The Best Way to Really Know Your Culture

We really know our culture by looking at the behavior we are willing to tolerate. Ouch.

For example, we say that we practice blameless problem solving as one of our guiding principles for daily operation. But, what really happens when the "poop" hits the fan?

The actions of a top leader - what she does, does not do, and chooses to not address, behaviorally defines the true essence of the "living" culture. Is it any wonder why our attempts to create meaningful change become "garbage in, garbage out" if we don't back up what we say with consistent behavior. Remember that old saying, "Actions speak louder than words." The words we say hold little value unless proven by the actions we consistently display in front of our team members each day.

So, how do we get the "living" culture in alignment with our ideal?

1. Leverage the day-to-day situations that provide the teachable moment to coach an individual/ team in the defined behaviors. We anchor our coaching in the language of the leadership behaviors we have defined for the organization. (Honor commitments, Be relentless with response time, Do what you say you will do... create the same picture in everybody's head by describing what "it" looks like.)

2. Become cognizant of our daily actions and reactions as a leader. Subordinates take their cues from their leaders. If something goes terribly sideways, how we handle ourselves "in the fire" in front of others tells the real story. And when things go uber well, how we acknowledge stellar performance is as important. When both are anchored in the language of defined behaviors, we are never seen as playing favorites or redirecting undesirable on a hunch.

3. Set the right example everyday by reflecting in that split second between the stimulus and our response. If we muck it up, we own it, and apologize for it - and we mean it. This develops trust, proves to others that they are safe in our care, and let's our people know we think before we act (so they will, too.)

4. Set up our calendar to remind us to acknowledge individuals and teams who are consistently demonstrating the defined behaviors with excellence. It could be a written acknowledgement or a personal acknowledgement. Be sure to include in your written or verbal message the specific behavior, how it made you feel, and the impact.

These are a few ways to create the culture we desire. Live by example, coach, acknoweldge specific action, and redirect unacceptable behavior. Try it. People give more than is expected when they feel valued and part of something larger than themselves.

The Living Culture in an Organization

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