When is the last time you ask someone to describe the culture that they work in? Recently, I had this opportunity to ask 35 people all serving in various roles of an organization to do just that, describe their culture. It was fascinating to see that not one of these folks had really ever stopped to give their work culture much thought. These were men and women from the highest levels in the organization to guys working support tickets. Culture just was.
As I ventured through this 8 hour assessment of the organization, trying to peel back layers of infrastructure my main focus remained on their culture. Some folks even commented on how odd that questions was stating “No one’s ever asked me that before”. Each person made an attempt to describe the culture which lead me to even more awareness. Not one of them described it the same.
Wow, if no one in your organization intentionally thinks about culture and everyone describes the culture differently, how do leaders ensure it is a culture that breeds excellence?
Leaders must define the culture, they must hire the right people into this culture, they must cultivate it through intentional activities, and most of all leaders must defend the culture against attacks. At the end of the day you can have all the talent you want, you can have the money needed to fund your projects, but if your culture suffers so will your productivity.
I challenge you when you go to work tomorrow (or when you close your browser right now), go to your boss and ask them to define the company culture. See if it lines up with what you think the culture is. Think about as a leader how to define the culture of your department, start at the grassroots level of culture if culture is not intentional to your organization. Do some research on companies with great cultures, make recommendations to your senior leadership about ways to be more intentional about your culture.
As I parted from that organization I wondered if they realized that the culture they had unintentionally built had a lot to do with the disharmony (consequences) they were experiencing. The bottom line is great cultures attract great talent and great cultures retain great talent.
Have you ever worked at a company where culture was a main focus, if so I would love to hear from you?