Our core function at Q4i is evaluating businesses and offering ideas, tools, coaching, and services to shape companies into the cultural and process-driven organizations our clients desire. While the right processes are critical, culture must be of equal importance. Peter Drucker so famously explained that “culture eats strategy” and it’s become an oft-quoted phrase because it’s so true.
The best laid plans will not be executed with enthusiasm and care if people don’t like working in your organization. At best, you’ll end up with a mediocre version of the ideas you envisioned.
The culture of any organization will develop randomly if you ignore it, or you can be very intentional about shaping the cultural environment you want to have.
- When you pay attention and carefully manage and protect the environment, you choose the people who fit into your culture.
- But when you don’t really give culture much, if any, thought and just let whatever happens happen, then the people who are in your company determine the culture you have.
When you think of company culture, does it bring to mind visions of ping pong tables and free food? Sure, that might be all the buzz, but it’s just that. Culture is actually something much deeper than fun and games. It’s about the care and development of your people; making sure that everyone feels like a worthwhile and valuable part of the team; and that everyone knows the role they play in achieving the company vision.
Organizations that don’t pay attention to culture share several commonalities:
- Hire for skill and not for personality fit
- Have little company-wide communication
- Lack performance management/coaching and personal development
- Don’t have defined or well-communicated company vision and values
- Employees may or may not trust the intention of the leaders, but at best there are feelings of neutrality, and at worst, apathy or outright disdain
Organizations that are intentional about shaping culture also share commonalities:
- Hire for personality/cultural fit because skills can be taught
- Have regular company communications via meetings, events, emails, online sharing tools
- Request feedback, ideas, and participation from all team members
- Integrate regular performance coaching and personal development for all team members
- Have defined company values that are communicated regularly and woven into all programs
- Everyone knows the vision of the organization and is working toward a common goal
- The team tends to trust and believe in the intentions of the leaders
Thinking about these two approaches, how has your organizational culture been developed? Here are five ideas to think about and do some self-assessment around to see exactly what type of situation you have with your culture.
When people on the team believe in the sincere intent of their leaders’ words and actions, the culture is able to be much more change-adaptive and move faster. Organizations with high trust in the leaders’ intent consistently outperform their competition because people don’t waste time questioning motivations and speculating about hidden agendas.
Ask Yourself / Ask Your Team – What is trust like among our team? Do they trust one another? Their supervisors? The company leaders? What type of trust do the leaders have in the team?
Especially in times of change, it’s important for leadership to have a detailed vision of the company you strive to be. This is not a statement to be framed and hung on a wall, but a detailed description of the resources, skills, behaviors, and results that are necessary for success. But a vision itself is not enough. There must be a plan to achieve it and everyone must know both the vision and the plan as well as leadership does in order to make it a reality.
Ask Yourself / Ask the team - What does our company look like in three years? Where do we have it documented? What is our plan for executing on the ideas? And how are we communicating it to our team so everyone is participating in helping achieve the vision?
Value are one of those ideas that might make some roll their eyes. But values, done right, are key ideas that each company should define in order to help everyone guide their decision-making and behaviors. Everyone has their own values they use daily in decision-making. And regardless of how great your people are, if each person is using individual values to make decisions, then you are going to create a disparate client experience at best.
Ask yourself / Ask the team: Have we defined values as an organization? How do we have them documented? How often do we talk about them with the team so everyone understands what they are, why they’re important, and how to make decisions against them?
People will generally perform to the level of expectation you have for them. When you have mediocre standards, you’ll generally get mediocre results. But when you regularly work with people to constantly strive for improvement and offer regular coaching, their level of performance will consistently rise.
Ask yourself / Ask the team: How are we managing the performance of each person on our team? What is the process that we have established? How consistently are we using it to help our team members continuously improve in their roles?
In an organization that is looking to the future and striving for new goals, having the skills on your team to keep pace and lead is imperative. You can continuously hire new people with the skills you need, or you can identify the skills you need and train your current team to be prepared with the new capabilities. One method will further develop team culture and the other, not so much.
Ask Yourself / Ask the team – What type of training and/or personal development are we providing for or our team members? And for ourselves as leaders? What future needs have we identified where we will need improved or different skills from what is currently on our team?
Assessing the assessment
Regardless of how your culture has developed, the existing culture is probably pretty strong and engrained. It’s important to recognize that a culture will always rise up to defend itself, be it good or bad. If you’ve got a great culture, then this strong defense should be very welcome.
But if you’re trying to make cultural changes, this defense can be very frustrating and make culture changes especially challenging. It takes a leader with a strong will and a desire to make the changes. And probably some tough decisions and actions along the way. Not everyone will make it in the new environment.
Review your assessment and make note of each area where you’re not comfortable with your answers. Talk to your team about each of these and let them know what you’re thinking and why you’re uncomfortable with each. Solicit their ideas on how you can work to improve them. And then as a leadership team, make the tough decisions and begin implementing the new ideas and changes one at a time.
- Start with Vision and Company Values – those are on you.
- Then move to Performance Coaching and Personal Development – you’ll get better buy-in after you’ve done your own work first.
- Through all of this work, communicate, communicate, communicate with the team.
The trust will begin to work itself out bit by bit as it’s proven worthy. Making your team your priority is the greatest way to earn trust.
Photo by Athikhun Boonrin