When my wife and I plan trips, a recurring statement that glazes most of our conversations is “it will be great to enjoy a new culture.” Irrespective of all raving online reviews and gratifying images, the truth we have learned is that experiences birthed from interactions with people become vital to enjoying culture.
The last few years have seen culture take a prominent seat in board rooms. The corporate realm has been awakening to the truth that an employee-focused culture is a cure to most issues that cause decay to the organizational fabric. Cure! Yes, a word that can be extracted from ‘culture’.
Oftentimes, when we look up an organization online, there is a lot of available content reaffirming its focus on people and enticing culture. Yet, there seems to be heaps of folks who are frustrated and have lost faith in the system.
Where is the gap?
A company can define its culture in words. While it seems to be the existent state, usually, it is the desired state. This will become a reality only if people leaders or as I would like to refer to them, Shepherds, feel the urge to become cultural ambassadors.
Even the best of organizations could become an individual’s nightmare if the responsible people leader does not portray the cultural elements of the firm.
I am reminded of a story a friend of mine shared. He was a proofreader. When hurricane Sandy hit the US in 2012, the firm at which my friend worked asked that the employees take time off and care of their families. A lot of folks were without power for days. The people leader responsible for my friend had a unique ask. In case of a power outage, light a candle and proofread! Needless to say, my friend found his way out. He couldn’t enjoy the organization’s culture due to his people leader’s poor reflection of the same.
Certainly, examples such as this are dime a dozen.
A Potential Path Forward – Cultural Mirrors
As an incentive to people leaders, they must be offered periodical opportunities to stand in front of a cultural mirror.
What can be potential cultural mirrors?
A simple, recurring questionnaire based on the vital cultural elements of an organization is a good start. People leaders handle a plethora of responsibilities. Hence, reminders about what serves as an organization’s foundation can prove to be rewarding.
Let’s be mindful of the fact that cultural changes can be challenging. Especially, for adults. For employees who have been part of an ecosystem for years.
An organization that was going through a cultural overhaul implemented the ‘culture score’ strategy. What this entailed is that on a monthly basis, people leaders, if asked, must provide examples wherein they demonstrated values that define the transformed organizational culture.
An individual’s immediate people leader defines organizational culture. No matter how flamboyant an organization’s culture statement is, the values demonstrated by its shepherds are what will form the cultural image in the minds of the sheep.
Have you been a part of an organizational culture transformation? If so, please share your story.
What are your thoughts on cultural mirrors?
Great piece, Ranjith! I’ve worked with a lot of organizations that have a wonderful mission and vision statement, but a lousy culture. You can feel the culture of company pretty much as soon as you walk in the door and interact with the first person you meet. The personal values – or deficits – will permeate every interaction often without intention. I remember one company I worked with and even the receptionist looked tired and sad. One day I asked her how she was doing and she replied, “Living the dream” with a roll of her eyes. I chatted with her a bit and learned that she felt that not only did no one really value her, but she questioned how many people even knew her name. Think of that… the first person the customers meet and interact with when they walk in the door felt insignificant and unappreciated – and yet, she was supposed to make customers feel valued and appreciated. Huh??
Thank you for sharing this one, Ranjith!