If you’re a business owner and entrepreneur, you know all about the importance of having a clear business structure and a well-defined strategy. Do you rank your workplace culture as equally important?
Of the six disciplines in Aileron’s DOC System, Culture can seem the most nebulous. How do you manage it? What does it include? Why does it matter to your business strategy?
Culture influences every facet of your company—from the atmosphere of your office to the customers you serve. Managing a healthy workplace culture supports your ability to control the business, and it’s essential to professional management and leadership development.
At times, culture can seem intangible and difficult to tame. We break down the basics in this article, and illustrate how crucial it is for business owners and leaders to understand and manage it.
Culture is how your business fosters the environment, behaviors, and activities that bring the organizational beliefs and values to life.
Put another way, it’s “how we do things around here.”
You see culture in action through the relationships, social norms, expectations, values, and motivating factors at play in your organization. More specifically, these look like:
- How team members interact with one another (during meetings, projects, conflict, and conflict resolution)
- Relationship dynamics between senior leadership and the rest of the team
- Values and beliefs at the center of your company’s mission
- The qualities and characteristics you expect in an ideal job applicant (and, conversely, the qualities and characteristics that indicate how a team member is unfit)
- How executive leaders motivate managers, and how managers motivate their teams
- Shared language, jargon, and industry knowledge
- Basic policies and procedures for everyday business
- Expected standards of quality, care, and service for customers and clients
All these come together to create an environment that you and your team experience on a daily basis. They play a key role in how your team functions as a collective unit and how that collective unit drives results.
You can have either a culture by design or a culture by default.
Every business has a culture, whether or not they recognize it. As a business owner, you can either have an intentional culture by design (one that you define and manage), or an ad-hoc culture by default (one that lacks direction and attention). Here’s how they differ:
- A culture by design is created when team members have in-depth conversations about the personal and organizational values that are most important to them and to the business. They create standards, practices, and processes that are consistent with those values to ensure everyone in the organization is aligned to them. Then, they routinely monitor how those standards, practices, and processes are performing in relation to organizational performance and strategy, and they make necessary adjustments from there. In this kind of culture, people lead the business, and as a result, the business thrives.
- A culture by default is the environment that exists automatically without any attention or alignment. The culture simply “is what it is.” It lacks intentional management, and it breeds an atmosphere where teams and individuals feel uncertain, and experience discord and stress. In this kind of culture, companies favor business results over the people who bring those results to fruition—that can create an unhealthy environment where team members feel less valued and less motivated to perform their best.
|Culture by default||Culture by design|
|Growth||It’s difficult to experience growth as a company because each team member, manager, and leader might operate with differing values, which makes collaboration hard and innovation less promising.||The team feels like a cohesive unit bound by the same values and goals. Individuals collaborate easily and all work together to grow the organization and reach shared objectives.|
|Employee satisfaction||Without clarity and alignment, team members may silo themselves and lack understanding about and connection to their purpose.||Individuals experience deeper satisfaction in their roles because they recognize how their talent contributes to a greater whole.|
|Recruiting and retention||Employees can experience lack of motivation or readily seek other opportunities, making retention an obstacle.||It’s easier for the business to attract new talent, and to retain and develop stronger, more committed employees who fit the company’s defined values.|
The value of culture—especially today—is immeasurable.
You can see the difference between designed and defaulted cultures the most during periods of transformation. Those that manage a culture by design are less likely to experience major setbacks because their team is unified around their purpose—they’re capable of weathering change. Conversely, businesses that have a culture by default may struggle to survive or recover from change.
Today, that difference carries more urgency. Job-seekers are looking for more than salary figures: They’re looking for the right place to invest their time, talent, energy, and professional development goals. Decisions related to this matter can very well come down to culture. Glassdoor found that “56 percent of workers ranked a strong workplace culture as more important than salary, with more than three-in-four workers saying they’d consider a company’s culture before applying for a job there.”
Similarly, Gallup reports, “Across all industries, only 41 percent of employees strongly agree that they know what their company stands for and what makes it different from competitors. This disconnect from an organization’s purpose has direct consequences for employees’ everyday work… Notably, however, organizations that have invested in intentional cultural change and transformation achieve more than double that figure.”
These findings reveal what we at Aileron have known about culture for many years: A clearly defined organizational culture that’s people-driven and aligned to common values produces a more engaged team, delivers stronger business results, and enjoys sustainable longevity.
Leadership development plays a pivotal role in transforming culture.
Influence, after all, starts with you, the business owner.
We teach you how to take your first steps in defining and aligning your culture with our Course for Presidents® service. In this in-person, two-day workshop, learn how to transform your business using Aileron’s DOC System, and lead your company towards your future desired state.
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