A short post for a tall order.
Somewhere in the multiverse stands an expansive library on the subject of culture. With infinite shelves packed with infinite books, it falls short in accurately describing and prescribing culture. “Words are just pointers,” said Huineng. And yet, somehow, a few simple words can been enough. Think different. Just do it. Leaders are readers.
In this article, we’ll go through what culture is, is not, and a few tips for managers and leaders.
Walk the talk
According to Deloitte research, 94% of executives and 88% of employees believe a distinct corporate culture is important to the success of their companies. It’s no wonder company culture is heralded on about us pages, across the LinkedIn feeds, and on the agendas of company-wide meetings. The reality is that many preach culture, but few (know how to) walk the walk.
What culture is… not
Popularized in the tech and creative industries, culture is an important factor in attracting top talent and getting great work done. Yet, despite the beanbag chairs, beer on tap, and the friendly agency dog on a company’s team section, almost all organizations get it wrong. Culture is not about having a ping pong table.
The elephant is … always in the room
Organizations that choose to ignore culture do not get to experience a work environment sans-culture. Rather, they experience an accidental and almost always ineffective culture. Ignoring the elephant in the room does not make it disappear, only yields a culture that is undesirable. For leaders who believe topics like culture are soft, the reality is far from the truth. Culture has a direct influence on productivity which influences profits.
What culture needs
Culture is much like a garden. If unattended it will always become ugly. And like a garden, it grows beautifully when we continue to prune weeds and misfits, give water, shine light, and at times sing a little song and show a little love. Paying attention and investing time is how your garden and culture will thrive.
A few (not so) simple tips
While an entire library on the subject may not be enough, below are a few practices proven to be effective.
Shaped by design
Culture can come from the top or the bottom, intentionally designed or accidentally shaped. When the leaders are not actively monitoring, cultivating, and fostering their company culture, they will have in their hands a culture that is undesirable. Great organizational culture is present when leaders take the time to observe, meditate, envision and discuss the topic.
Guided by values
Culture is influenced by shared values. Jim Collins says “core values are not something people ‘buy-in’ to. People must be predisposed to holding them.” It is the responsibility of the leaders to “find people who are already predisposed to sharing your core values”, and quickly let go of those who do not. Teams, customers, and clients know your company by what you do and tolerate, and not always by what you say.
Your actions speak so loudly,
I can not hear what you are saying.
Exemplified by leaders
We again look to the leaders of organizations. Leaders must walk the talk. Period. Steve Jobs bought one lamp to furnish his extremely minimalist lifestyle. Sir Richard Branson’s record for adventures is unrivalled among executives around the world. It is no surprise that Apple’s and Virgin’s company cultures emulate their leaders. One is poised in beautiful simplicity, the other youthful energy. So infectious, their company cultures have become iconic, global brand cultures.
Selected for fit
Be selective of people who want to hire, including the customers and clients you take on. We get to work with clients who share complementary values and cultures. But it did not happen accidentally. In the early years, we took on clients not congruent to the cultural practices and attitudes we value. These experiences have always costed more than the monetary value gained. It is as important and wise to design your culture as to choose your audience. We have a saying at Pixel Dreams we share with our clients, ‘be selective of your people, including customers’.
Be selective of people who want to hire, including the customers and clients you take on.
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
Time and time again, we witness that ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’ as per Peter Drucker’s famous quote. Research has shown almost all leaders see culture as important. So why are there not many companies with great culture? Because it’s difficult, challenging, and almost always, very uncomfortable.
But it’s worth it.
If you would like to talk brand, culture, or brand culture, reach out to us any time. We would be delighted to share insights and ideas on the topics we are most passionately dedicated to.