Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at www.Leadergrow.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or 585.392.7763.
We got an opportunity to catch up with Bob Whipple- “The Trust Ambassador” on how to build an effective company culture.
Hi, My name is Bob Whipple and I am also called “The Trust Ambassador”. I have been asked by the people at “GroSum” to answer five simple questions about culture.
What does organizational culture mean to you?
I think of organizations as living organisms. They are born, have a lifespan, and exist day to day while living their life. At some point, most organizations die. If you think of an organization in those terms, you can draw many wonderful parallels using the metaphor. For example, a person must take in oxygen in order to live. For an organization, the oxygen is trust. A living being must take in nourishment or it will quickly die. For an organization that nourishment takes the form of customer interactions.
Just as you cannot define the health of a person by looking at the individual atoms that make up his or her form, you cannot understand an organization’s culture by defining what people should do in every specific instance. Culture is ubiquitous and exists not only in the measurable transactions but also in the ether that binds those transactions together. Culture defines the greatness of an organization the way a person’s soul defines his or her greatness.
What are the major determinants of organizational culture?
When I was studying for my MBA, I read many books about culture. Most business books define culture by things such as:
* Physical structure
* Language and symbols
* Rituals, ceremonies, gossip, and jokes
* Stories, legends, and heroes
* Values and norms
When you think about it, these items do go a long way toward defining the culture of an organization. Unfortunately, I believe these items fall short because they fail to include the emotions of the people. After all, organizations are made up of people, at all levels, interacting in a social structure for a purpose. Let us extend the list of things that make up the culture of an organization by asking the following question:
* Is there a high level of trust within the organization?
* To what extent do people have the opportunity to grow in this organization?
* Do people feel safe and secure, or are they basically fearful?
* How do people treat each other on their own level and on higher or lower levels?
* Is there mutual respect between management and workers?
* Is the culture inclusive or exclusive?
* Do people generally feel like winners or losers at work?
* Is the culture one of reinforcement or punishment?
* Are managers viewed as enablers or barriers?
* Are people trying to get into the organization or trying to get out?
* What is the level of satisfaction of people in this organization?
* Can people “speak their truth” without fear of reprisal?
* Do people follow the rules or find ways to avoid following them?
Culture is more about how people feel about each other and the organization than the rituals and trappings of organizational life.
What is the role of employees in organizational culture?
Employees are the substance that makes up the culture. It is the behaviors of employees at all levels that determine the true culture. In most organizations, the culture has evolved in an imperfect way due to the imperfect nature of individuals. The net result is that the typical organization extracts only a small fraction of the potential energy inherent in the sum of their assets.
My observation is that it is easy to at least double the productivity of most organizations simply by removing fear and installing trust in its place.
What are the common problems associated with managing organizational culture?
One common problem is that managers often use the word “motivate” as a verb. It is as if motivate is something they can “do to” the employees. That attitude reveals a lack of understanding about what motivation is and where it comes from. If you are an employee, the only person who can motivate you is you. The role of leaders and managers is to create an environment where the employees choose to become motivated. So, use the word motivation as a noun rather than a verb.
Another problem is getting leaders to recognize that it is their behaviors that create the culture. Many leaders cop out by stating their workers are lazy, disengaged, or apathetic. They believe the problem is inadequate workers, but the real cause is inadequate leaders. Reason: if you take those same employees and put them with an exceptional leader, they will blossom into highly engaged and motivated individuals. If you are a leader who is dissatisfied with the performance of your organization, look into the mirror to view the source of your problem.
What are the ways to innovate company culture?
Clearly define the kind of culture you wish to have. Clarify your purpose and mission. Develop an enlightened vision that inspires people to reach it. Identify the values and behaviors that will create that kind of culture. Be relentless at always following the values and never rationalize into thinking it is right to violate one of them.
Hold yourself and everyone else in the organization accountable for always modeling the values and behaviors, even when it is difficult to do so. You can create the kind of culture you want only if you are 100% consistent with adhering to the values and behaviors.
The best way to innovate the culture of an organization is to include a wide variety of people in identifying what the organization wants to emphasize. Once consensus is reached, then it is vital that everyone buys into the vision, values, and behaviors. The whole process can be accomplished in just a few months with good leadership and hard work. In most cases, the addition of an experienced facilitator will produce a better culture at a faster rate.
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