Greg Hawks, Corporate Culture Specialist, Hawks Agency

As a Corporate Culture Specialist, Greg brings an expansive leadership portfolio to your service. For two decades he has mentored leaders, developed teams, crafted culture and empowered employees. He is intensely motivated to grow high capacity performers who work, serve and sell with excellence, consistently.

As a Keynote Speaker, he is an enthusiastic character. His style, wit and energy consistently capture the attention and imagination of audiences. His forward thinking contributes fresh perspectives that work. He’s annoyingly optimistic, contagiously energetic and slightly mischievous. People tend to like him.

Through Hawks Agency, he has originated the Like An Owner® platform. Compelled by the belief that individuals who Think, Act, Lead and Create Like An Owner® will be more fulfilled and productive. Also, organizations who commit to implement an Ownership Culture will find loyalty and rapid growth, regularly.

What does organizational culture mean to you?

I consider company culture, like I do a geographical culture. There are a variety of components that contribute to its manifestation, but primarily the attitude and action of the people will cultivate it. However, when you think about a location, whether New Orleans, New York or New Guinea the visible traits of culture are recognized through the same elements.
You can find so many definitions, they seem to vary as much as company culture itself does. I tend to think of culture as the undercurrent within an organization. It directs everything, though it often isn’t singularly tangible. I also think of it as an adaptive structural framework that builds a house. It defines the personality of the place, but also is somewhat fluid and can change over time.

What are the major determinants of organizational culture?

Using the house model, I consider values of an organization the foundation. Whether defined or not, the values infiltrate every aspect of a company and are how culture grows. From there, the Five Pillars that shape culture are Language, Customs, Education, Governing, and Perspectives. Finally, the top layer of determinants is revealed through Design, Dress, Art, Food, and Recreation.
All aspects of culture can be intentional. Or they can exist without purposefully nurturing. However, every organization fosters a culture.

What is the role of employees in organizational culture?

Employees have a GIANT impact on culture because their behaviors, attitudes, and responses contribute to its health or toxicity. Depending on the size of the company, there also exists subcultures. One person may not affect the overall culture of a company, but they can enhance or diminish its benefits in the area they serve.
Also, the greater role of responsibility the bigger impact they make on culture, simply because they touch more lives.

What are the common problems associated with managing organizational culture?

I’d say there are several. It starts with defined values and how prevalent those are in a company. If the foundation is shaky, everything else is hard to align. But if the values permeate an organization, where decision making and communication are filtered through them, culture becomes quite manageable.
Inconsistency is the greatest deterrent to a healthy culture. If any of the Five Pillars aren’t consciously enriched, the culture will start to deteriorate. If language is inconsistent amongst teams and departments, silos will emerge. If education is inconsistent, some employees will feel more connected and engaged, others will not. 
Because culture is alive in the context of the cumulative expression of all employees, keeping values visible and articulated is essential. That’s hard to do if it’s not currently engrained. 

What are the ways to innovate company culture?

Being mindful of what it currently is and where you want it to be. Leadership plays the most significant role in being a catalyst, but if people from all levels of the organization aren’t involved in the process, it won’t take hold. In my work, I’ve found discovering values and defining culture can happen within a one year period. The process involves both the executive team and a Square Root Group, that contains employees from every area. Working intentionally with those two groups can fashion an environment that enables people to thrive.
Intentionality is the first step.
Commitment to communicate is the next. Communicate at every meeting about the values and how they are the filter for all decision making. Communicating about how difficult it can be to live out those values. Communicate stories about how the values are enabling employees to succeed. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. That a necessary component to innovate!
Practice and model. Another aspect of innovating culture is to verbalize our efforts to practice it. Leaders and team members being able to say out loud “I’m trying…” When you’re on the front end of establishing it, this helps so much. Once it’s embedded, people live it out by habit. However, for innovating, having the freedom to practice becoming who we want to be, gives a lot of freedom.
Some of the best practices I’ve seen:
Every meeting starts with a Value Story.
Internal branding with icons to represent values.
Defining behaviors – Here’s what this value looks like played out in our world.
Growing thick trust, so necessary conversations can happen.
Many employees I’ve spoken with define their healthy culture like a family. However, even by that definition, there are a variety of interpretations. Some mean, their colleagues are like brothers and sisters. Some mean, the company values their personal family time. The beauty of culture is that each company gets to prescribe words and characteristics that fit with them.

Culture trumps leadership, vision, and policy. Intentionally cultivating it makes all the difference!

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