“Your” Good Culture

Shawnee Love   •  
March 4, 2016

Last week we began a blog series on 12 steps to a good culture and promised that each week we would explore one of the 12 steps in more detail.

We begin with the first step I listed, and one I am particularly passionate about:

Understanding what your version of a good culture is.

When culture building, just as with physical construction, it is most important to understand what you are trying to build.  No good  builder would start building a house without having the whole house plan.  Similarly, it is best practice to build your culture knowing exactly what your ideal culture is.  What does it feel like, look like, and behave like?

Before we get into characteristics, here are a few truths about organizational culture:

  • There is no such thing as a perfect culture although there might be one “perfect for you”
  • Culture is unique to the environment and group of individuals it encompasses, so choose your employees (and contractors) wisely
  • Culture can’t be perfectly copied (although it can be imitated to some extent)
  • Culture is ever changing (every new hire and many new developments in your employees’ lives can have impact)
  • Bad cultures are plentiful and although unique, often share common characteristics: disrespect, lack of trust, violence, etc.

To know what your ideal culture is, you need to understand what creates culture.  It is how we do business and operate around here and includes:

  • Structure and hierarchy:  For example, do you have to go through the approved channels, or can you connect with anyone?  How many “steps” are there between the most junior position and the CEO?
  • Sense of time and timeliness:  Are you expected to jump on incoming calls & requests or is tomorrow ok? Can you arrive 10 minutes after a meeting is scheduled and be “early” or will you have to stand in the back so as not to interrupt?
  • Value of people: At the most basic, are people an investment and asset or an expense?  Are they numbers or people?
  • Values in general: What’s really important to the leaders? Hint: you know because it’s what they measure and/or reward.
  • Independence: Do you encourage individualistic and independent behaviour or team orientation?
  • Etiquette:  How polite are you? How Politically Correct?
  • Work Space: Do you care if it is cluttered or in need of repair?  Do you fix burnt out lights or remove bulbs for natural light?
  • Time vs. Process vs Results: Would you rather have people present, follow and complete all the steps, or  deliver results?
  • Community Involvement: Do you care about giving back and if so what is your special formula?
  • Flexibility:  How much are you willing to accommodate and flex to meet the needs of employees?
  • Communication: What are the norms around communication?  How often, what methods, to whom, by who?Small patchwork

Some of these you may not care about, others you will. If you want to create your culture (a patchwork quilt of what you care about), consider which of these elements you care about along with any others you think are important.  You can identify what is important by reflecting on what you reward and punish.  What you reward defines your desired culture.  What you punish determines your cultural deal breakers.

If you feel inspired, please share your ideal culture. And if you want help with identifying and creating your ideal culture, we can help.