Interview: Mark Anderson

Written by Maddie Grant on February 26, 2016

Every month, as part of this series of posts about organizational culture, I will be interviewing someone who is focusing actively on culture, as it relates to the topic we are discussing that month.

Today’s interview is with Mark Anderson, CEO at the American Society for Surgery of the Hand. ASSH is one of our favorite case studies of organizations with awesome cultures, and was featured in the Digital chapter of our book When Millennials Take Over. If you want to read more, this chapter is included for you here.

[Maddie Grant] How has your focus on culture driven the success of ASSH?

[Mark Anderson] This is a two-part answer. First, there is the focus on culture at the staff level. That focus has helped us assemble the high-performing team and has helped us move faster on objectives from the board than we would have been able to do in the past. Second, there is focus on culture at the board and volunteer level, where the presidential line (4 people) talk with new board members and new presidential line members about the need for continuity of culture across new people who have no real sense of the organizational culture. Our board refers to this as our “special sauce.”

[MG] how do you make the core values at ASSH really REAL, rather than just words on the wall?

[MA] There is not a week that goes by that I don’t think about this question. And I don’t have a good answer for it except that it is a question I ask myself weekly.

[MG] How does culture factor into your hiring process? Do you (and how do you) hire for cultural fit?

[MA] It is CENTRAL to our hiring process. In addition to having cognitive tests for each job (e.g., meeting tests for meeting planners, IT tests for IT people, writing and editing tests for communications people), we focus our final interviews and questions around a bank of personality and style tests (5 to be specific). We feel that we can teach someone almost anything given some basic skills if they have the right cultural fit with the organization. Cultural fit is the most important element we look for when we hire someone.

[MG] What’s your top tip for an association CEO that wants to build a strong culture?

[MA] You cannot delegate the creation of a strong culture to someone else. You have to take this on yourself. It has to be an ongoing priority. You have to care about it every week and spend time on it when things go awry. If you don’t show that it is a priority, others won’t care. It starts at the top.

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