Workplace Culture: Every Leader and Every Action Is ImportantFebruary 27, 2020 | Posted by Scott Stiver in Leadership Development, Relationship Building
It’s no secret that an organization’s culture is the key to its success. Without a thriving workplace culture, companies can suffer from employee disengagement and stagnant business practices, both of which are barriers to growth and financial performance. Although we’re all familiar with the term “workplace culture” and its importance in creating prosperous, growing businesses (and enjoyable places to work), we often have difficulty defining exactly what culture is.
The Power of Culture in the Workplace
To put it simply, an organization’s culture is “the way things are.” It’s the way people inside your organization behave and interact with each other based on what they’ve learned while being there. Behaviors and actions that are repeated over the years become so ingrained in the way a company operates that these same behaviors and actions start happening naturally, on their own. This is what is so powerful about cultures—once established, they take care of themselves. Leaders don’t have to spend time “teaching” their teams how to sustain a culture because it is so inherently part of how the company operates. In companies with healthy, vibrant cultures this is a good thing. Leaders at these organizations will still need to lead with integrity and demonstrate the culture’s learned behaviors; however, for the most part, they can afford to “let it be” and reap the benefits of teams who work collaboratively and productively together.
But the magical power of culture being able to sustain itself over time isn’t always a good thing. If you’re a leader at a company with a toxic organizational culture, you can’t afford to “let it be.” The toxic culture will exist until the learned behaviors that support it cease. In other words, until you change the ingrained, learned behaviors of your people, your business will continue to suffer.
Behavior Change: Leading By Example
Because culture is so deep-rooted in your company’s day-to-day operations, changing a company’s culture is no small feat. It can’t be done by one person in isolation because it involves changing the entrenched behaviors and attitudes of every individual within your organization.
Although it’s impossible to change a workplace culture on your own, you can make it a point as a leader in your organization to be intentional about the behaviors you exhibit and the actions you take. People follow what they see their leaders do—that’s how a culture gets established in the first place. If people see their leaders working in silos or avoiding communication at work, they will do the same. This pattern builds over time until it becomes nearly impossible for anyone to work in a way that goes against the established culture. Simply put, the actions you take and the behaviors you exhibit as a leader drive your company’s culture. If you are a leader who wants to change your company’s culture, this means your behaviors and actions should challenge the behaviors and actions that support your company’s existing culture.
Behavior Change Over “Climate” Change
Many leaders will try to “fix” a toxic culture by making climate changes. Climate changes may take the form of fitness classes, free lunches or standing workstations. While these can be nice, they are only band-aids and do nothing to address the toxic behaviors that plague your company. Changing a company’s culture requires much more than climate changes—every leader within the company must intentionally exhibit the behaviors and actions they want to see in their people, and, over time, their people will follow.
Although it will take time- sometimes years- for an existing culture to fade and a new culture to reign, it is important for leaders to remember that they play a crucial role in establishing their organization’s culture. As one Harvard Business Review author puts it, “we create our organizational culture by the actions we take, not the other way around.”
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