Create a culture that is true to your values
This past summer when I attended Suzanne Clothier’s workshop on fearful dogs, I had asked her how to curb Grace’s insistence to bark at any moving thing by our house. A car, person, animal, sometimes even a blowing twig, will incite Grace into thinking she had to protect us all with her sharp bark.
In order to change the habit, Suzanne suggested that I eliminate the stimulus. One way was to keep Grace out of the room so she wasn’t aware of the movement outdoors. Another was to put large pieces of cardboard in the window to block her view.
I didn’t say a thing but the look on my face must have given me away. In her wry and extraordinarily perceptive way, she smiled and said something like, “I’m guessing that’s not an option. I think you are a little more particular about those kinds of things in your house than I am.” It was yet one more thing I admired about Suzanne – she understood the entire situation and then re-grouped to make it work for those most involved.
You could say that Suzanne had been able to identify the culture of our home without even entering it. And she was wise enough to understand the significance of culture to the outcomes she was trying to accomplish. The perfect solution for a problem in one home may not be ideal in another.
Cultures in homes and organizations are always unique. And they should be. It’s more than just the physical space, but that’s certainly part of it. Suzanne was able to accurately project physical characteristics of my home just from her observations of our short time together. Think about all the other assumptions we can make from our work interactions.
There is no doubt that organizational cultures impact the performance of employees. If we want to change the attitude, mindset, excitement, loyalty, and productivity of our employees, we need to look at the culture.
I attended a worthwhile presentation Wednesday morning at our local Peterborough [NH] Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting. Jon Plodzik, Director of Dining at the University of New Hampshire talked about “Creating a Workplace Culture.”
I wondered what secrets a food services director would have on the topic. I left inspired and energized about how essential workplace cultures are towards not only employee satisfaction, but organizational profitability. It wasn’t a new message, but it was a critical one. It is so clear that we cannot ignore the environment that we work in.
Jon made us laugh with his engaging and entertaining presentation style, but his message was important. Everyone in the organization is responsible for building culture, whether you are intentional about it or not. Everything you say, do, and think creates the culture. Years ago, I heard something similar, that an organization’s culture is reflected by how people act when they think no one is watching them.
Are you grumpy when you walk in the door? Do you take time to spend with those when they need it? Or are you rushed and tell them you’ll get back to them and never do? Are you fair in how you handle employee requests? Are you generous with your feedback? Are you willing to receive feedback? Or only give it? Are you open to trying new ideas presented by others? Do you take risks? Do you take action to make your customers satisfied? Do all of your actions accurately reflect what you ask others to do?
Customers understand your culture just by how employees interact with them. They don’t have to enter a physical building to get the picture. And employees can absolutely tell you about the culture of their organization—rather quickly—even if it’s not printed up in an orientation manual.
Our home would not be selected for any exquisite house tour, but at the same time, I couldn’t imagine working in a room with cardboard up against the windows. I could consider another option, like coordinated mini-blinds, but I would hate to block the light. The look and the function both weigh in for me.
Grace might be less stressed in a room with cardboard against the windows but it’s not part of the look here. We have to find ways to get around the issue that matches our desired culture. While she could care less about how things look, Pete and I do.
There are lots of ways to build the right culture. Jon said that the key to having a successful culture is to make sure it matches your values.
Take notice of the kind of culture you are building. Is the one you want?
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