Updated: Nov 15, 2022
The Culture of an organisation is so important to get right as it sets the guiding principles for the people in your business.
Your leadership team need to link your business strategy and formal goals to your culture, which should focus on the values, beliefs and ways of doing things.
Your Culture needs to inspire your teams, align with the purpose of your organisation, empowering your teams to grow and perform. The values and beliefs you set out will influence how actions happen.
Founders and influential leaders often set new cultures in motion that can last for years.
Over time an organisation’s leaders shape culture, through both conscious and unconscious actions. The best leaders are fully aware of the different facets of cultures and sense when change is required and act accordingly.
That said, many leaders struggle with culture when building high performance teams because they don’t understand culture’s power and dynamics. In fact they are much more likely to set out thoughtful detailed plans around the strategy and execution and relegate culture.
This can be a big mistake. As we know “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” every time.
So how can leaders become more aware of the impact culture can have on their business?
Culture is the social order of an organisation. Cultural norms define what is encouraged, discouraged, accepted or rejected by the group. It can unleash huge amounts of energy towards a shared purpose and help it thrive.
Culture is a group phenomenon. It does not exist with a single person nor is it the group average. It comes from shared values and behaviours across the group.
Culture manifests itself at many levels in collective behaviours, group rituals, stories and visible signs, as well as unseen aspects such a mindsets, motivations and even unspoken rules.
Culture can significantly influence the thoughts and actions of a group over time and can be self-reinforcing. It develops over time from collective life events and learnings and can be enduring because people are drawn to companies with characteristics similar to their own.
Culture acts like a silent language. People recognise and respond to it instinctively. The ability to sense and respond to culture is universal.
In 2018 the Havard Business Review defined 8 distinct culture styles based on an organisation’s orientation towards people interactions and how an organisation responses to change.
Caring focuses on relationships and mutual trust.
Purpose is exemplified by idealism and altruism.
Learning is characterised by exploration, expansiveness and creativity.
Enjoyment is expressed through fun and excitement.
Results is characterised by achievement and winning.
Authority is defined by strength, decisiveness and boldness.
Safety is defined by planning, caution and preparedness
Order is focused on respect, structure and shared norms
Here are a few examples of what the leaders of some global organisations say about their organisations and style of culture they are likely to have:
Elon Musk, cofounder and CEO Tesla (Learning Culture): “I’m interested in things that change the world or that affect the future and wondrous new technology where you see it and you’re like ‘Wow, how did that even happen?’”
Bob Iger, CEO (Caring Culture): “It is incredibly important to be open and accessible and treat people fairly and look them in the eye and tell them what is on your mind.”
Lloyd’s of London
Inga Beale, CEO lloyd’s of London (Safety Culture): “To protect themselves, businesses should spend time understanding what specific threats they may be exposed to and speak to experts who can help.”
What is the cultural style of your company and are you taking action?
Do you recognise and know the current culture styles for your business and understand the effects this has on your business?
Do your employees view your culture in the same way and are their differences that exist from legacy cultures or significant business changes like mergers?
Is the purpose, strategy and culture of your business aligned and clearly defined?
Do you know the signature styles for your ideal culture and are you able to communicate these to your employees?
Are your leaders influencing your culture by demonstrating best practise through their own actions and embedding it in your organisation?
If you need help developing your culture, aligning it with your strategy, putting an action orientated plan together, or need help creating effective internal communications which supports your culture please get in touch.