Perspectives on culture
There is a lot of discussion about the importance of culture in creating and driving a high-performing business. We all “know” what we are talking about, but none of us can clearly define it. As a result we all have a common and shared understanding of something we cannot articulate and agree to.
So let’s have a look at gaining some clarity.
Your organization’s culture reflects the predominant way of thinking, behaving and working. It is not the prerogative of one person, it is determined by the collective way that everyone thinks, behaves and works.
These three aspects of your culture are underpinned by your values. This occurs in two ways:
- Firstly, what each individual’s personal values are and how they demonstrate them in how they think, behave and work;
- Secondly, how well your people are aligned with the organization’s values.
So why are values so important?
Your values are the things that you believe are important in the way you live and work. You use them to determine your priorities, and, deep down, they’re probably the measures you use to tell if your life is turning out the way you want it to. If the things that you do and the ways you behave match your values, life is usually good – you’re satisfied and content. But when these don’t align with your personal values, that’s when things feel… wrong. This can be a real source of unhappiness. Similarly, if your values and those of your business or organization are not aligned then you will also feel unhappy or discontent. When this happens some form of alignment is needed. This usually is the individual having to change and align with the organization’s values. In doing this the individual makes the changes in three areas – how they think, behave and work.
To help people make the change you need to do three things:
- Know and share what the few core values are for the organization (e.g. accountability, honesty, openness etcetera)
- Describe what each of these values mean in terms of high-performance, on-target performance and low-performance. For example:
- Share these values and descriptions with everyone and use them to guide people in how they think, behave and work. It also helps you to provide guidance to people in improving how they work, rather than just saying “Improve your attitude!”
So look at your culture from these three perspectives and observe. What do you see? Why? What are your values? Are they known or understood by your people? And are these values reflected in how people think, behave and work? If not, then determine what your values are, and how they are reflected in how people perform as shown above.
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