Where does culture come from?
There are so many cultures that you’ve been a part of by the time you even get to being in your first full time job. Your family, your primary school, your secondary school your part-time job at the supermarket and even your university if that’s the path you chose.
But you know they’ve been different and you’ve picked from them the bits you like or the bits that have been forced on to you for you to be able to stay part of a group/clique.
Then you start your first ‘real’ job. And here we are again a culture that you feel need to fit into. They tell you what it is – values, principles, expected behaviours – all words that describe how you need to be and how other people will be.
But here’s the challenge that many, if not most companies face – how do you create a culture that is recognisable, adopted and celebrated from one office to the next and from one country to the next?
After all, every city, every state, every country…will have its own culture that people in them will already be being, as well as all the other cultures I mentioned at the beginning.
So what do you do?
I would suggest don’t be so prescriptive that it’s hard to embrace the culture the company wants to prescribe.
More important than this, focus on how people want to feel. What are the feelings that people, your employees, want to experience when they are at work employed by you?
The words of what this looks like will naturally come.
Sceptics here might suggest…what if these words are negative…or perhaps not very ‘wow’.
I would say, that it’s easier to believe that others don’t want to feel loved, cared for, fulfilled when we are not experiencing it ourselves. Or equally to believe that this is the case when other employees do moan to you about their jobs, other people or the company…but they are moaning because they have a lack of these positive feelings, not because they do not want them.
What do you do if there’s a lot of if negativity that you’re trying to shift?
It’s quite easy for people to get trapped in a cycle of negativity and when you ask them what they want, they can only tell you what they don’t want. This is absolutely fine. For every “I don’t…” ask the question “what could it look like instead?” They’re secretly telling you what they want in the workplace by giving you the exact opposites. Whether it’s feelings or things…it’s still the opposites.
Focusing on feelings
Let’s look a little closer at focusing on feelings to create a culture that inspires and transcends borders. I’ve gotten very good at reading whether my actions will hurt the feelings of others. Now, don’t get me wrong or mis-quote me here, people sometimes need to be given hard truths about their behaviour/actions when they have been inappropriate and this might upset them, but ultimately they will be respectful of your giving them that feedback if it’s done/approached well. So I’m getting good at sensing if my actions/words might hurt another person’s feelings – I now know that if I have to ask myself that question my internal alarm bell is already telling me that is is likely to. So I don’t do/say it.
Important side note: Suppose for a moment that we all behaved in a way that was considerate of our own and others feelings, knowing both how yourself and others wanted to feel at work…what would that do for your workplace?
Answers in the comments below!