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Define "Culture"

I work with leadership teams and executive groups who can tell me, with a gleam in their eye, exactly what their company stands for. They have fire behind their explanation of how and why the company was formed, where they see themselves in the market and, definitely, where they are headed. That is awesome...and important...and, need I say it?..Expected.

The litmus test comes when I walk the floor. I ask employees their interpretation of the company's core values. Could they tell me, succinctly, what the company stands for and what behaviors are rewarded? How do diversity and inclusion initiatives add to their employer value proposition? Do they know how the employees will help move the business forward?

Ya, that's okay. You're not alone.

This is why HR sometimes gets a bad reputation. We're known as the only ones in the company who can recite mission, vision and value statements in our sleep and then translate them in to 6 languages so everyone knows how to congratulate each other.

Allow me to suggest a more simple solution for everyone to understand how to define 'culture'. Given the political events of this week, the idea can have widespread applications.

Large groups who share a common belief and behavioral system sometime perceive themselves as 'normal' and 'successful' and band together to preserve their unity. Groupthink and 'hire like me' are common pitfalls in this organization.

It is the most successful and sustainable organizations who value, model and coach their members to understand the driving forces beneath cultures and sub-cultures (the 'iceberg' effect). By doing so, you may find yourself with a predictor of future behaviors and influences.

Hold tight to the adage, "Normal is just a setting on the washing machine". Hire and promote leaders who give a voice to smaller groups, who can model tolerance and inclusion, and who embrace respectful contribution above all else.

If your leadership team welcomes new perspectives, even from quiet voices, then you have a strong culture in terms of creative problem solving and trusting teamwork. If, however, your leadership team is based in fear and passes that along to their reports, you may find top management saying one thing and encouraging behavior that is completely different.

Whether we are talking about world peace or the Company Lunch Team, we can look at the way we resolve conflict as being the true test of culture. So, next time you are taken by surprise because you have misunderstood a tribe member, instead of reacting in anger, maybe take a moment to thank them for giving you a perspective that you didn't realize was necessary.

That's not hard to remember is it?

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