Naima Rashid is an author and entrepreneur. Her business, ContentBud, a marketing and communications consultancy, is founded on the mission to make businesses sound human and relatable. She believes that stories can be used as compelling frameworks to get the message across, whether it’s business driving hardcore results, or fiction meant to transport readers to other worlds. As an author and translator, her works are published with Oxford University Press and forthcoming with Penguin Random House India, among others.
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We’re happy that you could join us today! Please introduce yourself to our readers. What’s your story?
Naima Rashid: I have a background in journalism, linguistics, and education. I have worked with stories all my life, researching them, telling them, changing them, reframing them. I set up my communications consultancy to use my skills to serve businesses in how they communicate about themselves, first in their own minds, then to the rest of the world. Stories that spin through our heads dictate everything – the way we go through the day, the joy with which we wake up in the morning, and ultimately, the wealth we earn.
CEOs and leaders usually have different motives and aspirations when getting started. Let’s go straight to the beginning. What was your primary goal for starting your business? Was it wealth, respect, or to offer a service that would help improve lives?
Naima Rashid: To offer a service that would improve the lives of businesses. They are often unable to articulate their value as well as they could or should. My aim is to address and remove this disconnect and make them powerhouses of value in their respective fields.
Tell us about 2 things that you like and two things that you dislike about your industry. Share what you’d like to see change and why.
Naima Rashid: In the industry of marketing and communications, I dislike:
The spamminess and behaviors of some who make others distrust the industry as a whole & the focus on short-term tactics instead of long-term, lifelong relationships.
The fact that at the end of the day, one is always dealing with human beings, and it is ALWAYS possible to strike a chord and build a genuine connection if your intention is sincere & how responsive the industry is to real-life events, and how it is always evolving and never stagnant.
I would like to change:
The confidence and certainty with which businesses talk about their mission, their vision, and their story & the perception of marketers to trusted advisors working with a sincere desire for the well-being of a business.
Companies around the world are rapidly changing their work environment and organizational culture to facilitate diversity. How do you see your organizational culture changing in the next 3 years and how do you see yourself creating that change?
Naima Rashid: I see us taking full advantage of flexible working models, and getting more experimental with that over the years
– I see us recruiting more and more people from diverse ethnic backgrounds and areas of experience since there is so much fluidity in skills, experience, and interest. Teams with diverse interests and backgrounds are dynamic and creative. We are already a diverse team but are small at present. As we grow, this mission and commitment will be amplified.
According to the Michigan State University “An organization’s culture is responsible for creating the kind of environment in which the business is managed, and has a major impact on its ultimate success or failure.” What kind of culture has your organization adopted and how has it impacted your business?
Naima Rashid: The core values of our young company’s culture are diversity and creativity. These apply to everything. Having diversity as a core value means honoring differences and believing that differences are valuable, not something to be feared. Similarly, creativity is an overall approach, a way of looking at things, a way of solving problems. It means not being fixated on your ideas, and remaining open and receptive to suggestions. At its heart, it means being humble and accepting that you can never know everything.
Richard Branson once famously stated “There’s no magic formula for great company culture. The key is just to treat your staff how you would like to be treated.” and Stephen R. Covey admonishes to “Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers. What’s your take on creating a great organizational culture?
Naima Rashid: It’s our company’s motto to ‘treat ourselves like a premium client’. I always say this to my team and hold them and myself accountable for this. There simply cannot be a bifurcation between your internal culture and your external conduct. Both have to be seamlessly aligned with your values and mission.
The overwhelming majority of more than 9,000 workers included in a recent Accenture survey on the future of work said they felt a hybrid work model would be optimal going forward, a major reason for that being the improved work-life balance that it offers. How do you promote work-life balance at your company?
Naima Rashid: At the moment, we are a small team and in the first year of our business. We give some flexibility around work hours and needs. For example, if an employee is fasting during Ramadhan, their schedule differs, so we have flexibility. If an employee is taking a class, we work around that.
In the near future, I would love to give greater autonomy and flexibility to the team to self-direct and self-manage their work rhythm.
How would you describe your company’s overall culture? Give us examples.
Naima Rashid: Inclusivity. It’s a value to get the team’s feedback on projects even if they are not directly related to their specific area of work. I genuinely believe that a plurality of perspectives is a great strength.
