Leadership expert Dave McKeown helps individuals, teams, and organizations to lead with authenticity, purpose, and effectiveness.
Dave has a wealth of experience in connecting individual and team performance to improved business results with a particular focus on fast-growing, complex organizations.
As Founder and CEO of Outfield Leadership, Dave now speaks, coaches and trains on the mindset, skillset, and toolkit needed to master the craft of leadership. His goal is to help organizations build a culture of real, authentic but ultimately results-driven leadership.
He is the host of the podcast ‘Lead Like you Give a Damn’ and the founder of the LinkedIn Group Master the Craft of Leadership.
What does organizational culture mean to you?
Organizational culture is an output of how we (as an organization) make decisions.
There are typically four pervasive decision-making modes present in our organizations:
- Innovation – We chase new and exciting things and figure out how to make it work later.
- Implementation – We double down on execution and get things done.
- Maintainenance – We look to stable processes and rely heavily on data.
- Collaboration – What we do is less important than ensuring everyone’s comfortable with it.
Whichever of these approaches is most commonly used in your organization determines the culture.
Everything else we like to think of as a culture including slick offices, nifty branding, and company perks can be faked.
Your decision-making muscle cannot.
What are the major determinants of organizational culture?
Organizational culture is determined by the weighted average of the decision-making approach of everyone in your organization.
We typically hire, develop and reward people who exhibit one (sometimes two) of the decision making approaches. Over time that becomes the overarching determining factor of our culture.
Hire and develop innovators and you’ll have an innovative culture. Hire and reward implementers and you’ll have a culture focused on execution. Hire and reward collaborators and you’ll have a highly collaborative culture.
What is the role of employees in organizational culture?
Probably less than we’d like to believe.
Think of your culture like a glass of water. Every time you hire, develop or reward an employee, a drop of color gets added to the glass.
In a smaller organization, each drop has the ability to make a greater impact on the overall makeup of the glass. When you get to a certain size, however, the culture has already been set by the sum total of each drop. Each new attempt to impact the culture by an individual employee gets subsumed by the murky water.
What are the common problems associated with managing organizational culture?
If you’re not deliberate about it, it will develop itself. Going back to the water analogy, if you’re not completely clear on what color you want your culture to be then it will quickly become a brown, sludgy mess. The damage you can do by not proactively building the culture of your team or organization can be difficult to undo.
What are the ways to innovate company culture? Any best practices to share.
Sometimes you have to throw out the pitcher of water!
If your organization (or team or division) is getting bogged down in ‘the way things used to be’ or clinging tightly to unhelpful aspects of your culture then it may be time for a refresh.
Here’s specifically what you need to do to change that.
1. Get clear on what you want your culture to evolve into.
2. Retool your hiring process to ensure you’re bringing in new talent that will help build that culture.
3. Communicate often and without ambiguity the expectations that you have for existing employees to help them adapt to the new culture.
4. Develop and reward based on the new culture.
5. Over time existing employees will either rise to the occasion or self-select out.
6. For those employees not making the transition who don’t self-select out, you may need to find a new place for them either within the organization or elsewhere.
7. Eventually, you’ll be hiring, developing and rewarding specifically on the new culture.