How would you, as a leader, describe your company's culture?
How would your staff describe it?
What has the impact of remote working on your culture been?
The type of culture thriving in your organisation might not be the one you intended to have. Frustrating! Yes, definitely.
Corporate culture is a powerful force in your organisation that can either sink the company or enable it to thrive.
Culture creates the conditions in which work gets done. It informs how employees relate to each other, to the organisation and its ambitions. These conditions can be favourable or unfavourable.
The conditions referred to here are not the many external factors and situations organisations face or the problems that might challenge your team. I am talking about the psychological and emotional conditions that encourage people to come together and tap into their collective intelligence, creativity and resilience for the long term.
Organisational culture is not actively talked about or measured in most team meetings and engagements. Business leaders are seldom taught how to create and nurture the desired culture that fosters collaboration and inclusion.
Healthy cultures guide the organisation to healthy organisational behaviours and outcomes.
Culture is powerful. It curbs destructive toxic behaviours and provides context for dealing with toxicity and conflict when they show up. Toxic work cultures hurt employees and company profits.
Culture is truly an expression of how everything in your organisation connects and aligns, or on the contrary, is out of sync with itself.
Culture is influenced by various factors, including your organisational structure, values, employee engagement levels, quality of meetings, inclusion and belonging, KPI’s measured, and the targets pursued.
For that reason, it is a valuable partner to effective leadership, something to be in touch with and to consciously and intentionally work on and influence.
Culture is something that is always created when people come together. Irrespective of it being intentionally created, or left to its own devices.
Every organisation or team carries a specific culture, like a unique personality, that influences how people communicate and work with each other.
Your organisation and its culture are inseparable, and so it makes sense for leaders and managers to become more aware and intentional about culture.
Culture is a crucial part of leadership design and execution.
Culture comes to life through the quality of interactions, or the lack of interactions, in your organisation. How everyone relates to each other, in good times, and in tough times, is workplace culture.
Culture will either have a positive and enhancing impact on employee experience or will perpetuate mistrust and toxicity, resulting in low quality and poor customer experience.
There is no shortcut to cultivating a healthy culture. The journey meets its success through high engagement and communication.
How meetings are held, the level of collaboration across the organisations and effective problem-solving sessions are all influenced by culture, and are important influenceable sources for a more positive culture.
Culture impacts everything from performance, to how your company is perceived on social media.
Incentive schemes and remuneration are seen as motivators for hiring the right staff, keeping talent in the organisation, or creating a high productivity culture. Still, when culture is ignored, remuneration won’t make anyone happier, more resilient or more engaged.
Culture is everyone’s responsibility but rests on leaders’ shoulders at all levels in the organisation. They need to help set the tone. To walk the talk. It is NOT human resource’s responsibility alone.
Of course, human resources will have a vested interest in it and will support company culture actively, but ultimately culture happens when leaders engage with their teams on a day-to-day basis. The quality of these leader-and-staff interactions’ shapes culture, either depleting HR and senior leadership’s effort or nurturing it.
While there will be an overarching specific culture in every organisation, there will also be subcultures in different teams and departments.
All teams have a unique identity that expresses itself in its own specific ways while being in alignment with values and the overall ‘how we are with each other’ modus operandi of the company.
Culture is very dynamic and influenceable, so it needs constant attention.
Organisational culture is rarely measured or tracked and is often neglected due to a myopic focus on financial and operational metrics.
Without a clear understanding of the significant impact culture has on the organisation, it will be frustrating for leaders to steer the ship to sustained high performance and a culture of innovation.
One thing is for sure; your employees measure culture every day, all day. They are experiencing it and are either supported by it or crushed by it.
So if leadership isn’t measuring culture, they are entirely out of sync with the rest of the organisation, often creating a powerful ‘us-and-them’ divide in the company.
After the above exploration of organisational culture, there is hopefully a greater appreciation for the important role culture plays in every organisation. Here are three ways in which companies maintain the organisational culture, especially with remote team working in place.
