Why culture goes wrong and what you can do about it.
Anyone who says that culture doesn’t have a huge part to play in the performance of a business is I’m afraid, telling porky pies. Either that, or they’ve never been part of a great working culture.
If you’re fortunate enough to have experienced that magic when everyone is pulling in the same direction, something special is happening and people are just ‘on it’ you’ll know what it feels like. It’s difficult to properly put your finger on what it is exactly but as a team, or even an organisation, you feel unbeatable. Sometimes it’s fleeting and lasts only weeks, or months but, sometimes in the right situation and nurturing it can stay like that for years.
In order to keep your culture strong with longevity, you have to make sure that you got it for the right reasons in the first place.
Style without substance?
One of the core reasons why what appears to be a great culture can go wrong is that it hasn’t been built on strong enough foundations. If I was being harsh, I would call it style without substance.
More often than not an inspirational leader can manage to bring people together, but this doesn’t necessarily that you’ve got a great culture – it’s just one element. There are, as we’ve discussed before, many things you can do that start to get people sharing a purpose. The thing is, the leader is never fully in control. It’s the people that control people culture.
If an organisation is solely banking on their leader to keep the culture strong, it is putting a hell of a lot on one person’s shoulders.
Hanging on a string
It also makes culture a very delicate thing that can hang in the balance. Sudden unprepared for events can quickly change this ‘people’ culture from positive to negative. What happens if that leader leaves the team, or organisation? Or if their powers simply begin to wane a little from not putting on their own oxygen mask first? Or more crucially, they have pinned everything on this inspiration being what holds people culture together.
The leader on their own is not enough. There has to be something tangible behind what you are doing that is robust enough so that it won’t be affected by a resignation, bump in the road or waning of motivation.
We call it your corporate culture.
Something inside so strong
If your people culture is mostly experiential – how people are feeling – your corporate culture needs to be ingrained throughout the business. It needs to be how people act when you are not there, reflective in the stories they tell about your organisation and in line with the organisation you desire to be.
It has to reward the behaviour you want to instil. Whether that be for speed, creativity or cost-saving. It should be reflected in the hierarchy of your organisation, aligning with your values & purpose. It should flow through your control systems and be glued together by evidential data.
It should be present in the tone of voice that you use on your website, down to how someone explains what you do to a friend.
This requires a proper strategy and effort. From deciding what corporate culture you want, how it may differ from team to team, to how it will manifest across everything you do – the substance.
And when combined with the style – the creation of shared purpose & safety – you will truly have something magical that you won’t lose.