You are the creator of your own culture. As the manager, you set the tone for your business. Yes, your company and your boss play a part, but you are the one all of your employees look to for how to act with each other and with your customers. Your culture is a reflection of you. If you don’t like it, start by actively deciding what you want your culture to be then make sure your actions instill it.
Sadly, most people feel quite the opposite in that they have no effect—they are a victim of their work environment with no real role or real way of changing it. We have a wonderful person in our business named Luis who has decided he wants to work in a place that is positive, supportive, and happy. He makes a point to spread that belief with his infectious actions displayed with a simple fist bump and a friendly “hola” to everyone he passes. You can see the ripples of laughter and smiles spreading the culture he envisions in his wake. He takes ownership around his role in the culture he wants then does something to make it so. For some, like Luis, this comes naturally. For others, taking a moment to focus on one’s culture is a definitive effort.
Every time you touch others you role model the behaviors you expect them to follow. Any bad behavior towards peers, employees or customers is viewed as acceptable. Don’t be surprised if you don’t like the way your employees react to each other, because it is learned behavior direct from the culture you created. Your business has a culture. If you didn’t create it with forethought, then it was done without direction, leading to a free-for-all in interactions, reactions and general actions that you can’t hold anyone truly accountable for but yourself.
It’s never too late to change your culture. Be aware it will take time and dedication to mold it to one everyone can thrive in and be proud of. But first things first, decide what sort of culture you want. Give your vision details you can picture easily, that seem natural and not forced. If you want a specific trait to be in the fabric of your organization but you yourself don’t have it in your nature, then it cannot be part of your culture because you cannot fully live it. Be authentic in your culture’s construct. Don’t claim you want everyone to be innovative if you squash out any ideas but your own.
These questions will help you at least begin sketching out the best culture for you and your people:
- When you walk into work what do you expect to see?
- What do your employees and customers look like?
- How are they talking to one another? Are they smiling…laughing? What is their body language?
- Is the workplace bright, comfortable, open, clean, efficient?
- What do you have displayed on your walls; awards, images of staff with customers, values, etc.?
Write down your thoughts, then decide what actions you need to take to make them a reality. Share it with likeminded peers and employees. Make them part of the construction; they’ll be more likely to be your star advocates. If celebration is important to you then create a recognition program. If teamwork is also on your list, combine the two to make a “team” recognition program. Outline it clearly and communicate the program to everyone in every way. Make it part of the fabric of what you do, so it becomes part of who you are as an organization. Explain why you are doing it and the value to the culture. Then do it and stick to it. People see change as just being change until it has become a trusted feature of their environment and a true part of the culture.
Introduce new cultural elements carefully, one at a time, to ensure you can fully drive them to the finish line. Identify trends showing what you put in place is working to promote the culture you want. Survey your employees to see what they think. Then retool, recalibrate, and move forward. Your culture won’t thrive or survive if you do not continuously keep it in your field of vision.
By, Shiloh Kelly, Vice President of Marketing, Red Book Solutions | 20 years Cross Industry Experience | Corporate Marketing and National Sustainability Lead, BlueLinx |Chief Strategic and Creative Officer, Limelight Advertising | Strategic Marketing Manager, Vail Resorts