Bringing Clarity to Organizational Culture

In at interview with Tony Morgan last week I was asked how I would define organizational culture for his readers. It’s a tough question. Even the most experienced leaders I’ve been around have trouble offering a clear explanation about what organizational culture is…much less, how to go about intentionally building a desired culture in the organization they’re leading. It’s tough because culture is the “squishy” stuff or “soft” stuff in an organization that’s hard to measure on a chart, map, or graph.

The hard truth, like it or not, is that every organization has a culture. And the leaders of the organization are the cultural architects. And by intention or neglect every organization will eventually take on the cultural characteristics of its leaders.

The culture of an organization is the context in which everything else happens. If the culture isn’t healthy it doesn’t matter how sophisticated your strategy is or how talented your team is. You’re on a road to organizational mediocrity, or worse failure. Patrick Lencioni puts it this way in his book The Advantage:

“The health of an organization provides the context for strategy, finances, marketing, technology, and everything else that happens in it, which is why it is the single greatest factor determining an organizations success. More than talent. More than knowledge. More than innovation.” Patrick Lencioni

Here are four ways you can begin intentionally building the culture in the organization you’re leading.

1. Attitudes that are Adopted

What attitude or posture do you want the people in your organization to adopt? If this became reality what would change in the way you go about your work? Are you demonstrating this attitude as the leader?

2. Values that are Championed

What organizational or team values are already being championed? What needs to shift and begin being put center stage? What would happen if these values weren’t just on some piece of paper tucked away in some desk drawer or simply printed in the boardroom, but actually lived out in the way your organization went about its work?

3. Beliefs that are Instilled

What do you fundamentally believe about the work you’re doing? Is this belief held throughout the entire organization? Is the work you’re doing worth doing?

4. Behaviors that are Reproduced

What behaviors do you celebrate and reward in your organization? If everyone in your organization behaved this way would it be a better place? Would the organization naturally take ground?

Posted in Leadership

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