Why is your favorite coffee shop your favorite coffee shop?
Is it as simple as the coffee? The price? Or is it that hipster music they play in the store? Is it the cute barista who writes your name in that ‘special’ way on your cup? Is it the fact that they use organic, conflict-free beans and support the charities of your choice? Location?
Chances are, it’s ALL of these things. I mean, let’s face it – you could get coffee almost anywhere, including at home and at work. But you like it at your coffee shop. All of the above things work in tandem to create the culture you enjoy being a part of, and that’s what keeps you coming back. The ‘all of it’ of it all.
On the consumer side, the importance of a business’s culture is obvious. What about on the corporate side?
The Importance of Organizational Culture
Organizational culture is an amalgamation of all the things that drive your business. Mandated and modeled by leadership, it’s the company’s mission, values, and metrics. It’s the incentives and the drivers that motivate workers. It’s the behavior exhibited throughout the organization. It’s the ‘vibe’ of a company, and it determines employee satisfaction and happiness, or toxicity and disempowerment. Much like the canary in the coal mine, to the positive or the negative, looking at an organization’s culture can give you incredible insight as to what works, what doesn’t, and how and why employees perform the way they do.
There was a project-based company that I worked with many years ago, one with a very formal hierarchical structure that had a culture of optimism bias. The corporation was risk-averse, success-oriented, and did not believe it had hiccups, challenges, or failures. That song in your head? It’s “Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire,” and you’re singing it because, like me, you know that problems pop up in projects – no matter how well prepared you are. However, when leadership frowns on hearing things aren’t going well, what’s more likely to occur? That employees have magically figured out the key to completing projects perfectly with no issues? (If so, they should bottle that and sell it.) Or that workers, out of fear of retribution, don’t announce problems that they are encountering?
The company’s intent with this ‘success-only’ culture was probably admirable. Announce victories, reward them, and surely winning behavior will continue. Positive reinforcement. Unfortunately, what was understood was that there was no room or forgiveness for failure. The result was a workplace culture of fear and dishonest communication. In an attempt to avoid trouble, employees tried to solve the issues that arose on their own. The problems became larger, more costly, and more difficult to fix. Eventually, management had to be told – but by then, leadership had lost their ability to course correct and solve the problem. Projects failed. Employees were disempowered, and performance suffered. Management was unhappy. There was no win anywhere.
Organizational Culture is Formed from the Top Down
Organizational culture is set from the top down, and leaders need to keep an eye on the environment their attitudes, mandates, and metrics foster. Good ideas don’t always manifest into sound practices, and a workplace’s culture is the first and strongest indicator of how your company’s values and policies are being internalized. Disenchanted, fearful, overburdened employees who feel there’s no way or no point to communicating their frustration will express their unhappiness in absences, lack of engagement, and poor performance.
We choose the things we consume, the businesses we patronize, and the places we work because we like them. They make us feel good. A healthy and positive organizational culture is essential to contributing to that feeling. It is the key to employee engagement, satisfaction, and productivity. It improves morale and promotes openness and camaraderie amongst employees. That vibe radiates outward, all the way to clients and consumers. It became our very favorite coffee shop.
Conduct a Culture and Metric Audit
Are you interested in learning how your organizational metrics are supportive or destructive to the culture you want to have in your organization? A metric audit is a great first step. Click here to check out some free resources. One of those resources is a simple metric audit toolkit. You can also book some time to talk about conducting a culture and metric audit in your organization by going to https://TimeWithMary.com.