1 - Leaders become culture aware and culture intentional
The first step to ensure that the company culture is maintained now that teams have transitioned to remote working is that leaders become intentionally aware of their role in creating culture.
Primary to all of this is that the company is clear on what culture it strives to have.
To bring the intentional culture to life, active engagement with all leaders at all levels in the organisation is essential.
With remote teams in place, this topic needs to be much more central than it currently is in most organisations.
Becoming culture aware and intentional includes having a metric in place to measure culture. What is measured matters!
Just as important as the metric is the ongoing conversation about culture in the leadership meetings and in all team meetings.
Are the company values brought to life and intentionally respected in these meetings? Is there engagement about when there is alignment with the values, and when there isn’t? If this topic hasn’t found its way into your leadership meetings, it’s not too late. Now is the perfect time to start the conversation around culture and organisational values, specifically as teams have become remote and possibly disconnected from the traditional working environment that held the culture more tangibly.
What aspects of culture need to be focused on now that your teams are remote? What intentional actions can you agree on to create cultural integrity across your remote teams?
2 - Leaders provide Context & Co-Create
Once leaders are aware of the culture and their role of actively and intentionally bringing this culture to life in their respective remote teams, they need to provide context for their team members.
Context provides employees with information around the ‘why’ when leaders make changes, or start being more intentional. Context is crucial as it provides employees with essential orientation in the organisation’s journey.
The leaders’ role is to create the psychological and emotional conditions that align to the values and desired culture. Leaders bring this to life through the many interactions of an organisation or team.
The next step is for leaders to sit with their teams and actively co-create agreements with their team members about how the value and culture will be brought to life.
Co-creation is a vital step in creating a sense of buy-in. Without being actively engaged in some way, employees will remain disengaged. And no company can afford to have staff disengaged from their culture.
So the leaders’ role is to simply lead by example.
With remote working teams, the demand for strong context and role-modelling increases.
Leaders need to be much more active in communicating and engage on culture and find creative ways to include this in the team’s meeting agendas.
Remote teams have a greater need for context, being informed, and seeing their company’s identity come to life through their leaders.
3 - Nurture Belonging - a culture of participation
Nothing will get staff aligned to a company’s culture faster than a sense of belonging. A sense of belonging can only be created by honouring everyone’s unique perspective on all aspects of workplace life.
Ownership and belonging are interlinked. All communication and engagement plans must include a participatory element so that people feel they are part of the organisation, that their voices, feelings and experiences matter. This is all the more important when teams work remotely.
Participation and co-creation need to be enhanced everywhere.
The aspect of belonging, or participation, is powerful in every organisation’s culture that wishes to create a high performing, resilient and agile workplace.
Simply stated: “If I don’t belong, I don’t care!”
Creating a sense of belonging for remote teams takes on new challenges. Here is a 5-step guide to effective remote team collaboration.
The saying: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” has been around for many years, and it originates from the frustrating experiences many organisations have had.
I would say: “Culture is strategy’s best friend”. They go hand in hand. They are interdependent and thus support each other to achieve a competitive advantage.
With so many more teams working remotely now and for the foreseeable future, maintaining culture must become a new and important focus point for leader’s .
If culture hasn’t found a centre stage in your organisation yet, now is the time to put it there.
Become more curious about the cultural traits of your team or organisation.
What can you pick up in meetings or staff engagement sessions?
What is the atmosphere of these conversations?
How are the levels of engagement?
Is there sufficient diversity and challenge in the viewpoints brought forward?
What is the impact of leadership on these factors? Are they opening the conversation to more diversity? Or are they closing the conversation down?
Are leaders behaviours fostering your company values or creating scepticism about them?
As a team, discuss the findings to the above questions and start intentionally working with the idea of culture. What identity and specific culture will serve your organisation best, through thick and thin?
Leaders have a fantastic opportunity to learn more about their role in creating culture during the many interactions they have with their teams.
When leaders learn the skills that enhance their ability to lead through culture, it empowers them to regain control during uncertain and volatile times.