Openness. It’s a core value to communicate among ourselves the way we want to communicate for our clients. I always wanted to create a culture in which there was so much trust between team members that feedback could be given face-to-face. I have tried to develop that culture. Everyone gives direct and honest feedback and understands the value of both receiving and giving honest, meaningful feedback to drive things forward.
Growth. I encourage and assist the team in actively developing themselves beyond their association with the company. Their years with us are just a step. They will outgrow us, outgrow themselves; it’s a natural process. I have the power to influence what kind of human beings they become. There is a teacher inside me who can spot people’s talents and skills, and nurture them. I try to do my best in the context of the business as well.
It is believed that a company’s culture is rooted in a company’s values. What are your values and how do they affect daily life at the workplace?
Naima Rashid: Our values are trust, long-term relationships, and growth. We have a culture where every team member can communicate with another in total confidence at the workplace. Even if it’s difficult conversations, we try to take them head-on. I don’t have a habit of avoiding difficult things or glossing them over for politeness or political correctness. The team knows that.
When you have a long-term perspective on things, you allow no shortcuts in anything. Period. You know it will come back to haunt you. Growth. As a company, and at an individual level, for each of the team members. I try to ensure they always think several steps ahead and actively build a strong portfolio and skillset for their future.
An organization’s management has a deep impact on its culture. What is your management style and how well has it worked so far?
Naima Rashid: I have a lot of projects besides the business, so I am always aiming for a hands-off style in which my team is autonomous and self-directed. We set an agenda together and have clear goals, and after that, I like them to manage the workstreams on their own, create their own processes, etc. I always tell them that the way to know if you’ve learned how to do something is to see if you can teach it to someone confidently.
Every organization suffers from internal conflicts, whether functional or dysfunctional. Our readers would love to know, how do you solve an internal conflict?
Naima Rashid: We are great believers in open, direct, and difficult conversations. It’s part of the company culture, and we speak to our employees about it very openly. As a result, internal conflicts are seen as a learning experience and a natural thing when several people work together. If it’s one person’s view against another, empirical proof decides the next steps.
According to Culture AMP, Only 40% of women feel satisfied with the decision-making process at their organization (versus 70% of men), which leads to job dissatisfaction and poor employee retention. What is your organization doing to facilitate an inclusive and supportive environment for women?
Naima Rashid: Our team is predominantly women-powered. I created the company with my husband, who is a great supporter of women in active, decision-making roles. I have open conversations with my team about their confidence in making decisions instead of taking orders or instructions. It’s a standing rule at our company never to act in confusion or with insufficient or unclear instructions. I encourage them to always question and understand not just the task but the larger context of the task, how it affects the end goal for the business. I am a very decisive person and have zero tolerance for indecision, so those who stay on with us do so because, at some level, they love this attitude and are empowered by it.
What role do your company’s culture and values play in the recruitment process and how do you ensure that it is free from bias?
Naima Rashid: It’s a constant work of self-knowledge and self-awareness to remain aware of unconscious biases we may be holding against others. While recruiting, my partner and I try never to let anyone’s background or ethnicity determine our decisions. We have a strong belief in hiring for potential. One of our hires was someone who did not have a lot of experience, but she was extremely serious and very eager to learn. We took a chance on her, and it has paid off. She is a valued member of the team, is self-driven, and always upskilling. I have generally received very positive reports about her overall attitude towards work and her approach to learning.
We’re grateful for all that you have shared so far! We would also love to know if there was one thing that you could improve about your company’s culture, what would it be?
Naima Rashid: I would love to be in a position where I can give my team greater autonomy over their work style, timing, and rhythm. Right now, this is not possible. I hope to be able to do this when our initial targets are met.
This has been truly insightful and we thank you for your time. Our final question, however, might be a bit of a curveball. If you had a choice to either fly or be invisible, which would you choose and why?
Naima Rashid: Hmm. This is the best one so far. I’d like to fly (as in, like a bird, not in an airplane). One would choose to be invisible only to do things one was unable to do while being visible. I don’t feel restricted in any way by being visible. I’m generally able to do everything I want to. However, growing a pair of wings and gliding through the air like a bird, that is outside the realm of my ability at present. That’s why I would choose that option.
Mike Weiss, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Naima Rashid for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Naima Rashid or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
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