Most leaders understand the importance of culture, and how it can be the key differentiator between success and failure. Culture is what guides us and drives us, it is the character of our teams and our organisation, and it’s what we rely on when we face challenges.
The challenge is understanding the importance of culture isn’t the same as understanding where culture comes from, how we create it; or what it’s key component are.
I have led many organizations, projects, and teams and I have found that the simplest way to create and embed a culture is the following 3-step process.
I have had many people tell me that culture is complex and needs a more complex approach, but that’s just not true. What is true is that people over complicate and when you do that you will either fail or take too long to create the culture you desire.
This is probably the hardest part, and also the most important. You have to define what your culture is, and you have to define it simply so that people can understand it, and know what is expected. The simpler you can do that the more likely that people will be able to follow it and implement it.
Leadership defines culture, but that doesn’t end when you define what culture is and you share it with your teams and organization.
That’s just the start.
Now you have to live it, you have to be the role model for the culture you are looking for. If you want to create a culture of accountability, then you need to be accountable, you need to show people that you own your actions, your decisions, and even your mistakes. People follow actions not words, and if you don’t live it then why should they.
Now you know what your culture is and you are living it, to make it sustainable and embedded into the culture you have to reinforce it. You have to recognize and reward people that exhibit the culture, you have to hold them up as role models. You have to call out, in public, those that act contrary to the culture to remind people what the culture is, and what it isn’t. If you tolerate people acting counter to your culture, then you are condoning the actions and that will become part of your culture – whether you model that behaviour or not.
One of the most important aspects of reinforcement and the one surprises many people when I tell or ask them, is the importance of rituals. Rituals are great reminders of who we are, what we do, and why we do it, they embody the aspects of culture that we want to reinforce.
One of my favorite examples of a ritual is the Haka, which is performed by New Zealand rugby teams before every game. Now many of you might think of it as a customer, a tradition, but it isn’t.
It is a ritual. Designed to reinforce the culture the team is looking to exhibit. In this video they talk about the history of the Haka.
This is a reminder to the players before every game of who they are and what is expected. It reminds them of their culture, and as you can see they are introduced to it early, and it actually becomes an honour to be part of that culture.
In business you need to define your rituals, your customs and traditions and these need to be aligned with the culture that you are looking to embed into your organisation.
If you want to create a culture of innovation, then you need rituals that reinforce the importance of innovation. It could be having innovations fairs where you invite staff to share their thoughts and ideas. It could be monthly or annual awards for innovation, a hall of fame for people who have innovated to benefit the company.
Without these rituals, these constant reminders then the desired culture will fizzle out because you are not showing the importance of the culture.
If it’s not important to you then why should it be important to anyone else?
If you want to know more about creating culture click the link and let’s set up a time to talk and see how I can help.