Organizational culture is something that can take, with or without planning. If allowed, culture will form on its own, which can be detrimental to the health of the organization. Or culture can be planned and implemented so as to enhance the organization’s goals and strategies toward success.
One way or another, the organization will eventually develop a culture of its own. If shaping culture in a positive and productive direction is the goal, then the leadership team must take initial and continuous action to move the organization in the right direction.
Have you ever worked for or experienced a destructive culture in the workplace? How does that come about? As we’ve seen from numerous articles here on AboutLeaders, there is such a thing as destructive leadership.
Destructive leadership will create an environment which will eventually be born into an organizational culture, thus the culture will exhibit the same destructive nature. Such destructive behavior on an organizational level is not necessarily planned, but is an outcome of a poor leadership example.
Shaping the Culture
Culture can be shaped, and it can also be reshaped if necessary. Measures must obviously be taken to remove the destructive initiative first before reshaping can be implemented. Without removing the destructive tendencies, the reshaping will most likely be sabotaged. The following are some key components for creating a positive, productive culture.
The first step in shaping culture is determining what the culture should be like and then creating a vision for the future based upon what the culture would look like. The vision must be easy to communicate in order for the organization to begin to address it and adopt actions to move in a potentially new direction toward it.
The vision must be communicated regularly and clearly. You must make sure the communication is consistent at all times, and the same is true in the case of the vision. Mixed messages create confusion.
Be prepared for culture change to take time. The further the organization must travel, the longer the change can take. The most important issue is that the vision is implemented and the journey begins towards the new culture.
Make sure the team or organization understands what it is that is being undertaken and why. The days of “Do this or else!” are gone. Make sure the organization is fully briefed and understands the what and the why. Many leaders are pretty clear on the what but often feel the why is not a necessary subject to address.
Why is just as important as the what. Most individuals need to understand the why in order to obtain complete buy-in. The people in the organization want the best for the organization so they really deserve to become full partners in any shaping or reshaping programs.
Great Leaders are Inclusive
Create an environment that breeds participation. No one has yet cornered the market on good or creative ideas. Therefore, to achieve the best from the team, it is important to allow members to feel the freedom to contribute.
There is nothing that can derail the best efforts to create the right culture than having an in-group and thereby also an out-group. Individual members will most likely never embrace any serious implementations if there is a perception of preference over them and their ideas.
Inclusion also means keeping the team apprised of important information. The more individuals feel the whole story is being communicated to them, the more they take personal responsibility for active participation in the program. Along with disseminating pertinent information readily recognize accomplishments with individuals as well as team and organizational levels.
Demonstrate trustworthiness at all times. If the organization is to take on this new mantra of implementing this new culture in their everyday lives, than the leader must go first. Leading by example may be an oversimplification normally, but not here. People will not embrace a culture the leaders do not live. The leadership must become openly and observably what the culture is to become.
If integrity and quality are to be part of the desired culture, than the leadership must demonstrate those characteristics visibly to the organization. In some organizations this meant openly sharing management salaries and benefits to members who were being asked to take pay and benefit cuts.
Stay Calm and Stay Focused
Things are going to happen. Many issues will drag the organization away from the path. Often when the wheels come off the team looks to the leader for stability. Just as the ship’s Captain must maintain calm and stability in rough seas, the leaders must also remain calm and focused in unchartered waters.
Life is full of innate stress. Change amplifies stressors many times over. The organization needs to be able to tap into the calmness and focus of leadership to take a breather at times. Knowing tough things will happen ahead of time allows leaders to be prepared and decisive when necessary.
Building trust is also enhanced by leaders being available. Individuals in the organization should not feel alone out on the end of the branch. Leaders in such a changing environment need to be visible and approachable. Serious and tough questions may arise. Members must be able to resolve issues and the leaders must be there to help and facilitate resolutions.
Create newsletters, e-mail blasts, posters, slogans, or whatever else that will continue to communicate the goals and the vision. The vision will become a part of everyday life for the organization’s members by continually having it in front of them as often and in as many ways as possible.
First of all it is important that people are continually reminded of what the vision is. Secondly, the importance of becoming the new culture is demonstrated by how often it is portrayed. How often has some great idea gone by the wayside because it was imparted and then never or hardly ever mentioned again? Culture is learned, learning comes from repetition.
Senior Managers Must be Engaged
The organization will not buy-in if it is clear senior managers are not onboard. If senior managers are not a part of the new culture then the organization will not change. If senior management is not willing to embrace the new culture, it will never take hold. Most individuals can see right through, “Do what I say not what I do.” If leadership really wants to shape or reshape culture then everyone needs to be onboard.
Culture can provide a cohesive bond that moves the organization productively forward. It can also drive an organization into the ground if it develops a destructive personality. Leadership holds the key as to how the culture develops. Enjoy building and establishing a culture that will be sustainable!
How Do You Change Your Organization’s Culture?
What are your ideas about building a productive, organizational culture? Comment to me and others in the box below so we can learn from your ideas.
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Right on Tim. This article is so helpful for those of us who are either trying to build the right culture or advice others on how to do it. I especially appreciate your comment on destructive behavior on an organizational level not being planned but an outcome of a poor leadership. I see this time and time again. The sad part is that the leaders in charge many times are completely unaware of the consequences of their leadership. Thank you so much for this great resource.
Strayers going astray are destructive ,The structure & leader
‘s approach with senior management roped in to set the stage mentioned by you is a very importnat aspect & Organization culture develops with their involved approach & to propogate the change positively.
You have depicted typical charecteristics & culture those exist & need change in many a places.
Timyour article was not only informational but actually a fact for most of us who work in an environment which as you stated has poor leadership. I especially liked the your message regarding Leaders on Board! So true, how can a “Just Culture” environment be sucessfully promoted when Senior Leaders are not!!!