As you recall from the last few posts, I define culture as the values and habits of a group.
I spent a few years as a manager, taking over teams and making them successful. As I look back on the last thirty years, I can honestly say I enjoyed that era a lot – although it was very difficult. It was fulfilling to turn around a culture, once you started to see success. Before that, it was horrible and emotionally draining.
If you are just you and you will never grow a team, then you are responsible for your own attitude and behavior every day. If you’re angry or joking, it’s up to you to decide how those things affect your company and your reputation.
But if you manage a team of any size, you need to consciously create the culture you want. Just as with your company goals, you need to create a vision of the culture you want. What would your company look like if you had the “right” culture?
Once you have that vision, you can create your culture mission statement. Your mission is the path you need to follow to reach your vision.
You can do a great deal to mold culture through processes and procedures. But the strongest pieces of culture are not found in tangible rules. They’re found in human emotions and attitudes. You can’t force people to come to work happy, or to be pleased with the decisions you’ve made.
As a result, culture cannot be something you tackle on a Thursday afternoon and then check the box: Culture – Done! No, you build culture with every human interaction, with every hiring decision, with the way you run meetings, with the way you make assignments, and with everything you do every day.
You can never “control” culture, but you can affect it. If you’re a parent, you’ve learned that you cannot control your children. But, if you’re consistent and persistent, you can influence them. Eventually (after the teen years are over), your children are very likely to reflect your values and work ethic, because you have modeled it their entire lives.
Molding the culture in your company is very similar. If you come in angry and irritated, barking orders and treating people like garbage, then you can expect that that’s how they will treat others. Your clients will see this.
From time to time I tell the story about the prospect who cussed out his employee while Mike and I sat there. We decided instantly, without exchanging a single word, that we would not take them as a client.
Part of our culture is that we only work with people we like. This works its way into our hiring process. A huge part of our team-building takes place at the interview stage. We have several employees interview a candidate and evaluate whether they think they would enjoy working with that person. We actually have an evaluation item about whether they’re a good fit for the team.
You cannot force emotions and attitudes on people – but you can publicly talk about what you expect. You can put goals and expectations in writing. Remember: One of the great hobbies of all employees is watching the boss!
That sounds a bit ominous, but it’s actually good. It makes your job of modeling behavior that much easier. But it also means that you have to “walk the talk” every day.
From time to time, I’ve worked with companies that have a difficult culture. The boss tolerates abusive managers. Employees see this (they see everything), so they know it does them no good to complain because the bad behavior is already known and accepted.
I can tell you – as a business coach – that this behavior cannot be fixed by a coach. It can only be fixed from the inside, and from the top down. The owner or manager has to be the person they want to be seen as. You cannot fake it. And you cannot tolerate bad behavior simply because someone is good at their job.
There is no shortage of talented people on Earth! You don’t have to tolerate jerks in your organization.
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