chai meetings for an all-purpose check-in, and regularly give spontaneous spot feedback.

“The principles of democracy in the workplace are concepts that we have unconsciously been practicing, but are now proactively embracing and continually evolving," says CEO Brett Grischo. "The process itself has united us even more closely and has provided a team environment that we look forward to each day. The workplace democracy principles inspire us to keep improving in each area because the results are a healthier, happier, and more productive workplace.”

Traci Fenton


Traci Fenton

Traci Fenton is the Founder + CEO of WorldBlu, which champions the growth of democratic organizations worldwide. As a leading expert in organizational democracy, she is recognized as one of