Making amazing cultures that last
I remember when I first started hearing the word “Culture” …. and I hated it.
I’m sure “Culture” as a concept within business and organisations has been around forever, but at the time, it was new to me. It seemed like everybody was talking about it and I hated it. For starters, when people talked about “their culture”, wanting to build or improve the “culture” of their organisation, I wasn’t even sure what it meant. To me it sounded like something you generated or created, like a façade to cover up what was really going on, putting on a false front. Kind of like, “As long as we get the culture right, we can treat people how we like, and everything will be fine. At least we can look healthy, professional, fruitful or profitable even if we’re not”.
Since that time, having owned my own business, led people in all different types of situations and made a million mistakes along the way, I’ve come to realise that whether I like it or not, culture exists. In fact, where there are people there is culture and its health is central to the lasting success of everything we do as leaders. In saying that, I’m still not sure culture is the right word to use. I’m not sure it paints a good enough picture of the absolute significance it plays in our workplaces and organisations. Maybe a better way to describe culture would be the “heart and soul” of your organisation. But for the sake of the message let’s stick with culture.
So what is culture, how do we create amazing ones and how do we make them last? Let’s have a quick look at four things that shape culture.
1 - Cultures are because of people, about people and amazing ones are for people
The implications for business and organisations not understanding the power of culture is like building a house without laying a foundation. It’s that important. You might have the appearance of success for a while, but it can never last, Why? Because thriving people build thriving organisations. Whether it’s good or bad, the true culture of your business and organisation will shine through eventually and the whole thing comes back to this one thing…. HOW YOU TREAT PEOPLE! There are other dynamics that forge and create culture, but this is unescapable. The way you are towards your people will shape the heart and soul of your business and organisation. Our people carry the day to day load of our businesses and organisations. As we invest in them, it creates an environment where people can thrive. In turn, any improvement directly affects the overall performance and culture of our organisations. Everybody wants unity within an organisation, but if you don’t work towards it, it won’t happen. Everybody wants inclusiveness, kindness and honesty within an organisation, but if you don’t show it and practise it, you won’t get it. We all have bad days and get it wrong, but if you can determine that the trend or trajectory of your leadership is one that empowers people, working with them to unlock their potential, there is no limit to what you can achieve. As we invest in our people, they invest in the organisation, which lays the foundation for lasting success!!
2 - Bad cultures evolve, amazing cultures are formed
Culture isn’t something you add to your organisation, it’s already there and its effects on your business or organisation are happening right now. Whether it’s healthy or not is what we leaders get to manage. Staff and cultural management may seem like the thing that gets in the way of our real work.... but it is our real work! Without a shadow of a doubt the number one thing that shapes the culture of a business or organisation is the person in charge. Don’t get me wrong, everybody, both good and bad, plays a part in shaping cultures. Some will work with you and some will work against you, but the final responsibility in ensuring the direction and protection of your organisation’s heart and soul rests on you, the leader. Your culture is being shaped by the strongest influence in your organisation, if that’s not you, somebody is shaping it for you.
3 - Amazing cultures have high standards and hold people to them
I love a quote I heard recently by Lauren Demoss - “High standards only scare those who have none!”. Everyone has standards, but it’s only businesses and organisations that set high standards, communicate them well and then hold people to account that thrive. Mission, vision, job descriptions, KPIs and core values are some of the ways we clearly communicate what is expected from our teams, but it’s holding people accountable to these expectations that sets leaders, businesses and organisations apart from the rest. The biggest mistakes I have made, as a leader, are not holding people accountable. Whether it was performance, attitude or behaviour, when I failed to hold people accountable for the company standards, I was eventually faced with even bigger issues that sometimes became impossible to deal with amicably. It wasn’t that we didn’t have standards or that our staff didn’t know what they were, it was my holding people to them that made the real difference and when I didn’t, the individual, the team and our company suffered because of it. This is one of the hardest things we face as leaders, not many people like to have the hard conversation, but without it, our businesses, ventures and organisations, as well as the people in them, will never reach their full potential! Although setting and communicating what is expected in your workplace is vitally important, a leader’s number one responsibility is to hold people accountable to them.
4 - Culture is felt
You can’t fake healthy cultures. They reflect reality, not cover up for it. Have you ever walked out of a business and said, “There's
something about that place”? That's culture! Good or bad culture Is felt.
Culture is the heartbeat of your office. It's the how you do things, behind the why you do things.
Culture is Invisible but undeniable, untouchable but tangible, underestimated but vital.
Culture is how your people feel when they walk away from your business or organisation. It's how your staff feel coming to work and how you feel when going home… and if it’s not good, it’s not good! We all have bad days, tough seasons and things to deal with, but this should be the exception, not the norm and if it is, the great thing is you can do something about it!
For a culture to be healthy
It has to be positive, empowering, strong, caring, deliberate and attentive to the needs of others.
For a culture to endure
It has to be transparent, honest, above board and consistent.
For a culture to improve
It has to be determined, hard-working and accountable.
So how do you create amazing cultures?
- Set high standards and clear expectations. Form, outline and communicate strong mission, vision and core values as well as the expectations of each task and role within your organisation and then hold your people accountable to them.
- Lead by example, be generous, have integrity, know your stuff, be patient, self-controlled, and genuinely care for your people, putting the needs of others above your own. You know the old saying, “Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care”. - Theodore Rossevelt
- Invest in your people and they will invest in your organisation. Unlocking the potential of your people will unleash the potential of your organisation!
Do these things and your people will help you forge a culture where your organisations won’t be able to help but THRIVE. Laying a strong foundation will enable you to achieve more than you ever hoped, dreamed or imagined!
All the best,
Episode #2 | Your Culture
Episode #1 | A Faulty Bow