Monday, November 1, 2010

Creating Culture

More often than not when people see my last name I get one of the following responses:
Where are you from?
What Nationality are you?
Is that Russian?

To which I respond: I'm from California, the nation I represent is America and I'm not Russian but I love Vodka (being that we're playing the stereotype game).

Frankly, I found my culture on La Pera circle in the early 80's. Karen Hunter, Gabe Rowland and the Walker Brothers were my countrymen. We started playing ball on our block and when we were old enough we ventured a few blocks over to challenge those kids in a game of touch football. We banned together, we looked out for one another, we took pride in our block and no one was f-ing with us. We didn't need a flag to fly or a discernible physical commonality; it was in the air. If you came on our block you had to get through the guard to play kick ball.

The culture I subscribed to was created by me and my friends and it meant more to me than the songs of my forefathers or the meals my Grandmother made. So, It stands to reason that in evolution from our names, skin colors or gender; there is a climate to our lives that focuses on now not then. In example, it can be said that the place you work is a culture in-and-of-itself.

A lot has been said about organizational culture of late and this is one HR trend that I believe in. Without question, if you can create an engaging environment between the four walls of any office, satisfaction is guaranteed.

So what do you need to do to create an Engaging Organizational Culture:
* Core Values
* Metrics for Success that Reflect the Population
* Action Oriented Leadership

How Do You Spell Integrity?
Recite your organization's core values...How many people can actually do it? My guess is not many and that is a shame. Take away departmental goals, rank, tenure & the Core Values of any organization are what level the playing field.

Core Values fail to engage for two reasons:
They are too broad
Middle Managers have failed to interpret them to in a meaningful way

I would bet that 80% of organizations have Integrity and/or Accountability as a core value. The extended definition is honesty, the most important professional characteristic any one can possess, why don't we understand that? If as a Manager you cannot explain to your team why honesty is important you are mis-cast. Traditionally, what you will hear from Middle Managers is, "its a core value, its important to our Chairman, know the definition". What a waste!

The definition of engagement is knowing the significance organizational core values have to YOUR role in the company.
* If you can differentiate the company mission to your own success you are guaranteed to find personal significance in every day....within the goals of the organization.

Know Your People
As a consultant people ask me, "as an expert, what would you recommend to improve our culture?". How should I know, it's YOUR company. If you don't know what the people who work for you want, how can I help you? If I offer industry best practices that are not applicable to the people who walk your halls, you are simply re-manufacturing more mediocrity...that's what got you into this mess in the first place:
- Don't worry about being safe
- Make it meaningful
- Make it fun

Detachment is not a Strategy
How often do our Leaders work from a 10,000 foot view? Of course, our CEO cannot be in Kansas every month to opinion poll the Transportation Supervisor. But, there are a few ways to get the real facts:
- Use your Open Door Policy as a means for improvement not to judge who is un-coachable
- Engage real conversation with people at all levels to get 'real' feedback
- Take the formality out of Organizational Input

Surveys are tough because I know that even though they are framed as 'confidential', someone above me will be looking at my feedback and judging me accordingly. This is not the fault of the CEO or the individual contributor but rather an affect of insecure Middle Managers. (see a trend developing here?)

You have to develop a culture of trust! To know that I can give you feedback and you can discern if I am bitching or actually interested in evolving organizational objectives. How can we do this?
- Look for hard facts to accompany the (sob) story
- Ask how the 'problem' effects the Organizational Mission
- Share feedback instead of burying it
- Help redirect instead of judging

In Summation (without assuming):
It doesn't matter what you look like, how you talk or what your life goals might be. If I can ask everyone to find the pot of gold on the same treasure map, our goals are laid out for us. Different teams may take different routes but in the end we all find the treasure.

Create a Mission and help each of us understand it's significance to our own lives. Stop asking for feedback if you are not going to use it to evolve organizational goals! Create team goals that reflect our input and strategize accordingly.

Don't Forget to Remember!


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