Organizational culture is a tricky thing. The motivations behind it aren’t always obvious, but there are usually some common themes. In this week’s newsletter, I’ll look at some observations I’ve made over the years and talk about how they might be affecting an organization in a similar circumstance.

Many leaders incorrectly believe organizational behavior is constructed on strategy, planning, or management directions. But, culture in any organization is like an iceberg, as most of it is subtle and hidden. Due to its immense influence, culture can thwart even the most compelling strategies or initiatives. Legendary management consultant and writer Peter Drucker once quipped that “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Yes, I think that, but I also believe that the appropriate culture can act as a tailwind. Organizations that are world-class in their fields have cultures that complement their core competencies.

Building the right culture involves many challenges. In my experience, I have seen most organizations don’t actively discuss culture; I believe organizations should have a common vocabulary and should regularly talk about culture. If leaders do not actively discuss the culture they want to build, a culture will develop and learn from the behaviors that are rewarded and those that are punished in the organization. Such cultures are often far from desired. And trust me when I say that once a culture has developed, it is quite difficult to reform. Thus, to achieve the desired organizational culture, it is necessary to have regular communication, policy, incentives, modeled behavior, values, and consistency.

I have also worked in environments where no one speaks to one another, where employees simply report to work, quietly complete their tasks, and stay mentally absent the entire day. Unsurprisingly, I was frustrated as the culture of that organization did not live up to my expectations. A culture crisis of this magnitude cannot be resolved by small efforts like team-building exercises or team lunches. I have seen such courses make the situation worse. Leaders must respond quickly and effectively to address poor employee engagement. This means making significant changes to the way the organization is managed and being as transparent as you can about what those changes will mean for your employees.

I have seen organizational culture change whenever lateral hires enter leadership roles. People bring external ethics and beliefs into the organization, which can positively or negatively influence the organizational culture. It is crucial to consider the cultural fit when screening applicants rather than only looking at their qualifications, professional experience, or even personality types.

Fitting workplace cultures touch on underlying motivations, values of employees, and the factors that influence performance. Employees choose to stay with a company and do their best when there is alignment. A leader must recognize macro cultures (the dominant culture in society), microcultures (beliefs, behaviors, and customs within interacting groups), and individual behaviors and beliefs. These cultures have a significant impact on how one approaches work. For example, it is crucial to know if someone craves praise from others or is more comfortable with criticism. Using this information, a leader can better understand what motivates the employees and how to manage them efficiently to achieve organizational goals together.

Thank you for reading. I would love to hear from others about their experiences with organizational culture – feel free to leave comments below or contact me on social media!


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