Sometimes, we find ourselves butting heads in relationships to a point where it must be addressed. Whether it be a coworker, friend, family member, there are times when we must attempt to diffuse or clarify a tense situation by having a frank discussion. I found myself in one such conversation with a roommate in college. Our living situation had become charged and problematic because I felt as though he was not pulling his weight with chores - in particular, washing the dishes. Every time that I’d come into the kitchen, I’d see dishes piled up in the sink. After a few weeks, our apartment had grown stuffy and weighted down by the tension between us to the point where it became unavoidable. I couldn’t take it anymore and I called a meeting.
It didn’t take long before I realized we had a failure to communicate. While I was focused on the dishes he was leaving in the sink, I had neglected to notice that he was always taking out the trash. We lacked clarity on our roles in the apartment and as a result, we had friction. By clearing the air in a 15-minute conversation, we came to understand what to expect of one another and how to move forward harmoniously. Both of us made improvements with guidance from the other on how to make our place more livable and hospitable. Almost overnight, our experience of living together became better.
Companies can function a lot like this as well. Company culture is the personality of an organization and defines the environment in which employees work. We like to say that culture is not what you say it is, but rather it is what occurs on a daily basis. It’s the sum of the habits of your organization. Companies do not have an option on whether or not they will build a culture, because it is inevitable. The culture will build itself actively or passively. And if it’s unguided in its construction, then that culture will most likely be one best described as asleep at the wheel on a very curvy road. It’s headed for disaster.
Culture is the air that a company breathes. It sets the precedent for the organization and leadership sets the precedent for the culture. What type of air is your business breathing? Is your work culture healthy? Is it one that spurs or stifles growth? Does it seek to eradicate or embrace fear as it’s working towards goals? If it’s healthy, then congratulations! Your talent retention is likely high and your company is operating both efficiently and effectively. People feel safe in your company’s environment to be active participants in moving it from good to great.
But what if you’re unhealthy? What if you need to clear the air? How do you change the culture?
Cast a meaningful vision for why your company matters. In the book of Proverbs, it says, “ Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Setting a clear vision of your company’s mission gives everyone, from the top-down, a purpose. What do you wish to be known for? What is your unique proposition? If there’s confusion in the office space, then there’s going to be confusion in the marketplace. A meaningful vision is the first step to creating a healthy culture.
Clearly define how each person plays a role in that mission. A healthy culture is when the people in the company exhibit behavior that is in total alignment with the purpose and mission of the organization. When a company’s expectations are clearly defined, then it helps clarify the mission. Otherwise, you or your employees would not have an understanding of how one should behave in your company. It can become very subjective and depend upon the individual whims of leadership. Leaders must be reflective and make sure we’re not only desiring what makes us comfortable and calling that good culture. The values should be on paper and the expectations must be clearly communicated. In removing subjectivity, we can be sure that we’re in alignment with our values and creating a healthy culture in the office.
Serve each person who is on that journey with you. The greatest leaders are those that seek to serve others. The servant leadership heart in action communicates more than any speech or company retreat will accomplish. What leaders do in moderation, followers do in excess. Make a point to monitor your behavior exponentially closer than the team to make sure you’re setting the tone for the proper culture.
Actively seek feedback on the gap between the values espoused by your company and how it lives them out. Since a healthy culture is when the habits of the company support the desired outcome, then unhealthy culture is when there’s a misalignment. There’s no such thing as a perfect company. But those that pretend to be are the ones that are in trouble. Clear the air by soliciting feedback from your team to make sure you are aligned.
Clearing the air helps everyone on the team breathe better. As in real life, fresh air helps things grow and last longer. People will want to be there and remain invested in the company’s success. Your company is too important to suffer from bad culture. Take the necessary steps today to ensure your culture reflects your stated values. Once doing so, you’ll see a good company become great!