There is a lot of conversation these days in the business world that is recognizing the significance of assessing and addressing organizational internal culture. This is long over-due! Because truth is, culture is one of the most important aspects of an organization that drives everything else--from employee engagement, to productivity, to even the bottom line of financial success.
What's more, culture drives the quality and output of every human group regardless of shape or size.
What Is Group Culture?
So what is organizational and group culture? Essentially, it's the quality of the human environment. It's the way people interact. It's behaviors based upon core values.
Culture is the impact of leadership on people they lead. It's the sense of positivity that either pervades or does not pervade the environment--whether or not people work well together, feel engaged and loyal to the mission, feel supported and paid attention to as human beings not simply "tools" used for company or a leader's success, whether leadership cares about individuals and how they're doing both personally and professionally.
Culture is about how differences are resolved--whether or not there exists a win-win environment rather than win-lose. Culture is about honoring each other, respecting differences, believing that in diversity is strength. Culture is about being asked to contribute your best strengths and believing in each other's strengths. Culture is about collaboration.
Every human grouping and system has a specific culture it develops over time, sometimes intentionally, other times unintentionally--families, marriages, significant relationships, friendships, churches, businesses, nonprofits, big corporations, schools, and larger tribes like regions, countries, nations. Whenever people gather together, a specific culture develops.
How Are You Shaping Your Culture?
The big question--the most strategic one--is, how specifically are you contributing to your group culture? Have you reflected on that? How is your attitude and behavior shaping the culture around you, whether it's in your family, marriage, church, or organization? Are you contributing a healthy culture or unhealthy one?
It's amazing to me how few people take the time and space to evaluate themselves on this issue.
Many leaders in organizations never prioritize this. As long as the financial bottom line is stable and growing and the stockholders are happy, that's all that matters to them. Meanwhile, people in their organization are getting "eaten up" by ineffective managers, morale is low, infighting increases, performance suffers, loyalty to the mission becomes nonexistent, people barely hang on long enough to bank their pay check. And the list of negative results is endless.
I hear horror stories all the time as a coach and consultant.
Many marriages and families never evaluate their culture style and effectiveness. They simply show up every day and allow whatever happens to happen--kind of the "going with the flow" approach. And though "the flow" may be going in an unhealthy direction, no one evaluates it, reflects on where it's going and how it's getting there. Conflict takes place. Love and tenderness get lost. And the difficult conversations are avoided. The culture has become toxic and unhealthy. And both people emotionally disengage.
How To Evaluate What Kind of A Culture Architect You Are
You cannot be a part of a human organism of any scale (small or large) and not pay attention to the culture that's being shaped. As long as you are a part of that specific environment everything you do, and how you do it, is shaping that culture. You are a culture architect whether you want to be or not. The question is, what kind of culture are you designing?
So let me suggest some strategic questions that need to be considered in proactively shaping a healthy culture. These are questions about what kind of culture architect you tend to be.
1. What kind of presence do you have with the people around you? How do people experience you? Are you kind, helpful, sincere, pleasant to be around? Or do you tend to be gruff, aloof, silent, passive, defensive?
2. Are you aware of and able to identify your feelings at any given moment? Do you tend to label feelings as either good or bad? Or are feelings just feelings --they simply are? Are you uncomfortable with feelings or do you have positive vocabulary to describe your feelings?
3. Do you know your hot buttons? Are you aware of what issues people can push and what your typical reactions are to that? Are you able to change your reactions into a more positive response?
4. Are you a collaborator or solo contributor? Are you able to work effectively with others, confident that your contributions can be helpful to them? Or do you tend to withdraw into yourself and not participate actively?
5. Do you have empathy--the ability to understand what others are feeling, to put yourself in their shoes in a way that helps you show up with them more compassionately and positively? Or do you tend to judge or criticize people for their behavior?
6. Do you have to have your own way most of the time? Or are you able to compromise and find common ground? Is life a win-lose paradigm or win-win for you?
7. Do you tend to run away from or avoid conflict? Or are you able to be proactive and direct, facing conflict as a positive opportunity to understand the other and find a mutual solution? Do you value peace at all costs over disagreement?
8. Do you willingly give others your time when they need you? Or do you tend to see people as interruptions to your priorities and communicate that subtly or not so subtly? Do you ever interrupt your schedule to help others?
9. Do you honor your own top strengths, using them proactively as much as possible? Do you view the strengths of others as equally valuable as your own and solicit their help whenever needed?
I recognize these are difficult questions. But unless we spend time in purposeful self reflection and evaluation we will leave the shaping of our culture to the whims of however we're feeling at the moment rather than being strategic and intentional. And the odds are that our default will be more unhealthy than healthy and so shape that kind of culture.
Can You Make This Commitment?
I want to make sure I'm giving my best contribution to all the groups I'm a part of. I want to bring my healthiest, most proactive self to these groups. I want to contribute a spirit of love, compassion, and meaningful service to the people I'm around. I want to help shape an environment where everyone feels honored, everyone contributes their best, and together we do our lives and work effectively and successfully--with no human carcasses left in our wake.
What about you?
Looking for a Speaker or Coach?
If you or someone you know in your organization is looking for a keynote speaker or workshop teacher for events in your company, congregation, or association gatherings, I would be happy to come speak on this theme or others like it. And interested in coaching for how to be an effective culture architect in your groups? Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or look at the Speaking or Coaching pages of this site.