What Culture Is And Is Not!

Last month, I began a four-part series on The Four Essentials of Business. This series is based on a talk I gave by the same name. Last month, I wrote about Essential #1… Identity. You can read that post here. 

This month, we’re going to look at Essential #2… Culture. I probably don’t have to tell you that there’s much being written about Culture today. It’s quite the buzzword for sure. Yet for all the focus on this idea, I’m not so sure we understand what Culture is truly about. For example, I recently saw a recruiting ad for a company in which they claim their Culture is flextime and fruit snacks in the break room. What?!?!?! Fruit snacks??? C’mon people…fruit snacks are not Culture. 

In our last post, we focused on Identity… the “why” behind what we do.  If Identity is the “why”, then Culture is the “way” we do what we do. It’s informed by the Identity. Identity is where our mission, vision and core values are defined.  The way we live out the mission, vision and values is our Culture. For example, if the core (lived out) value is greed, then there’s a good chance that the Culture will be one of suspicion and self-preservation.  However, if the core value is selflessness, then the Culture will probably be one of sharing, teamwork and servant-hood. 

Let me tell you about a company that illustrates this connection. The owner is a true visionary and servant leader. He’s constantly looking for the “next thing”, and takes care of his employees before thinking of himself. The result is an engaged staff who demonstrably care for each other. I know this because my daughter works there.   

I recently overheard her telling one of her friends about work the other day. Her friend asked her if she liked her job. My daughter said “yes”. When asked why, she said, “I like the people I work with.” And then she continued…

“My birthday was a couple weeks ago, and I wanted to go on a trip. Because I had just started working there, I didn’t have enough PTO, but I asked anyway. My boss said, ‘Sounds like fun. Where are you going? I hope you have great weather,’ stuff like that. The day before I left,  everybody kept saying, ‘Have fun on your trip,’ And when I came back, the first thing they said was ‘Tell us about your trip, did you have a good time?’ Of course, I knew it was unpaid time off, but that wasn’t the focus. They were more concerned about me, than my not being at work. 

Every other place I’ve ever worked, when I’d ask for time off, they treated it like a problem for them, instead of a good thing for me.”

What my daughter was describing was her company Culture. I happen to know that two of the core values of this company are “Respect for All” and “Loyalty”.  As a result, they have a “People First Culture”. It’s the way they do things. 

They key to developing and maintaining a healthy Culture such as this lies in two principles:

  1. Set and support the Identity 
  2. Hire the right people who will live out the Identity. 

For insight on how to set and support the Identity of your organization, read my post on Identity.

As for finding the right people, I offer up a framework called the Five C’s. You can use it to assess your current team, and also use it to identify the right future hires. 

Maintaining the right Culture requires people of…

    • Character: Find people you can trust, those with integrity.
    • Competence: Confirm they can actually do the job they’re hired to do, and do it well.  
    • Capacity: Find people who have the ability to grow into being the best version of themselves. Look for coachable people. 
    • Calling: Determine if they can align with the company Identity (vision, mission, values, etc.). 
    • Chemistry: Life’s too short. Find people who are fun to work with. 

The Culture of an organization has a profound impact on productivity and results. Healthy Cultures have a positive impact. Toxic Cultures bring the organization down.  

So what about yours, how’s the Culture?