(A 3-Part Series)
Many of the most-engaged business leaders are beginning to acknowledge the elephant in the room; their company culture is dead or on life support! You may have company values that “exist” in theory or concept; however, your company culture does not reflect the leadership behaviors and interactions that represent these values. It is time to breathe new life into your company culture--it is time for Cultural CPR.
Creating Cultural Consciousness
(Part 1 of the 3-part, Breathing Life into Your Company Culture: How to Perform "Cultural CPR” Series)
You have probably heard the metaphors, “you should not use new cloth to mend old clothes,” or perhaps, “you can’t put new wine in old wineskins.” The underlying message of these age-old allegories relates to the principles of renewal and transformation. New cloth has not yet shrunk. Therefore, using new material to patch older garments would result in a tear as the new fabric begins to shrink. Similarly, old wineskins have been stretched to the limit or become brittle as the wine fermented inside them. Using them again will result in them bursting.
You may wonder, “how do these metaphors relate to breathing new life into my company culture?” The answer rests with the notion that your company’s cultural revival must begin by reflecting on the prevailing state of your culture and your current leadership team (“the old skin”). You must take a hard look at each member of your organization, starting at the top. Who does not align with the desired company culture you wish to nurture? Are your leaders willing, or able, to adapt and “stretch” to align with the new culture you want?
Cultural CPR is a challenging process and one that will put your most-capable leaders to the test. Once you have reflected and made some hard decisions about your leadership team, it is now time to begin the life-giving resuscitation process!
So, what is the first step? You must create cultural consciousness. You cannot expect your team to understand what you believe are the core values and principles that should guide your business unless you teach them (or remind them). Effective communication is at the root of any teaching and learning process. You must integrate your company values purposefully and consistently in your organizational conversations. Furthermore, you must include the benefits of a robust culture in the ongoing discussion with your team. When they understand how your organizational values and beliefs impact their own work experience, they will become more accountable for the behaviors and interactions that embody a stronger culture.
While over-marketizing your company culture can appear disingenuous, to create cultural consciousness, your company values, belief statements, and standards of behavior should be documented and shared throughout your organization. This discipline is more than just developing new poster boards and flyers. For example, meetings should begin or end with thoughts on what you believe as an organization or how individuals exhibited the core values critical to your organization’s success. The intrinsic value of your culture should be talked about, discussed, and emphasized.
To begin assessing your organization's cultural consciousness, ask yourself these ten questions.
- Is developing your company culture part of your daily work?
- Do you or your team’s actions reflect your company’s cultural values?
- Is the strength of your culture profoundly crucial to you or your organization?
- Have you consistently made your culture a priority?
- Can members of your team (including front-line employees) state your company values?
- If you ask five members of your team to explain what your company values mean, would you get an accurate definition?
- If you ask five members of your team to explain what your company values mean, would you get a consistent definition?
- Are the behaviors associated with your company's values clearly defined?
- Do you, or members of your team, understand the behaviors that represent the values that serve as the foundation of your company culture?
- Have you communicated expectations regarding these behaviors and associated interactions that influence your company culture?
If you answered “no” to 2 or more questions, then it is likely that your cultural consciousness is slipping! You need Cultural CPR!
Cultural consciousness is about the state of being “awake and aware” of one’s organizational culture, with an emphasis on recognizing the values that shape the behaviors and interactions between individuals within an organization. To breathe life into your organization’s culture, you must work to create awareness and responsiveness to your company culture.
Be sure to read Part 2 of Breathing Life into Your Company Culture: How to Perform "Cultural CPR,” on Friday, August 14, where we discuss how to practice your company culture after you have created cultural consciousness.
At POWERS, we believe that culture drives performance, and we work closely with businesses across all industries to address the above issues and more. If this piece resonated with you, we encourage you to continue the conversation and get in touch by connecting with Dr. Donte Vaughn here or Randall Powers here.
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