Culture Clarification

Friday July 17, 2020 comments

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 I absolutely love helping organizations define their culture. Sometimes that’s precipitated by some kind of morale issue or dysfunction that points out a need to reset or even completely overhaul a culture that’s eroded to something entirely different from what the leader envisioned.

More often than not though, the intended culture is just not defined well. That can be because:

  • They’ve hired a Facilitator to lead them through a Strategic Planning Retreat where they created a mission statement that’s more like a detailed description of what the organization does, and a vision statement that sounds more like a mission. And shelved somewhere, it gathers dust with no impact.
  • The leader hasn’t been blatantly clear about her organization’s “ways,” assuming people will get it by observation. But culture by osmosis creates a mixture at best.
  • The leader has contradicted what he says he wants in his organization’s culture by what he does, promotes, or allows. Even though that may have been unintentional, it can get viewed as hypocrisy.
  • The organization is growing so fast that no one has had much time to invest in defining the intended culture. That means people make assumptions about what the culture is based on their own preferences and dislikes...which can leave people at odds.

When an organization invests the time and focus to radically define its culture, that definition can be useful in everything from marketing to recruiting. And it can go further. The distinctions in an organization’s culture can and should be used to tailor everything from how the organization recruits to how it corrects performance deficiencies; from how it pays to how it plays.

The alternative is to do the generic thing and try to be known as an “Employer of Choice.” Being an “Employer of Choice” isn’t an effective employment brand. For one, it’s overused making it meaningless. More importantly - why would you want to be the place everyone wants to work?

Let’s say your organization moves quickly, pivots easily, and is decisive - and that’s worked for you. Would you really want to hire someone who can’t or doesn’t want to operate that way? Would you really want to hire someone who will think that you’ve made it this far on dumb luck? If so, you could end up hiring someone who thinks it’s his job to change your organization to what he is sure is best for the future. If you let that happen, those who like the way your culture used to be won’t like what it becomes. That’s why you can hear people in some organizations complain that “It doesn’t feel as fun as it used to here.”

Conversely, let’s say your organization is more cautious, thoroughly investigates options, and only changes when necessary after reviewing all possible choices - and that’s worked for you. Would you really want someone who wants to force decisions and move forward with a “damn the torpedoes” attitude? Would you really want someone who thinks your organization is stuck in a time-warp? If so, you could end up hiring someone who thinks it’s her job to move you to the next stage as that plays in her mind. If you let that happen, those who like the way your culture used to be won’t like what it becomes. That’s why you can hear people in some organizations complain that “It doesn’t feel like a family like it used to.”

There are a lot of other spectrums this same thing can be said of - initiative, mentoring, structure, skin thickness, and a whole host of other attributes that define a culture that people may either like or dislike, accept or try to change, think is the best or believe is toxic. Why not hire people who actually like your organization’s “ways?”

When organizations are well-defined and selective about who they allow on their team - and when people are self-aware enough to know where they’ll fit and selective about what organization they will work for, everyone is happier.

Know who you are, stay true to who you are, and be picky!

***

At Open Door, we honestly believe that if you have the right team, united around a compelling vision, you can change the world.  We help busy leaders like you intentionally define, cultivate, and reinforce their organization's culture. Through that culture, we help you find and keep the right team members, part ways with the wrong ones, and get everyone on the team focused on the same compelling vision… your vision. Life is too short and you spend too much of it working not to enjoy the culture you work in.  We help you cultivate a culture that can carry the vision that's worth pouring your life into.



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