Have you documented your company culture

Have You Documented Anything About Your Company Culture?

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First, A recommendation: Mark Murphy from Leadership IQ

I’m a big fan of Mark Murphy and the work that his company, Leadership IQ has done in terms of research.  He writes about the importance of knowing what the key attitudes are that define your organisation’s version of a top performer vs a low performer.  I think its valuable stuff, and I have a few thoughts to add to his.

If you haven’t read anything about this before, here’s a link to a blog post that Mark wrote on the subject.

So what’s your company culture all about?

If asked to describe their company’s current culture in a couple of sentences, I bet that most business owners would struggle.  I know I have over the years; I found it particularly difficult while running my last business.  It takes a fair bit of confront to document it, and even more to document it in a way that others can clearly understand.

Mark’s exercise is pretty good at helping you to document the observable behaviours that exemplify your culture.  The reality for me is that there are very specific attitudes, competencies and willingnesses that are the core source of those observable behaviours.  It’s therefore important to make sure you only hire people that have those attitudes, competencies and willingnesses.

Company culture is created by the individuals that make up the team.  Their overall attitudes, actions, integrity, and strength – or lack thereof.  Company culture is always being created so if you’re not setting a standard to create it with, it’s happening unintentionally.  Particularly in small to medium sized businesses.

So I’d say that it’s important to make sure you create it intentionally – and then hire people who fit with that culture; which what I’d like to talk about.

I’m sure that every business owner will say that their company culture is (fill in some positive and enviable cultural description here).  I’m also sure that not every business owner will be telling the truth.  That lie will be either intentional or unintentional.

The reality is that the fish stinks from the head down.  If there is a problem that develops in your company culture, the problem starts with you.  That’s a big statement, so let me explain.

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Cooperation is the key

I’ve written a post previously on Cooperation.  If you haven’t read that, read it now because company culture doesn’t exist for long without Cooperation.

One of the requirements for there to be real Cooperation is Provokability. It’s the ability and willingness to call it like it is, even when it might upset someone. Including asking and being asked the tough questions. Including telling it like it is. Even when it hurts.

If you don’t have Provokability, what happens is that things get overlooked.  You’ll justify a behaviour or an action once and then it becomes the norm.

Your business is a creation of the mind of the owner.  That includes the culture, the people in it, the products and the relationships.  If the owner’s mind justifies not paying attention to detail, then that becomes part of the company culture.

Have you ever walked into a shop and thought ‘wow, this place could use a tidy up’?

You can be guaranteed that the owner of that shop has an unwillingness to pay attention to detail and be organised in some way and they have not hired a person to make up for that shortfall in themselves.

Either way, the problem is still the person at the top.  They’ve either not paid attention to it, or made it ok in some way for their staff to not pay attention to it.  They are not creating their company culture with enough intention.

What is company culture?

Company culture is really a collective of all the energies, thoughts, beliefs, belief systems and attitudes of the people that make up the company.  The executive decision makers and the team of the company either allow (justify, rationalise, make excuses for) sub-standard behaviours and attitudes or they don’t.  It requires a very high amount of intention.

Notice I said “and the team of the company.”  It’s not just the job of the executive team to be provokable.  That’s everyone’s job.  And that, in my opinion, becomes part of your culture; if you create it that way.  Before you hire someone its important that you teach them about what makes up your culture so they can make the choice to say yes to being a part of it.  They can only be provokable about it once they’ve choosen it.  And before they choose it fully, you will be demonstrating that what you’ve said about your culture is in fact true.

There are going to be different high and low performer characteristics that you can document about your company.  If you’re a small business it’s important to create this culture with intention and get everyone on the bus to support it.  If you use Mark’s system and what you document is not actually true, you’re going to have great people leave your business.

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