As one of the first in a series of articles that addresses leadership and culture, it has to start somewhere. Learning how to identify the culture of your company is as good a place as any, though this cannot be accomplished in one single article. There are myriad ways to identify culture and just as many – if not more – of defining the culture you want for your business.

Defining Culture

A company’s culture is shaped and continues to take shape as the company develops. Initially, it is often perceived as an extension of a leader’s own beliefs, vision, values, norms, language, assumptions, and habits.

Leadership and Culture

All businesses obviously have a leader or leadership team; a person or persons who are responsible for setting the course for the business and navigating where the company needs to go in order to be successful. But how is that company’s culture lending itself to the success of the business? There are many challenges that business owners face when assessing and ultimately developing their culture; understanding some of those challenges and viewing them instead as opportunities for growth can be key to a company reaching their potential.

A company’s culture allows others to see your business in a specific way, so ensuring your culture is appropriate to you and your purpose as an organization has a great deal to do with the talent it attracts and its performance at every level.

Identifying Culture

Identifying your company’s culture, however, is not as well-defined as some might wish. Think of an organization’s culture in terms of its purpose. Why are we here? What are we doing? And maybe most importantly, how are we doing it? A proactive leadership continues to takes the pulse of their organization and the culture, preferring to manage the change rather than be managed by it. What if you haven’t taken the time to monitor or even define your company’s culture and whether it fulfills the goals you have for it? Nothing changes if hard questions aren’t asked and answered.

How are you different from your competition? What about your business sets you apart so that your prospective clients choose you to do business with rather than someone else? Sure, impersonal surveys abound that can clue you in to your company’s culture, but then what? You still need to know how to develop or change that culture to match your mission statement – or even know that your mission statement also needs to be refined. Intentionally transforming the culture of your organization and then abiding by that paradigm shift will ultimately attract the right people: employees and customers alike. It is critical when hiring/bringing in a new leader, that there be an assessment of the “fit” of the new leader and the existing company culture. The results of allowing new leadership to steer a company in a completely different direction – one in opposition to the current culture – could be disastrous.

Realizing that company culture even needs to be addressed is a key part of the process. Perhaps everyone in the company is doing business as usual without taking a necessary hard look at the symptoms that could eventually lead to a derailing of the business. Such shortsightedness can easily – and all too quickly sometimes – lead to an infected wound if only bandages have been used to mask issues. Clearing out the injury early on will allow the company to heal sooner and result in a healthier company.

Why Culture is Important

When employees feel connected to your company’s culture, it not only helps make them feel their work there is more important, it leads to their being more productive. High turnover is less likely. They tend to feel more valued and valuable. They feel their individual work is tied to the collective success of the organization as a whole. A higher caliber individual will be attracted to working for you, which helps weed out those who are not as invested in your – or even their – success.

When customers feel connected to the culture you have created at your company, you end up earning their trust and their business. Repeat customers or long-term clients are the bread and butter of successful companies; they help businesses thrive in ways nothing else can.

Actions Speak Louder than Words

Getting leaders to even become aware of their company’s culture is the first step in examining and then defining it. But once that culture has been defined, the key is to having everyone live it, no matter their position. Actions do speak louder than words, so simply stating that “this” is now how things will be done isn’t good enough. Follow through is what will allow a business to reach its optimal potential. Let’s talk about how we can accomplish this together.

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