The company culture. What is it? And why should I, as the company leader, care?
There are a number of variations of what a company culture is to an organization. Wikipedia, the foremost internet expert upon, well…. everything, defines the company culture as, “…the values and behaviors that uniquely amalgamate with the social and psychological persona of the company.” Certainly a generic and bland way to think about it. But that leads to some questions like: 1) do only established organizations have a culture? And 2) are the employees then the originators and stakeholders of the company culture?
The quick and dirty answer to both is “no.”
Company culture begins and ends with you
As the leader of your organization, the company culture begins and ends with you. Certainly employees, partners, vendors, and customers may help to refine it but it is the leader that sets the tone. Even a company of one or two employees develops a culture. It starts with the leader and how the leader functions and communicates the long term vision, values, and beliefs. Quite early on your employees’ behaviors are the result of your direct leadership and growth of the company. Assumptions are made. Processes and systems developed. Routines and habits are formed. And the very nature of your organization’s ecosystem is created.
But whether you are leading a small and emerging company, or assuming the reigns of a fully developed and mature organization, the culture blueprint is set forth by you. What you do, say, and believe as the leader about the operational aspects of your company plants the seeds. How you follow through, relate, and communicate, as well as your attitudes on display will begin to nurture what you have planted. Ultimately, what you harvest is in the results.
Needless to say it behooves you, as the company leader, to pay close attention to how and what you are doing in defining the company culture and how it is maintained. Even if you are assuming a new leadership role with an organization with a historically positive company culture, you as the leader can inadvertently change it without realizing it.
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Forging a new or refined company culture
With the many items leaders tackle, one of them should be to make time to think and diligently plan ways to positively impact the company culture from the outset. Take time to listen to employees and their ideas and thoughts. Provide customers and vendors opportunities to add input. Closely examine what outside influencers write about your organization. Regularly review the current company mission and values. Then….
Adjust as necessary. Focus on how to change the attitudes and beliefs strongly held by your team. Those adjustments will permeate across other teams and filter down to customers and vendors. For example, if your team struggles with its behaviors and performance with serving and supporting customers, learn to seek how those systems can be improved. Develop new systems. Charge and challenge your team with new roles and responsibilities. Model the behaviors and actions routinely. Align the attitudes and behaviors with desired results.
And in the end, the attitudes and behaviors of your team will change along with the improvement of a long standing corporate issue. Thus forging a new or refined company culture.