Creating a great organisational culture should be a fantastic experience, after all it’s something everyone wants, even your most jaded, cynical, and negative person. Think about it, do you know anyone that wouldn’t want to be part of a great culture?
However greatness is not created by imposing a culture on people, in fact, this creates mediocre results. This is because you are inadvertently communicating the message that the current culture is “bad” and needs to change, which creates defensiveness. How would you react if someone told you that your culture needed to “become something else?” It’s not a very motivating or exciting thing to hear.
Talk about purpose instead
If you want to create a great culture you need to engage your people in conversations about purpose instead. Stop talking about culture and talk about why the company exists and what you want to achieve – not in terms of your targets or KPIs but in terms the companies contribution to making the world a better place. People will contribute to this discussion because it’s a conversation they want to have. Deloitte’s “Global Human Capital Trends” report found that employees want a career, purpose, and meaning from their work.
Make sure that every leader in the organisation aligns their team, department, unit, or site by discussing why they exist in the context of delivering the company purpose. They might come up with a slightly different statement of purpose and that’s OK. Alignment is more important that uniformity.
Then talk about culture
Once the purpose is clear you can then define the culture needed to deliver it.
This will be the first time you mention culture so it will come from the perspective of “what culture do we need to deliver our purpose” instead of “your culture needs to change.” It’s a completely different way of approaching culture that will engage instead of alienate and build involvement instead of resistance.
Try to define your target culture in one word, or two at the most. This will get people talking.
Don’t make the mistake of overcomplicating it with a handful of values with detailed explanations. People can’t remember more than one or two things at a time and you want to make this memorable and engaging, so keep it simple. Your objective is to generate a conversation, not a definition.
Once you have a target culture make sure that every leader engages with their teams to discuss what it means for them.
Imagine that. A company with a clear purpose and leaders that are aligning their teams and defining the culture they need in one word. That would be a special place to work.
These conversations are very powerful because they approach culture from the premise of purpose instead of inadvertently suggesting there’s a problem.
Culture is a living and vibrant aspect of your organisation. It’s something everyone should discuss, particularly in the context of the culture needed to deliver your purpose. So start talking about Purpose and watch your organisation transform.