We’ve all heard the Peter Drucker quote, “culture eats strategy for breakfast” and we acknowledge that he’s right. Throughout my entire career, I’ve seen great initiatives fall flat because there was pushback, a lack of buy-in and/or ultimately, that the new behaviors were not adopted into the culture.
What is organizational culture?
There are many definitions and debates on what organizational culture even is. One of the elements I like in the definition is that it is comprised of actions, beliefs & values that people take when nobody is watching. It is somewhat unclear and because of that, many leaders push it aside in lieu of more concrete deliverables like strategy, vision, execution, etc.
This quote from Harvard Business Review’s Leader’s Guide to Corporate Culture sums it up perfectly.
Executives are often confounded by culture, because much of it is anchored in unspoken behaviors, mindsets, and social patterns. Many leaders either let it go unmanaged or relegate it to HR, where it becomes a secondary concern for the business. This is a mistake, because properly managed, culture can help them achieve change and build organizations that will thrive in even the most trying times.
Instead of sticking our heads in the sand or handing it off to HR, we need to understand, foster & create a culture that resonates with our people and fosters elements that create a high-performing business like trust, psychological safety, wellbeing, DEI, growth, innovation and others.
We can’t just write values on the wall. We can’t just dictate what our culture should be and order our people to behave in those ways. We can’t just ignore it. We need to create our vision of what it could be, we need to have a greater purpose to our company, we need to inspire our people to see that vision and shift their mindsets towards that possibility, we need to act authentically in the way we want our culture to be.
We need to become our culture.
None of this is easy, nor is it an overnight solution but it works and it pays significant dividends over the long term.
For more on organizational culture, tips on how to create a great culture and more, check out this week’s Leadership Launchpad Project with Sarah Powell! We take a deep dive into organizational culture, belonging and more!. Check it out on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, Amazon Music, Google Podcasts and more!
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– Coach Rob