The Boardroom Beat #9 - Company Culture: Do You Own it or Does it Own You?
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Last month’s column “Leadership Ripples” integrates with this edition on company culture. “Leadership Ripples” recommended structure to back up good intentions, and thus ensure development of strong leaders and teams. Likewise, culture is optimized with a proactive stance to WHAT culture is and HOW to infuse it in your business. Proactive culture cultivation can be a powerful talent and client magnet. Not knowing and managing it is a business risk. Three tips follow for making culture a competitive advantage.
#1: Be on Purpose
Purpose and vision are powerful cornerstones of culture. The company “why” nourishes personal purpose for employees. This paraphrased content is repurposed (pun intended) from last month’s column: “Pursuit of purpose is at an all time high. Millennials and Gen Zs prioritize purpose. They care deeply about organizational mission and their contribution to it. This isn’t just generational. It is human nature to want to know how our widget makes the machine go.”
Action item: Keep company purpose in focus. Weave it into business ops, not just marketing comms. For example, a) discuss which projects advance purpose when prioritizing bandwidth b) discuss purpose alignment for budget decisions.
#2 Be Real
Some elements of culture are almost universally claimed. For example, some iteration of Learning/Growth/Curiosity/Innovation is invariably noted as a core value. If a culture claim is like the proverbial “water in the desert” mirage that disappears when approached, then employees and clients become disillusioned and defect. A path to differentiation is living out cited values. Replace the mirage with reality.
Action Item: Demonstrate culture via adherence to stated values. There are many possibilities for many company values. Two examples may be drawn from from last month’s column; a) To instill learning and initiative answer questions with questions. b) To encourage growth create structure for career pathing.
#3 Be Uniquely You
What is your lagniappe? Focusing on purpose (#1 above) and truly being what others only ascribe to be (#2 above) are critical chapters in the “how to” manual for building company culture. Additionally, what about your company is unique? It may relate to geography, company maturity, industry, image of founders, product niche, product. Just like people, companies have personalities. What is yours? While finding ways to let the personality of your company shine is a creative endeavor, it flourishes best with attention.
Anaconda provides a great example. This is the company that originated the use of Python for data science in 2009. Their About Us page celebrates “data science nerd” culture. One Friday a month Anaconda has “Snake Day.” The extremely dedicated and hard working staff relishes a long weekend to refresh. On Snake Day they rest. They play.
Leadership guru Peter Drucker is widely credited for asserting that "Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Every company has a culture. Do you know yours and do you implement decisions, policies and programs that align with it? Like invisible glue that holds the company together, it optimizes the effort that you put into every facet of your business. Company Culture….Do you own it or does it own you?
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