Shaping Company Culture
WRITTEN BY David Lunken
This week I was honored to speak at new networking event series in Baltimore called “In Good Company”. My topic, “Shaping Company Culture”. When thinking about culture it became clear that this is a term that needs definition.
Culture is (according to Merriam Webster) – “the set of shared attitudes, values, goals and practices that characterize an institution or organization”.
So, when we talk about shaping company culture, we need to determine what shape we want to create! Are we trying to shape: Good culture, Fun culture, A culture of accountability, Growth-culture, A "cool" culture?
When I started thinking about Shaping Company Culture, I was immediately prompted to think about a ROAD TRIP! Who doesn’t love a good road trip? I think it is pretty safe to say that almost everyone has been on one... Right?
Think about a road trip that you took, or if you've never had the pleasure, think about what your ideal road trip might look like (based on what you know) Was it fun? Maybe…maybe not? It really depends on a number of things!
- Did you have a destination in mind? Boise or Boston?
- Did you want to go the scenic route or the direct route? Local roads or highways...
- Were you seeking a luxury experience or perhaps were you on a shoestring budget? No-tell motel or Four Seasons
- Who did you have along for the trip? Some fun folks or family, easygoing or laser-focused...
- When the trip was over were you HAPPY or UNHAPPY?
Determining our happiness at the end of the trip is dependent upon how we measured success!
- Did we reach our destination? Did we even have one in mind (some road trips are the destination in and of itself)?
- Did we get there fast or did we stop along the way to enjoy the scenery and all of the sites?
- Was the trip fun along the way?
- What about keeping track of where we went and what we liked so we could repeat the experience?
There are a ton of questions we might want to ask before we hit the road!
Shaping Company Culture is a lot like going on a Road Trip! Really!
Step 1: Clarity
- Road Trip, ask - "Where are we going?"
- Shaping Company Culture, ask - "Are we aligned on our strategy/goals?"
To gain alignment on strategy, we need to set clear goals on all levels including: organizational, departmental, and individual. Use action words, verbs and think about the future state.
- "Grow" = too vague... by how much? 5%, 50%
- "Achieve World Domination" is better – you can at least start to see where you need to go.
- "Be Efficient" – still too vague
- "Increase Profitability by 20% through operational efficiencies" – now you're cooking!
If you don’t know where you are going, you will never get there!
Step 2: Fit
- Road Trip, ask - "Who is going on the trip?"
- Shaping Company Culture, ask - "Are our people aligned with our strategy?"
The classic question asks "are we putting a square peg in a round hole?" People are great, but great for what? Or, different pegs are different shapes and fit in different holes! The RIGHT people are critical for driving different strategies. "Right" depends on alignment with goals and roles. Fit for roles and teams relies on a combination of knowledge, skills, experience, and also behavioral and cognitive attributes. However, behavioral and cognitive fit are proven to have the greatest impact on success! Hire and build teams based on behavioral and cognitive fits, not just what's listed on someone's resume!
Step 3: Understanding
- Road Trip, ask - "Is everyone comfortable? Do we need anything?"
- Shaping Company Culture, ask - "Are we creating the right environment and meeting individual needs?"
Different people have different needs. Everyone in an organization needs to recognize and value the differences that each other person brings. Getting discretionary effort is reliant upon meeting others' needs. Ditch the Golder Rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated, and apply the Platinum Rule instead: Treat others the way they want to be treated.
To Shape Company Culture, think about designing a road trip that you will be happy about when you get to your destination!
Clarity – Know where you want to go
Fit – Have the right people for the trip
Understanding – Appreciate and leverage everyone for who they are and what they bring along for the ride.