Organizational culture gets talked about a lot by people discussing success in organizations. It is rightly considered an important determining factor in measurements including retention, job satisfaction, trust levels, productivity and much more. Yet there are some common misconceptions about where culture comes from and who is responsible for it. Because of these misconceptions too many leaders ignore or deny their role.
Let me start with three facts that will dispel those misconceptions
Culture belongs to all leaders, not just the C-Suite. If you think that culture is the sole responsibility of the senior leadership, you are mistaken. Every leader has a role to play in creating, nurturing and maintain the organizational culture. In fact, to individual employees, their boss is in many ways the face of the culture and the biggest contributing factor to it. Which means that . . .
No one does it alone. Culture is about “how things are done around here,” and every leader impacts that. After all, if you are in an organization of any size, how often do most employees directly interact with senior managers? They interact far more regularly with their boss or manager. And because of this, even if you as a leader don’t think you have a responsibility for your organizational culture, the reality is that . . .
You are impacting the culture with everything you do. Culture creation isn’t an initiative and it isn’t static. Yes, the basic constructs of any organizational culture exist based on the past experiences of people; the culture is always fluid and always adjusting, based on the examples, situations and actions of everyone in the organization, especially the leaders.
Once you realize these facts, that you do have some influence over the organizational culture, the logical question is, what can I do, from where I am, to have a positive impact on changing the culture for the better (or even maintaining the components that are great)? Here are six specific ideas.
Get clear on your vision for the culture. Yes this can happen organizationally, but you don’t have to wait. Have a clear image of what you are trying to create, at home or for your particular team, office, department, or division.
Behave intentionally. Ghandi said to “be the change you want to see in the world.” Only you can own your behavior, and people are paying more attention than you might realize. Make sure your behavior matches the culture you want to reinforce.
Consider your attitude. Whatever your vision for your culture, remember that your attitude will play a significant part in it.
Create clear expectations. While your behavior is a starting and reinforcing point, you must let others know what behaviors you are looking for and coach to them and hold people accountable for them.
Make culture part of your decision making process. When making decisions, large and small, ask yourself how that decision will impact the culture you are trying to create.
Hire based on your desired culture. One important decision you make is when you bring people into your team or organization. Make sure you consider your culture when you hire. Will the person fit and will they contribute naturally to the culture you are nurturing?
Even now, near the end of this article, you may be thinking that your impact on a large organizational culture may be small. Perhaps this is true. When you feel discouraged or powerless, consider that the most important part of a culture is what it is like to work where you are, with the people you interact with every day.
Have you ever noticed how water responds to a pebble being dropped into it? Ripples form, in concentric and ever widening circles. Yes, the ripples get smaller as they disperse, but they do grow. In matters of organizational culture as an individual leader, manager or supervisor, you are the pebble, while your impact is greatest closest to you, your behavior will impact culture more directly and in greater ways than you realize.