Too often we see organizations fail or stagnate because leaders aren’t willing to invest in their culture. The sad truth is that some don’t consider culture as a factor to their success. Others just allow the culture to form accidentally, putting no real effort to either define or drive the culture they want.
Why Culture is so Important
Culture is the backbone of an organization. And what happens when the back breaks? We can’t walk, run, or climb to the top. We can even become paralyzed. It’s quite simple! Your organization is made of people with lives, dreams, personalities, and values. They invest a lot of their time at work and want that time to be rewarding. Without clear buy-in and alignment to the company culture, people will become disengaged and see their work as a “just a job.” They are bound to be dissatisfied and won’t connect well with their coworkers.
This is an incredibly dangerous state for a company to be in. It has been proven that disengaged employees are not as productive as engaged employees and they become a high flight risk, driving higher turnover. Of course, a high turnover rate will impede the organization’s ability to execute results due to inconsistency of work and the high costs of turnover. The worst part is that this turnover will often occur with your “A” players, while “C” players stay, costing the company even more due to average or poor performance, and the continued propagation of an accidental culture which is unwanted.
What Makes up Culture
What is culture, anyway? We’ve heard the word before, however it’s important we have a mutual understanding. Culture is an organization’s values, personality, and environment. It is an accumulation of beliefs and behaviors which define and drive how people will interact within the organization. When right, it has a clear purpose and creates engagement.
So, how is it established? With clarity and intent. But, it’s not quite as simple as that. It truly starts with defining the desired culture, then being purposeful and relentless in doing everything necessary to drive the essential pieces that support the desired culture and eliminating those that work against it. Though many companies strive to have a unique culture, there are some common elements that must be in place first.
Like creating a building, you must first have your foundation. Upon the foundation, you set your pillars which support everything else. From there, you can make your building look and function any way you like. We at Nexecute look at it like this:
Foundation ➜ Pillars ➜ Unique (Desired) Company Traits ➜ Culture
To fully understand this flow, let’s start at the beginning and clarify what makes up the Foundation and Pillars of Culture. We have to first understand what determines an organization’s cornerstone and define the pillars of an organization.
The Foundation of culture—or if you like to conceptualize in terms of shapes, the base of your organization’s pyramid—is the organization’s Core Ideology, a combination of its Core Values and Purpose. They answer the questions “who?” and “why?” If everyone within the organization held the same values and truly bought into the organization’s purpose, their ability to work together would be maximized, allowing them to strive towards the same goals and hold each other accountable to the same standards.
Without a Core Ideology it becomes much more difficult for relationships to succeed. Focus on what’s important blurs and individuals can become “all about themselves” as opposed to the collective success. Relationships sour and often, fail. Worse yet, the good people – the right people – eventually leave and the culture becomes more toxic.
Remember how we discussed team alignment? Think of establishing the core values and purpose of your organization as the basis of alignment for the entire organization—leadership, management, and team members alike.
The Four Pillars of Culture
We call them pillars because without these four supports, the structure of the organization could crumble. Every organization must have these. Once defined for an organization, other elements of culture are built upon them.
- Results – Without results, where would we be? As much as we might want to focus on everyone’s happiness, we’re still in a business and we need results to help keep us afloat. While results are nonnegotiable, how we achieve them is up for debate.
- Accountability – An organization cannot function if team members are constantly pointing fingers and arguing over whose jobs is what. Accountability means taking ownership and taking pride in success of your organization, projects, or processes.
- Engagement – Team members not engaged in an organization’s purpose and goals might as well be an empty desk chair. They may be doing their job but are they invested in the overall success of their role? What about the growth, security, and results of the entire organization?
- Trust – Most leaders know that trust needs to be a pillar. However, trust doesn’t just happen. Trust must be intentionally developed. It starts with having a clear definition and understanding of trust. It is nurtured through individual vulnerability and honest, often hard, conversations. It is a decision to make and a skill that is developed.
Once you have the foundation and these four pillars defined, you can identify other unique aspects of culture for your company start developing strategies to drive your culture.
In our next blog post in the Culture Series, we will discuss how Core Values are foundational in an organization’s culture. If you want to find the culture of your organization ASAP, contact Nexecute now to get started.