Living Our Why: Cinnaire

In business, corporate culture has been defined as a shared belief system of values and processes within an organization. Simply stated “the way we do things around here.” It is at the core of an organization and has both explicit and implicit characteristics. Dan Denison, Ph.D., University of Michigan, defined it as “The underlying values, beliefs, and principles that serve as a foundation for an organization’s management system as well as the practices and behaviors that both exemplify and reinforce those basic principles.”

Since Cinnaire was founded, I’ve been asked how I had the vision for what has become the culture of Cinnaire and its success. My goal was to work somewhere that I could help people have better life circumstances than they might otherwise have, both for staff and the people we help in our communities. I took my previous work experiences and vowed not to recreate them. It meant seeing the members of our team as highly valued and treating them as such. Allowing them to be leaders, entrepreneurs, independent, and extend trust and loyalty to them. It is as simple as the Golden Rule: Treat people the way you want to be treated. That is the simple basis of what has become the award-winning culture of Cinnaire today.

New staff participate in a year-long Leadership Academy. One of the touchstones that is developed is a personal life vision. My vision for my life is: Maintain the importance of family which empowers me to help other people. Thus, it is important to me that members of our team receive the appropriate support so that they can strengthen their own family growth and relationships.

Through building a culture that is transparent, trusting, and places huge value on the person, our team has been able to find passion in the work they do every day. This has made our focus on diversity and inclusion a much more natural and comfortable evolution within the history of Cinnaire. We are working to develop a more robust and focused diversity and inclusion strategy plan.

For an organization to be successful, it can’t be in the image of one or two people. We have worked hard to attract people of different talents, beliefs and backgrounds. We discourage group thinking. We want to be challenged by people’s opinions and ideas. It is an entrepreneurial culture of diverse people. It is the energy you feel when you come into our offices or meet members of our team at conferences and meetings. Because of that, we have been able to unlock an individual’s passion for what makes them happy in their life.

We spend considerable effort getting insight from our team to measure how we are meeting the needs and desires in the workplace. Twice a year we conduct extensive surveying to measure how we are strengthening the culture at Cinnaire. We have a committee in place that reviews the results of these third-party survey programs. Based on these findings, we know what is working. Enhancements and improvements are put in place every year. Some of the biggest program introductions include a living succession plan and process, a performance and coaching program tied to a sophisticated corporate, department, and individual annual goal setting process, a newly adopted compensation plan that ties to all of the above, an Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) program, the adoption of an unlimited personal time-off policy, and the current work to develop stronger programming around diversity and inclusion. All driven by staff, leadership, and our board of directors.

I have come to understand very clearly that the most valued asset you have in any organization is the people you work with. They need to know they are valued and trusted. It is our goal as leaders to create that environment that unlocks every individual’s passion for what they want out of life. There is no end point to it. You have to be committed to living and breathing this every day of your life. For us it is what makes us Cinnaire, an organization that is always moving forward in a helpful, caring way.

– Mark S. McDaniel, president & CEO

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