Shaping your Culture

Shaping your leadership and corporate culture

Dave Kinnear1-On Leadership

What do I mean by “shaping your leadership and corporate culture?” The culture of a corporation comprises all the formal ethical, decision making and business processes that go into building the business model by which products and services are provided to the customers. But more importantly, culture comprises the non-written and unofficial codes of operation within an organization. Simply put, culture is “the way we do things around here.”

When the culture of an organization is too rigid to allow for honest and open discussion of choices between competing moral and/or economic values, then employees will be faced with uncertainty in how to respond to new situations. When the moral and economic values of the corporation are not articulated, employees will make decisions that seem to be best to them based on their own sense of justice. The task becomes one of defining the organization’s values and the process used to chose when those values compete with each other, as they often will.

Employees must be able to decide for themselves exactly how they will “fit” in the organization in order to judge how effective they will be. If the culture is not immediately and openly obvious, we take a chance of a mismatch that will be costly for both the organization and the employee (or volunteer).

I’m sure we can all site examples of how a rigid focus on one or two business parameters, either through a conscious effort or perhaps unintended consequences, has caused a company to go astray. In our own lives, we may secretly admonish ourselves for letting a lapse in judgment cause us to set off a chain of consequences that put us in a position of lost credibility. This is, perhaps, because we do not stop to seriously think about how we choose between competing moral and or economic values in our lives. Even the simple things can chip away at our own credibility. For example, how often have we been given too much change and decided to simply keep it? After all, the store won’t really miss it–will they? And what if you decide to tell the proverbial “little white lie” in order to make life easier for yourself or to avoid hurting someone else’s feelings? Without making any judgment about your choice or my choice in these small, everyday examples, I wonder how many of us actually stop to think about the process we use to choose between the many possible actions in these cases. How often have we really thought about what drives us and from where our sense of moral value comes?

Our companies and organizations comprise diverse people. It is the culture of those organizations, built up over time through a melding of individual sensees of morality that allows or punishes certain actions. But again, is the building of that culture an accident left to chance or is it a conscious shaping of the corporate culture with forethought, direction, and an ability to adapt to new information and outside forces?

That is what this post is about: the conscious shaping of the corporate culture to allow our companies to respond in a predictable way under similar circumstances. More importantly, a well defined set of moral values combined with a known process for evaluation and selection when those values compete among themselves or with economic forces, that will give direction when new circumstances arise. It is through a carefully articulated culture, one that is open and obvious to all, that new employees will know ahead of time whether or not they will fit into the company. And it is all about “fit” when it comes to happy employees.