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Building culture – more than a poster on the wall

25 Jul

I truly believe a strong focus on building a positive culture will drive your business forward.  I’ve seen some great ways of building culture and some not-so-great ways… so I thought it was worth sharing a few things I’ve learned about how culture works.

1.  Culture happens whether you define it or not.  As you go about day to day work, how things are done will build a certain culture.  Take a look at the language people use with colleagues and clients.  What is accepted or corrected?  How about decisions – how are they made, and by whom?  What stories are shared by team members, about history or situations in the past?  What kinds of behaviour are recognized or rewarded in your organization?  A simple thank you goes a long way towards encouraging certain behaviours and building them into the culture.  What types of people get promoted?  This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but it provides a basis for consideration.

2.  A bad manager can kill  great culture.  Conversely, a great leader builds fantastic culture.  Culture is especially influenced by the leaders in an organization.  The way they interact with each other and the entire workforce speaks volumes.  If you say your culture if one of fun and openness, but the executives interact only with each other, and are seen as extremely serious, the fun and openness will not exist.

3.  It’s not about a poster on the wall.  Many companies go through exhaustive exercises to determine what their organizational values and principles should be, then create eye-catching posters with these culture statements on them in order to communicate them clearly.  If the day to day behaviours of the leaders in the organization do not reflect these statements, these posters can create far more harm than good.  It’s the unspoken behaviours that create culture, not the poster on the wall.

The key to building strong culture is in being consistent both in the definitions that you communicate and the behaviours you model and recognize.  Great organizations do both of these consistently.

What companies do you know that have great cultures?

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