Company culture is a combination of our attitudes, what we think, what we feel, what we believe, and our emotions; all of which we carry with us into work every day. Culture is the behavioural expression of how people in an organisation get results. Culture is the culmination of thousands of little decisions where behaviour is accepted, rejected or ignored; these decisions form a system of rules and boundaries in which people (us) act out our lives.
The behaviours that we exhibit are how everybody gets to experience company culture. It comes down to how we interact with each other, how we treat each other, particularly in meetings, and how we work as a team towards shared objectives and goals. Culture is built on rituals and reinforced using artefacts.
Rituals are activities that we frequently engage in, such as, coffee meetings for that casual catch up, or the way we present information that we believe is important. Rituals can also be team-building routines we chose whether it’s inside the office or outside of the office.
Artefacts are the things that we produce and put around us in the office, like our mission statement and shared purpose, publications we make for new employees, and documents we produce to ensure everyone understands the rules of the road. And of course, artefacts include the things we report on, this tells the story of what is important to this business.
YOUR ACTIONS MATTER MORE THAN WORDS.
To prove this, just think about companies like Enron, WeWork and Uber, these companies had fantastic values published throughout their organisations, but each of these companies fell from grace. Why? Because their leaders didn’t live up to their values, these examples underscore the importance of all leaders in an organisation taking responsibility for their actions and the impact they have on maintaining a positive culture.
THERE ARE THREE KEYS THAT WILL HELP YOU BUILD A POSITIVE CULTURE.
THE FIRST KEY IS, BE A ROLE MODEL.
You must be the change; you start by working out how you will live the values and what this means to you. You will have to face up to your personal challenges. Living the values will require a commitment to change your behaviour before you can ask others to do the same. Remember you’re the superhero in this story. You’re the one responsible for creating a space where the people that you care about and work with, can succeed and feel free do their best work.
THE SECOND KEY IS, TELL YOUR STORY.
To live the values every leader has to do the same work, they have to translate their personal core values to be able to attach them to the company’s values. This work generates a story about what they found to be easy, as well as what they found to be difficult.
This story can help other people understand that there is work to be done and it requires self-leadership to do it.
THE THIRD KEY IS, ASK FOR FEEDBACK.
Be specific, when you’re asking for feedback and be open to the answers you get. Use open questions to show your curiosity about what others are experiencing. Be careful of your body language, don’t let yourself be tripped up by a defensive signal, you want to encourage a free flow of information and show that it matters to you. When you are listening to feedback, let it land, acknowledge your feelings and ask for clarification, there is no value is offering an excuse or challenging their experience. Give yourself time to digest feedback before you decide what to do with it, or how you will change after you have processed your reaction to their experience of your leadership. Always remember to say thank you and show genuine gratitude. We all need feedback to grow and change.
Modelling the way, telling your story and asking for feedback will enable others to engage in this same behaviour, people copy what they see. Remember, company culture is a combination of our attitudes and our behaviours. It’s created from hundreds and hundreds of decisions that we make every day. What we allow, and what we don’t allow. What we acknowledge, what we admonish, or what we eliminate.
Culture is derived from the things that we say are important, and culture is made visible by what we reward and recognise in other people’s behaviour.
My advice, to all leaders, is to stop trying to manage people. It is time to make a mental shift, to see yourself as a player-coach, someone that’s helping to get the best out of people. Concern yourself with how the work gets done, how people interact and look for ways to set your talented people free to create a place that they love to work in, and you will be rewarded with awesome results.