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[ Is Your Culture Just a Poster on the Wall? ]

Our Corporate Culture“My team doesn’t get it – they never find things to improve on their own. I have to get involved, or tell them what they should be working on.” These were the comments of a frustrated manufacturing executive. I became curious and asked, “Do they know where you’re trying to go and what role they play in getting there?” Then, he pointed to a series of posters on the wall. The posters shared the owner’s vision and values and they seemed solid. So I asked, “How do you live it every day? How do you communicate and model it?”

As I spent the next several days working with employees at all levels, it became clear that the posters on the wall had become invisible. Some employees remembered the meeting where the posters were rolled-out but no one could communicate the values written on those posters.

So how do you make sure your culture isn’t just a poster on the wall? You need to define your culture first or it will define you! There are a lot of methods to do this and the most common is the standard Mission/Vision. There are plenty of templates and methods to complete this. Creating a culture is an evolution that no checklist can cover, but I will share some fundamental tips to make sure your culture does not happen by accident.

  1. Define Your Values – While a Mission or Vision defines what an organization does, values define how the organization does it. Culture is about values and turning your values into repeatable, habitual behaviors is the secret. Define your values—those things that drive decision-making, hiring, policy creation, etc. This is where most companies miss the boat. Their values are on the wall next to the Mission, but nobody translates those values into policy, systems and behaviors. “Many companies say they want to be employee-friendly, but their actual policies say something different,” notes Del Land, CFO at Beaulieu of America.
  2. Equip your Team – A recent survey reports that 90% of managers think they received poor training on how to lead. It’s not as simple as promoting the most skilled person to lead, it takes an entirely different set of skills and they need to be developed. The time and dollars invested in training reflects your organization’s value for its people.
  3. Treat it Like a Process – When it comes to our products, everything is driven by process and standard operating procedures. We develop step-by-step plans on how we design it, manufacture it, ship it, and even how we sell it. For some reason, we don’t do that with our culture. If you have a desired future state, develop a process for how you get there. Don’t just say what you want and expect it to become a reality.
  4. Combat Outside Influence: Don’t let society’s bad values creep into the workplace. Specifically, competition and status are very destructive to a culture of empowerment, teamwork and loyalty. Let me explain… Sports are geared around creating one winner and one loser. When we transfer this competitive thinking to our organization, it creates silos, increased conflict and a complete loss of the company’s Vision as one organization. Status is often flaunted in society by a luxury house, a new car or designer goods. At work, it’s the bigger office, reserved parking, executive lunch rooms, etc. These status symbols at work create a culture of “us” vs. “them” instead of promoting a culture of “we” where everyone is valued for their contribution.

Your values shouldn’t be just a poster on the wall. They ought to be a beacon that guides your company’s policies, systems and the behaviors of every leader. These are the things that define a culture of high performance.

Interested in aligning the behaviors of your leaders with your company’s values? Attend the High Performance Leadership Workshop and discover how putting your values into operation can positively affect every metric in your operation.