Thursday, March 4, 2010

10 Things Every Leader Should Know About Company Culture

Over the years I have coached a number of people who were unhappy in their job and wanted a change to something better, much better. While investigating the reasons for their dissatisfaction, I sometimes find that the people actually like what they are doing, and to a certain extent they like and respect their boss. Digging deeper, I find that their deep dissatisfaction, their source of discontent and their reason for change, is not in the job, but in the company culture.

What is a company culture?

It’s kind of like the personality of the company itself. And just like every person has a distinct personality, so does every company. And this personality is as much a part of who the company is as your personality is to who you are.

Let’s take a brief look at 10 things every leader should know about their company culture.

1. It’s Tangible - Not only does every organization have a personality, but the personality is tangible and real to everyone in the organization. Your employees are probably more clear about the culture of your company than they are about their individual goals and objectives. They sense the culture from their first day on the job,

2. You Can Define It – Or Not - Some companies understand the value of their culture and take great care to intentionally define it. Other companies let the culture evolve over time. When you define the culture yourself you have much more control over it. When left to nature, your culture will be defined by whichever leader has the strongest personality. Clearly there is some risk associated with this method.

3. It Will Guide Everything That You Do - Just as your personality guides the decisions you make, your company culture will guide the decisions made by your organization. Consciously or not, your team will make decisions that are consistent with your culture, even if it goes against their personal values.

4. There Is No Such Thing as a Bad Culture - While it might seem counter-intuitive, there really is no such thing as a bad culture. There is such a thing as a bad culture for you. And there is even such a thing as a bad culture for the market you are trying to serve. But just like we need different personalities in the world, we also need different company cultures to provide us with diversity.

5. Your People Must Be Consistent With Your Culture - Your culture should impact the type of people that you hire. This is fairly easy, and even common, when the culture is intentionally defined. However, when your culture is the result of evolution, your hiring tends to be inconsistent.

6. Definition of Values – Your culture is part of the definition of your company values. The clearer you are about your values, the easier it is to define the culture.

7. Culture Impacts Attitude, Which Dictates Behaviors – Your culture permeates your organization and is reflected in the inner thoughts and attitudes of your employees. These attitudes will directly impact their behavior, for better or for worse.

8. It is Difficult But Not Impossible to Change – Once your Company Culture has been defined, changing it can only be done with significant effort. But the good news is that it can be done.

9. The Words Must Match the Music – If your company has a written statement of culture, but your processes and reward systems don’t reinforce it, you will be stuck with a schizophrenic organization. And the first people to notice this will be your customers. Or should I say, your ex-customers.

10. It Can Cost You Your Best Employees – Hard working, creative, energetic employees want to work in a culture that rewards their creativity. Good employees routinely leave perfectly good jobs because the company culture is inconsistent with their own needs.

Until next time.....

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

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