Culture is one of the most misunderstood components of business. Many leaders spend countless hours discussing and then implementing a plan to create culture. That process always fails. Always.
The simple fact of the matter is that culture starts at the top. Your vision, policies, integrity and leadership skills form what everyone else in your organization responds to and interacts with. So make no mistake about it, you already have the foundation of what your culture will be. It's YOU.
Take some time to let that sink in.
I've been a student of culture for as long as I can remember. To me, it has always been the key to success and harmony. I also believe that it is not as complicated as people try to make it. It's actually quite simple. You just have to be true to yourself, whatever that truth is. Then, own it!
That's not to say that you can't change the culture of your company. Before you start in on this task, however, you need to be sure that you really want there to be a change. If you are doing it because it's the latest trend, or someone put the culture bug in your ear, then I'd suggest that you stop and reevaluate your motive. The only way for you to change or create culture is if you are 100% behind it, believe it, and can walk your talk. Period.
There are two things that people often equate with culture, and it is critically important to understand the difference:
- Do not confuse culture with morale
- Do not confuse culture with the workplace environment
- Karaoke nights
- Holiday bonuses
- Bean bag chairs
- Catered lunches
- The gourmet coffee bar
- Gift exchanges
- Ergonomic chairs
- Standing desks
- Contests, etc.
Not a thing wrong with any of these things. As a matter of fact, they're great; however, they are not company culture.
While we are talking about what culture is not, do not confuse your written mission, vision, or core values statements as your culture either. Often, companies will build the mission to identify their culture when it should be done in the exact opposite manner. You must identify your culture and then build your mission, values, etc. Once complete, the test will be if those statements truthfully show up in the decisions, intentions, and actions of everyone in the organization. Remember, everyone in the organization includes you!
We believe that your culture is the underlying basic principles that are present and woven throughout everything in your company; from customer service to marketing, employee recognition to the product you deliver, vendors to family members. Everything.There are many places where your culture will show up:
- First and foremost, your culture should appear on the faces of your team and you should hear it when they talk about the company and you
- Interaction and feedback from your clients
- As we mentioned above, your values - those you state with words and, especially, those you exhibit through your actions
- Your company's big "Why?"
- Your hiring, firing, and promotion criteria - the reasons you bring people onto the team, the reasons you let them go, and the reasons you promote and/or reward them
- Lastly, how YOU feel about what you've created
- The most successful organizations have employees who are living the culture and can share it along with your company vision and path to the future.
Cultivation of Your Company Culture
- Culture is a natural recruiting, attraction, and retention tool. Like attracts like so you will start to see your company culture growing organically
- Only hire people that fit your culture. Does the team member share the core, common beliefs of the organization? The great thing about a solid culture is that the people that don't fit will self-identify and stand out like a sore thumb
- Truly embrace the team concept. You are not a bunch of individuals
- Acknowledge that good ideas and decisions can come from anyone. Don't forget to follow up. Acknowledged ideas and decisions only work if they are implemented. Poor follow-through in this area is a culture-killer
- Recognize a job well done
- Ensure team members clearly understand and are in alignment with your company culture. If you notice behavior that is out-of-sync, address it immediately.
- Policies and procedures play an important role in any organization. They provide a consistent and fair playing field if they are implemented properly
- Provide consistent performance reviews - people like to know how they are doing
- Give your employees a career path for growth
- Think about your culture every day. Check yourself. Make sure that you are not getting too busy or too detached from the day-to-day to keep it in check. Remember - YOU are the culture.
At the end of the day, be mindful that the culture you build will be your ultimate legacy. Be proud of it, live up to it, and make it last.