What is culture? In today’s business place, culture is a frequent buzzword. Yet if you ask most people, they would have a hard time defining it.
Culture is, for all intents and purposes, the “personality” of a company. It is not a tangible, definable object, but more of an intangible, an outcome of the company’s unique values, mission, and way of doing things.
For instance, if you walk into Google, you are going to sense a totally different culture than if you walk into a very traditionally managed law firm. One is very high tech and much more free-form, while the other would be very structured. It is not that one has more value as a culture than the other – it is just that companies, like people, have different personalities.
Where problems often occur is on the hiring side of the equation, where a potential employee is not properly vetted for fit into the company culture. Take, for example, an employee who thrives in a highly structured environment. They are accustomed to having very clear policies and procedures. Expectations are clearly outlined for them. In this environment, they thrive.
Now put this same person in a company like Google or one that is even more free form. Give them access to the creative playroom. When they ask for the rulebook, explain that procedures are highly collaborative and live online, and that your company embraces a form of agile planning, where things are constantly changing in a non-linear fashion. Tell them they are free to ditch their three-piece suits for flip-flops if that helps them work more creatively.
The fact is, the chances of the employee making it in such a contrast culture are slim. And in trying to make it fit, either they or their peers (or both) will become extremely frustrated.
Culture provides a strong attraction for like-minded individuals. A team of individuals with similar cultural values is a strong team. This works for the very structured as well as for the very free-form cultures. The key is having the right fit.
How do you use culture to form and grow your best team?
1. Define Vision and Values
Defining vision and values is a foundational first step. It sets the cornerstone for your organization. When it comes to a company, activities must tie to vision and values.
For example, Amazon’s vision statement is “to be Earth’s most customer centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”
If you work for Amazon, it is clear you are there serve customers and to strive to make anything they want to buy available online.
These visions and values are filters. For example, if you are not a person who wants to have fun in their work – if you desire a serious, structured environment – their value of “creating fun and a little weirdness” would not work for you. This is culture.
As the leader of an organization, ask yourself if your vision and values are this clearly defined. Ask yourself if your culture matches your vision and values. If not, it may be time to realign and communicate your vision and values to your team.
2. Hire for Culture Match First
This is contrary to the practice of many. Many leaders will look first for core competencies. A perspective employee can have amazing credentials (and many do), but if they are not a cultural fit for your organization, they will never perform to the level of their full potential.
When hiring, evaluate prospects in this order:
• Are they a culture match? Can they easily align to the culture, vision, and values of the company?
• Are they a character match for the organization?
• Do they have (or can they acquire) the competencies to do the job?
3. Establish a Business Growth Environment
In a laboratory, culture is the environment that allows for growth. It is protected and engineered for growth. Is your organization engineered for growth? Do you offer training opportunities for your employees? Do you allow them to advance in their areas of strengths – and, in fact, encourage the advancement? Do you provide the tools they need to implement new ideas? Do you encourage them to share their ideas for ways to grow and improve your organization? Some of the best ideas come from those closest to the front lines of customer service and production. Are you fostering an environment of growth?
4. Share Success
Think of a football coach. Imagine a coach whose team had a perfect season, all the way to the Super Bowl. Now imagine that coach stepping up to the interview microphone after the game, saying, “Yes, it’s all about the coaching. I am voting myself the most valuable player. After all, none of this would have been possible were it not for me.”
Here’s the question: Would they be that successful the second year?
The answer is obviously, “No!”
The coach has just taken credit for the work of an entire team. Instead of honoring his players, he has “used” them for his own glory.
The fact is, no coach in his right mind would take such an approach, but organizational leaders do it all the time. They willingly accept the accolades, the promotions, and the rewards without once acknowledging the efforts of the team behind them.
Are you celebrating the success WITH your team? Are you seeking their rewards as much or more than your own?
Good culture begins with shared vision and values – and culminates in shared success.
As the CEO of Strength Leader Development, Deb Ingino is a highly sought-after international executive mentor, coach, trainer and speaker. Deb is well versed in global business operations and helps business leaders and their teams to discover and leverage their strengths, so they can create highly collaborative teams that deliver great results.
She brings deep experience in leadership development, strategy, building high-performance teams, and global operations to her work.
Deb knows first-hand how strengths and leadership are keys to business effectiveness and growth. Her skills were honed through over two decades as VP of Global Brand Operations for a large fashion accessory company in New York. In that senior corporate leadership capacity, Deb worked throughout the world to create and develop leaders, and to elevate team performance to world class. These teams now serve retailers in more than 80 countries, contributing to the growth of the company from $50M to well over $500M.
In 2008 and 2010 Deb was named one of the most influential women in business by LIBN and is a regular guest on radio and podcast shows.
Deb has shepherded the training of thousands and is a founding partner with her mentor leadership expert John C. Maxwell. Deb serves on Maxwell’s President Advisory Council and is a Peer Teaching Partner for his global team of 12,000 Coaches, Speakers and Trainers in 120 countries.
With a refreshingly direct style, Deb helps leaders and their teams to deliver profitable results.
Connect with Deb to learn more about her mentorship and coaching programs to equip you with advanced strategies to elevate your results.