Here at Priority Consultants, we celebrate our diversity. Our potpourri of race, age, gender and religious beliefs is a strength, and we commit to provide a safe workplace where everyone is given a voice, encouraged to speak, and listened to with respect.

It felt so easy when we were just 20 or so in one office. Today, with our growing team located in 14 cities across seven countries, creating a unifying culture is a challenge. There are significant differences in values and beliefs across the region and these must inform our strengths. We do this by communicating clear expectations around how we work together. Everyone is asked to make a commitment to create space for one another, approach our differences with curiosity, respect and kindness. Everyone should be empowered to contribute knowing that it’s safe to do so.

Priority Consultants is a potpourri of race, age, gender and religious beliefs, spread across 14 cities in seven countries.  Proof, indeed, that We Live Asia

So what goes into defining our culture?

From the outset, Priority has always been about building sustained, deep and powerful relationships.  Woefully, with the arrival of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) the true meaning of “relationship” has been devalued. Today it feels less about building partnerships of trust and understanding and more about identifying sales and upsell opportunities. Building solid relationships is embedded in our culture, and I like to think, led by example. We are proud to have professional friendships that go back many years, going far beyond any contractual obligation but built on extending a hand of support, without question, whenever it is needed. Not because we’ve got our eye on a “return” but simply because that is what people do for one another when they are in a relationship.

Against this backdrop, we defined four core values as the pointers to look for – over and above qualifications and experience – in the people we want to come and join us. These are Empathy, Respect, Integrity and Courage.

Empathy, Respect, Integrity and Courage. The four core values we look for

Which brings us to the question; who is actually responsible for company culture? Is it management defined by benefits, pantry snacks, and the furniture, or is culture something less tangible, nurtured from the top but built from the bottom up?

Thinking about this, the analogy of a garden comes to mind as both garden and company culture need cultivating to create a positive and productive workplace. As with our team, a garden’s strength comes from diversity. Imagine every employee as a plant with their own unique qualities; some bring colour and perfume (client services) while others bear fruit for sustenance and growth (sales) and trees provide shade and support (leadership). Each plant has different needs; soil, sunlight and what amount of water is just right for them to thrive and exist in harmony.

Each of us bring something to our garden, be it colours, perfume, fruits and shade

But however hard we try, there will always be some weeds. Think of these as the behaviours that don’t honour the culture we are striving to create. We need to keep a close eye on them – nip in the bud those that pose a serious threat – but keep it in perspective.  The beauty isn’t lost just because a few weeds spring up and fixating on them to the detriment of the rest of the garden is not helpful.

Although it may feel counter-intuitive, an indication that a culture has become self-sustaining is when the good behaviours crowd out the undesirable ones; when you as leader aren’t required to intervene directly because the cultural eco-system self-corrects to stave off the weeds.

As Priority Consultants continues to grow in numbers and our geography extends across more of the amazing Asia region we call home, we are establishing a more overt and inclusive approach to cultivating our company garden with the appointment of our Culture Committee. This is imperative so we continue to be a safe place to work in our challenging and very diverse part of the world. Whatever the cultural nuance, we must be a space where people are respected, talent is nurtured, and deep and valuable relationships are built.

Our first Culture Committee was set up in February 2023. They will work in partnership with our leadership to cultivate the right conditions for all team members to truly thrive and make sure we deliver on the promises we make to our clients. They will play an important role internally to define what our culture looks like in action, celebrate our core values, and make sure everyone has a voice, feels empowered and is inspired to contribute. In this way, we can continue to provide financial stability and professional growth to our people.

Our Culture Committee (top-left to bottom-right): Ela Homillano (Chair), Jane Prior, William Laws, Mae Adolfo, Essam Ali, Hena Anand, Nga Nguyen, Sherby Dellenia, Jewelamor Catubag, Diana Aziz and Zulkifli Muhammad.

This is the start of what I know will be a marvellous and surprising journey. By inviting and trusting key members of our team to take a leading role in cultivating our culture, I am confident Priority will evolve in ways not yet imagined. I look forward to sharing stories and reflections along the way and am proud to introduce our inaugural Culture Committee.

Image by Freepik