Culture Check

As you commute into work today, take a minute to get in touch with your feelings about what is about to happen and the environment you are entering.  Are you excited about getting to work or anxious?  Does your stomach tighten or does your heartbeat increase with anticipation?  Do you look forward to getting there or would you rather head in a different direction?  Are you looking forward to connecting with colleagues or are you hoping many are out of the office?  The answer to these questions might be a good indication of the culture in your organization.  Culture is something so few leaders pay attention to or try to monitor and yet it might be the most important success factor for any enterprise.

Matt Ehrlichman, the CEO and founder of Porch, has a very interesting piece in Fast Company where he looked at the factors that lead to a “stinky” company culture.  Yes, the title caught my attention.  Take a look at the blog and see if you agree with his thinking and if any of the six signs are present in your company.  Is gossip (and cliques) prevalent and what impact does it have on morale?  Does your leadership team have bad habits?  Do managers actually work or just watch others?  Does your company play together?  How nasty is the competition between employees?  Is there any “school” spirit?  These are very interesting observations on what leads to a stinky culture and they are worth some serious reflection.

The interesting part to me about culture is really how much of it is actually driven by all the people in the organization.  Unlike goals, strategy and mission that are often driven from the top down, the culture is often driven from the bottom up.  Yes, the leaders play a role but they are often influenced by the activities, spirit and whims of those lower in the organization.  Even Queen Elizabeth, who perhaps symbolizes the stodgiest of cultures, agreed to do the James Bond skit during the Olympics.  I am totally sure that was not her idea.

For those of you who have worked with or at several companies, think about the differences noted in the cultures.  Who “controlled” the culture and how did the different personalities play into the work environment?  What was good and what was bad at each place?  How did you contribute to the culture?  How can you do so in your current company?  Can you make your workplace more inclusive?  Can you make diversity a competitive advantage?  How about increasing the level of fun everyone has at work?  Can you help everyone think their work is worthwhile, needed and appreciated?  Do you help set a tone of balance between work and the rest of life?  Recognize that everyone plays a role in the culture in either a positive or negative way.

The final line in the Ehrlichman piece is worth reading several times.  When an employee stops believing in the organization and the significance of their job, the castle is about to fall!  How solid is the castle where you work?  Are you building it up and fixing all the small cracks before they are even noticed or are you standing back and watching others control your destiny?  Just thinking about it and taking some small steps is a great way to start.

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