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Company Culture: Practice What You Teach

by Jody Ordioni

Company Culture: Practice What You Teach

The leadership often obsesses about the culture of their company. They spend hours on end crafting a company message that embodies the mission and vision of the company completely. While their efforts are commendable, they should also ground themselves by asking the employees whether the message resonates with them or not.

The C-suite might try to pass down the company culture to the lower level, but unless the company lives its culture, it remains only a piece of paper containing words. In a time, when culture dictates everything- from productivity to employee retention- is it wise to ignore this aspect of management? Our studies have found that culture is more impactful in codifying the structure rather than leadership dictating the terms. A culture statement that reflects the identity of the brand is instructional to the employees and lets them build a brand identity that is unique for the customers.

Discover the Culture Before Documenting It

Though the purpose is the bedrock of culture, the latter goes beyond just purpose. Leaders need to top gauge the benefits that a solid culture provides their companies. Attracting top talents, retaining those employees, and building on the strength of employees are the many benefits that cultures provide. If these are the goals of your company culture, then they should shine through actions as well. Our studies have found that only 41% of employees know what their company culture aims at. Communicate with your employees about the culture you wish to achieve if you don't have the one you want yet. It might inspire the employees to align with the purpose of the company.

Don't Let Culture Be Limited to the C-Suite Only

Once the leadership has formulated the basis on which the culture is to be built, it is important to pass it down to the level of an individual contributor. Company culture should answer questions about the day-to-day work of employees, space for innovation, acceptance for failure, and whether employees have autonomy.

Leadership has to think about what is best for the company, but they should also focus on what the best aspect of the company is. Do not be afraid of discussing difficult topics such as policies regarding re-org and letting people go. Ensure that the employees are also a part of forming the company culture. Validate their opinion by including their suggestions. Distill what you hear from them and consider their thoughts and beliefs to build a culture unique to your company. However, codifying it is not the end, you also have to communicate it properly and actualize it.

Make Your Culture a Reality

Most companies follow the same template while defining their culture. You'll recognize buzzwords, such as integrity, customer centricity, accountability, innovation, and result-driven, in nearly every company culture. While these attributes are important to the functioning of any company, but if they are not actualized, they cannot drive performance or make your company distinguished.

Your culture can become a reality only when it is modeled by you. For example, while customer-centricity is a significant buzzword in many cultural statements, CEOs interact with their customers for only 3% of their total time. Leaders can only cultivate a culture based on the mission and vision of the company if they practice what they preach.

Put Culture at the Front

Even though culture begins with the purpose of the organization, it can only be propelled by the behavior of the leaders. The real challenge for any organization is when the going gets tough. How leaders behave during tough times determines the value of the organization. Leaders, at times, can evade accountability by urging others to change their behavior patterns, but their own behavior is the defining factor in company culture. You have to be the change you wish to see in the company. Executives should, therefore, focus on the behavior of the leaders as well.

The Bottom Line

Defining your culture can be a challenge but what you should always remember is that it is not a static process. Your culture becomes the identity of your company, for better or for worse. It is responsible for guiding your company in the market and differentiating it. Thus, it is important to not just preach a culture but also to practice it.

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