Culture, it lives in your yogurt and thrives in the corridors of your company. It's the super ingredient x that has the power to transform things. We often hear the phrase "so what's the company culture?" The response usually reflects the
long-standing way a company has been doing things and earned a reputation for.
But wait, let's think about this. A company doesn't actually 'do' things. It's the leaders and managers that do things that ultimately define the company culture.
So what then leads to Culturitis, the dreaded corporate disease responsible for low morale and creative decay? Here are 3 potential causes and the cures.
1. NO SENSE OF PURPOSE
This is endemic in many companies today. Some leaders and key executives can't seem to express and articulate their true company purpose and why they exist.
Too often, purpose and vision are confused with business goals. This results in employees not getting a deeper sense of what the company stands for and what their role is in helping realize this vision.
What you then get is a culture of limited commitment and 'it's just a job' level engagement from employees.
THE CURE: DEFINE YOUR PURPOSE AND EVANGELIZE THIS
As a leader, you have a powerful vaccine against this manifestation of Culturitis by defining and articulating your purpose and why you exist as a company. This is about the good you bring to the world through your products and services and reminding your people why you exist as a business.
As examples, here are some purpose statements from well known successful companies:
Disney's purpose is to spread happiness and optimism in the world.
Air Asia exists to make air travel accessible to everyone.
Google's purpose is to organize the world's information to benefit you.
Notice how none of these purpose statements mention any business goals but point to a greater good.
Having a strong sense of purpose and communicating this effectively and consistently helps build a strong positive culture. This is when employees are motivated to push themselves to deliver beyond expectations and want to be part of your journey. They feel they are part of something bigger.
This also helps pull them through the bad times and stick with you when the market is hungry for talent.
Make your purpose your mantra and consistently remind your employees at every opportunity about what you stand for and your bigger brand story. Start with the next town hall or state of the union address. Dial down the updates and numbers, reiterate your story and see what happens.
2. ABSENCE OF TRUST
This is an environment and culture where people are expected to work in silos and not worry about anything outside their domain. It's not seen as right to collaborate or cross pollinate ideas with other people in the organization. Here, it's every man for himself.
This is where fear and retribution for not doing the right thing and getting results as expected, set the tone for the cultural experience. People are always looking over their shoulder, excessively managing upwards and looking out for themselves.
THE CURE: CREATE AN ENVIRONMENT OF TRUST
An effective preventive shot for this version of Culturitis is delivered by leadership building a circle and a culture of trust. An environment where leaders have confidence in their people and provide them the opportunity to interact and build strong relationships.
A culture where it's okay to fail and learn from your mistakes. An environment where employees can step up their game and feel motivated to push themselves to do great things.
This is a place where everyone works hard because they trust each other and draw from each other's strengths. This goes beyond yoga sessions, happy hours and well stocked pantries, to building something deeper that makes people feel safe, valuable and valued.
3. NOT PICKING THE RIGHT PEOPLE (TO MATCH YOUR CULTURE)
This is generally how Culturitis starts. As a founder or a senior leader, you need to pick your core team that is aligned with your purpose and vision. People that believe in you and understand why you do what you do, taking a cue from Simon Sinek.
Most times, people are picked for the job description and not for a culture fit. More often than not this results in cultural conflicts down the line with a loss in morale and wasted human resources.
THE CURE: FINDING YOUR FIT
The preventive approach for avoiding Culturitis through a cultural misfit, is to look for like-minded people who share your passion and vision. Those who believe in what you believe and can visualize the journey ahead.
In a large company, the on-boarding process becomes crucial. The HR head who is also the 'chief culture officer' needs to formulate a process to evaluate culture fit. Having a comprehensive company culture code helps as good reference and starting point.
Companies like Netflix, Google and Hubspot have very detailed culture codes that define the people they want on board. More importantly, they also define the kind of people that are not suited for their company.
Culturitis is a preventable corporate disease. As leaders and managers, you have the power and control to inoculate your company early from this disease. Take steps to create a favourable environment for your people to thrive and grow and build amazing products and services.