Based on the myriad of books on the subject (113,510 at last count) understanding, articulating, developing and growing your company culture is not as straightforward as deciphering a spreadsheet.
Yet all of us readily acknowledge that a strong and clear company culture can give us all a safe and nurturing framework to work within.
Some say it all starts with your mission statement. For others culture is fed from the top down and those who have read Simon Sinek’s book of the same name believe you need to ‘Start with Why.’
Unlike the (hopefully) meaningful words framed on a wall in your office reception, your company culture has life, gives purpose and spreads into the hearts of every employee and all who come into contact with your company.
But here’s a crucial question that we think has more and more relevance in these highly disruptive times: Is your culture spreading ‘good?’
Now, we could pontificate on the answer. But let’s do something different — let’s start a REAL conversation by asking you to ask some questions of your colleagues.
Here’s how it works:
You might choose to sit alone with them, discuss with your colleagues or take to your next staff meeting. Please share your ideas and comments below so we can keep the conversation going.
1. Do we ask enough questions?
“Most misunderstandings in the world could be avoided if people would simply take the time to ask, “What else could this mean?” – Shannon L. Adler
Do I ask my team what they like about the current culture? What they don’t like? Do I ask then what culture is and whether it matters… and if it does, then why? Do I ask myself, if I make this decision without employees, could this hurt the culture more than it helps? Do I ask my team what we could do to create an outstanding, inspiring culture?
2. Do I lead by example?
‘One rule for all, or no rule at all.’ – 1980’s workplace sign
Are there different ‘rules’ – written or implied – for different levels of management, different departments or for different roles? How can I further develop trust and cohesion within my team by establishing ‘rules that work for all? Does my leadership team embody the type of company we want to be? Is ‘transparency’ most important?
3. Who are we hiring?
“It’s astonishing that many businesses today still make hiring choices without considering whether the new hire really fits in with the culture of the company.” – Masami Sato – Founder B1G1 and author ‘Giving Business’
Are they passionate about what we’re passionate about? Who are they outside of work? Do they look as good in their heart as they do on paper? What are their dreams, goals, desires in life? Do we hire people for their strengths and then manage them to fix their weaknesses? Are their values aligned with ours?
4. Do my team come to work inspired – not just motivated, but inspired?
“Any organisation can explain what it does; some can explain how they do it; but very few can clearly articulate why. Why does your organisation exist? Why does it do the things it does?” – Simon Sinek – ‘Start With Why’
If I asked every employee why we do what we do, what would be their answer? Do we know our ‘why’ – the reason we get out of bed every day? And have we shared that ‘why’ with every… every member of our team? Have we asked them what their why is? Can we help them find a deeper meaning beyond a pay cheque for coming to work every day? Is our ‘why’ visible to our team and our customers?
5. Have we created shared goals?
“I am interested in the interaction of a group of people who have a common goal, or a common obsession, each contributing something unique to make something greater than the sum of its parts.” – Steven Van Zandt
Does every member of the team know our company goals? Have they each played a part in creating those goals? Do we know their goals? Have we asked how we can help them accomplish their goals? How often do we challenge our business model? Do we have ‘why’ goals as well as ‘what’ goals? Are our goals posted throughout our office?
6. What about our customers?
“Your customer doesn’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
Do we truly connect at each step of the customer process? Do we give our customers an experience that shows we care? Do our clients believe in what we believe in? Do we communicate our culture and why it’s important to us? How can we attract more of the people we enjoy working with – people who ‘get’ us?
7. What is our language?
“Language is an incredibly powerful tool, and can be used to create a sense of empowerment, pride, identity and purpose. Contrary to the old adage “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” improper use can have a devastating impact, even with the best intentions.” – Australian Network on Disability
Is our language inclusive or divisive? Do we talk about they/them or we/us? Do we ask, “How do we do this together?” Do I get out of my comfort zone as a leader? Can I let down my guard and be relatable whilst remaining professional?
8. Do we really care?
“If your staff believes that they matter, that their opinions matter, the company soars” – Tom Walter, CEO – Tasty Catering
Do we really listen? And do we act on what we hear? How do we show we care? Do we give people ways to communicate with us? How do we reward our people? Do we have ways to measure and acknowledge participation, input, effort? Do we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses? What percentage of a typical day do each of us spend playing to our strengths?
For the final word, let’s turn to Frances Frei and Anne Morriss from Harvard Business Review. They say this: “Culture guides discretionary behaviour and it picks up where the employee handbook leaves off. Culture tells us how to respond to an unprecedented service request. It tells us whether to risk telling our bosses about our new ideas and whether to surface or hide problems. Employees make hundreds of decisions on their own every day and culture is our guide. Culture tells us what to do when the CEO isn’t in the room, which is of course most of the time.”
Please share your thoughts, experiences, ideas on creating company culture. It’ll be great to hear your voice.
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Download the free E-book “Secrets from the Family Business” and learn how to build a strong company culture that resonate throughout your team.