Culture Is…

Culture is a lot like trust, we recognize when it is not present, better than how to actually define it. We learn best in contrasts, and to learn what culture is almost requires knowing what it isn’t. 

“Culture is the 2 worst behaviors we tolerate. Because what we tolerate, we promote.” ~ Rick Lochner

Culture is not our written mission, vision, or core values statements. Often, companies will build the mission to identify their culture, when it should be done in the exact opposite manner. Matt Emerson, Travologist, further explains in comments below, that we must first identify our culture and then build our mission, values, etc. around it. Once complete, the test will be if those statements truthfully show up in the decisions, statements, behaviors, and actions of everyone with the organization – especially senior leaders.

Culture is the air we breathe and the water in which we swim. It’s the underlying basic principles that are present and woven throughout everything in our companies – from customer service to marketing, employee recognition to the products we deliver, and from vendors to family members.

There are many places where our culture will show up:

  1. First, our culture should appear on the faces of our team and we should hear it when they talk about the company.
  2. Our culture should be represented in interactions and feedback from our clients.
  3. Our culture shows through in our company’s big “Why do we exist?”
  4. Our hiring, firing, and promotion criteria clearly show our culture – the reasons we bring people onto the team, the reasons we let them go, and the reasons we promote and/or reward them.

Building Our Company Culture

  • Culture is a natural recruiting, attraction, and retention tool. Like attracts like, so we can start to see our company culture growing organically.
  • Hire people with moral and performance values. We need diversity – without diversity, culture becomes a cult where everyone becomes robotic to what it takes to belong and we end up shunning others who are not exactly like us – that’s not culture, that’s just a poor cult.
  • Truly embrace the team concept and we are capable of expressing our individual values. That’s a safe environment, and culture is nurtured in safe environments
  • Recognize and praise often for 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 are the foul lines and fair-poles in the corporate playing field.
  • Conduct regular and consistent performance discussions – people like to know how they are doing.
  • Give your employees a career path for growth.
  • Think about the 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 – WE are the culture.

At the end of the day, be mindful that the culture we build will be our ultimate legacy.

“Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast.” ~ Peter Drucker


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