I've been thinking so much lately about culture and values -- they are linked -- perhaps because I see some pretty poor examples and it troubles me (mercifully, I see wonderful examples too). In the last few weeks my in-box filled with links to articles on culture, which I believe apply to not-for-profit and for-profit organizations alike. Here's a bit of what I've read lately along with some of my own comments.
In Entrepreneur.com (Jan 20/14) there was an article on Creating and Keeping a Positive Culture. I especially liked this article because of its focus on leadership. Here are some highlights of the leader's role in growing culture:
- Our values are not always apparent to others
what is most important to you
- Keep everyone on the
about culture consistently so people know you are
to living those ideals
- Don't assume culture will grow when the company grows. It will eventually need to
from something the leader actively teaches & enforces to something the whole
takes part in
- Create a
atmosphere. To do so:
- Be vulnerable. Don't act like you have all the answers.
- Determine your values as a group.
- Identify and empower culture champions (team members who embody the values and are enthusiastic about spreading your mission)
- Institutionalize the culture. Make sure culture is scalable.
- Keep traditions. Don't take away what matters most.
Protect the culture
- Don't hire someone with the hope that he or she will be able to
"fix" your culture
- Make sure culture does not have
- If someone has negative influence? Communicate you won't tolerate people who don't support the values.
- If the company has outgrown someone? Admit you don't have the tools to get them to the next level, so it's time to move on.
- If someone is a bad manager? First, determine if poor management is the result of a lack of training or communication. If it's not, trust your team enough to say goodbye to the problem person.
- If you have a good producer with a terrible attitude? Contribution alone is a bad reason to keep someone on. There are people who can do the job and contribute to the culture.
- Consider the
health of the organization above all else
Here's the whole article
- Communicate and
live the vision and ensure everyone is positively
contributing to it
In short, if the leader is committed to the organization's values (and articulates them clearly to all), the team is more likely to be committed to them as well.
Sarah Haselkorn (Entrepreneur.com; Nov 15/15) offers
five steps to a better culture
, and cautions that the "cool" things you do should not just
mask a sad culture
underneath. (I thought that was very astute!).
1. Hire the right people.
A poor fit can be as bad as someone not doing the work at all. Welcome different ideas at the table; don't just hire clones.
2. Use tech to break down barriers.
Leverage software tools to help bring out introverts and provide a level playing field, and to help remote teams/people feel part of the bigger group.
3. Support failure.
Taking away the fear of failure can free up employees to not just win but win bigger than they would have had they been afraid to fail. Communicate the risk, mitigate the risk, leap together, share the victory/failure together.
4. Use perks to send the right signals.
Align your benefits to the culture you want to create. "Make sure the perk matches the truth, otherwise you're just luring people in with bribes that are sure to get stale after a while."
5. Don't let titles restrict roles.
Don't restrict employees to roles if they have more to offer in other areas. "You should want to hear your sales engineer's ideas about marketing even though marketing's not in her title. An accountant should be free to put his product idea out for consideration even though he usually crunches numbers."
"Early on, company culture is typically set from the
top down, but as companies scale, culture begins to shape itself from the
bottom up. Taking the time to map out how you can best apply these five tips to form the best culture for your organization can prepare you for growth down the road."
Haselkorn's full article
Kim Lachance Shandrow (Entrepreneur.com; Nov 04/15) talked to
8 Business Leaders on cultivating culture
and this is what she found out. The respondents were from their list of Top Company Cultures who answered what a high-performance company culture means to them.
For Lachance Shandrow, "A high-performance company culture is about living and working by a set of
unifying company-wide goals, values, and beliefs
...It informs how its executives and employees
think, act, and react
on the job." For the summaries below, I removed many of the buzz words.
1. Ensure everyone is aligned.
- completely aligned, on the same page
2. Hire and cultivate people that believe in your mission.
- employees focus on the work that matters most
- management facilitates collaboration across departments
- employees can identify high-risk areas and react quickly
- hire for and cultivate amazing people who are supported to excel
- employees believe in doing well AND doing right to reach the company's goals
- integrate communication and prioritization as key ways to help employees be successful and do their best
- explore creative, inspiring, and useful ways to help all stakeholders
3. Focus on your employees' needs.
- don't shy away from challenges
- create a sustainable work environment that produces results and is an environment for growth (both company and employee)
4. Allow employees to take ownership of the company's culture.
- offer respect
- provide an atmosphere for learning
- demonstrate you care about employees and they will take care of the customers
- culture supports people in doing the best work
5. Remove as many constraints as possible.
- everyone is expected to take ownership and responsibility for the culture
- culture reflects the values of the organization
- culture empowers individuals to succeed in their roles
- expect high standards to the work and to how people treat each others
- environment of trust and autonomy increases productivity and effectiveness
6. Create a community that fosters your values.
- you don't work for the company, you ARE the company
- don't focus policy on "constraints" or assume that people need to be watched/managed carefully
- believe that people want to work hard and enjoy deep satisfaction from building something together
- remove more constraints as people are empowered to make the workplace their own
- develop and empower employees
- create and maintain community
- core values (example): humility, creativity, and independence
- mantra (example): "Listen hard, change fast"
7. Highlight how you approach and conduct business.
- a culture that's strong enough to attract talent and raise the bar on what's possible; strong enough to keep top talent wanting to come to work every day; and transparent enough to welcome and work on ideas from employees at every level
- a promise on how you approach your business
8. Determine the right goals for your company.
- informs employees actually behave on a daily basis
- identify the right goals at the right times
- recruit and empower the right people to execute them
- establish enough transparency to operate as a single, united team
Lachance Shandrow's full article
In a companion article by Kim Lachance Shandrow
(Entrepreneur.com; Nov 04/15)
, the same people were asked what
6 culture mistakes
they made and how they bounced back.
1. Hiring employees who don't have that certain 'sparkle.'
2. Not staying on top of employee engagement as you scale.
3. Failing to regularly remind your team about company values.
("It takes constant attention and ongoing conversations")
4. Not hiring 'nice' people.
(Communication skills and being self-directed are the other 2 key things)
5. Winging it without a process or structure.
("Resisting structure early on made it more challenging for us to put it in place when we really needed it.")
6. Not investing in tools and resources.
Lachance Shadrow's (other) full article
Do you have any "culture" issues that you are dealing with?