Over the last several years, one of the hot topics that comes up when discussing an organization is company culture. Culture can be defined as “the set of shared attitudes, values, goals and practices that characterizes an institution or organization.”
Culture, therefore, the heart and soul of any organization, how things are done and what is expected of all team members.
It all begins with the company vision statement — the written understanding of the organization and what it stands for. There are many schools of thought on the vision statement when it comes to length, content and the messaging that it provides. The vision statement is just that, it paints the picture for anyone who reads it as to what the roll of your organization is.
At Isaac Heating and Air Conditioning, our vision statement reads as follows, “To create an enjoyable experience met with anticipation which results in an environment where our team, clients and community can comfortably grow prosper succeed and improve their quality of life.”
Some will say it’s too long (and that’s okay!), but for us this tells the story of who we want to be and guides us in many of our decisions.
When you look at culture, who do you hold responsible for its success or failure? Before you can answer that you need to determine who creates the company culture. Is it the owner who is ultimately responsible or is it the management team? What about the employees, do the people who work there create the culture?
I’ve had this discussion in the past and I believe that is the responsibility of the owners, assuming they are involved in daily operations to establish the values, goals and practices necessary to create the culture that they wish to have. It then becomes the role of the leadership team to carry them out so that their clients and employees can see and feel the culture as it was intended.
Finally, it is the responsibility of all team members to follow these set values, goals and practices with every client interaction, both internally and externally.
For most companies, the culture it has today was likely not intentional — it is more likely the result of many years or decades of everyday operations. But what happens if you want to create a specific culture, if you make an intentional effort to create what you feel is the best culture? What are the steps that you should take to help establish that culture?
Before you can establish a culture, you should determine what you want that culture to be. It could be a sales culture where everything that takes place is centered around making a sale. You could have a service culture where all that takes place is focused on servicing the customer.
What if you wanted a community-based culture, one in which the primary function of the organization is to serve their community and those who live there? You could have an employee-based culture, where everything and every decision is focused on the benefit to the employee.
Your culture could be focused on growth and always looking and striving for the next opportunity.
There are, of course, many other types of cultures that you could strive for … or it could be a combination of any of those mentioned above as well as others. Whatever culture you decide is the one that you want within your organization, it is critical that the values, goals and practices are aligned to support that culture.
Recently, I had a conversation with the president of my organization and we were talking about culture being a verb instead of a noun. When your company culture is a noun that means that it exists and it is just assumed that this is the culture, whatever words you put on paper or share in a meeting should be assumed. When culture is a verb it speaks much deeper to the roots of an organization and it requires effort and intention from every member of the team.
Now that you have established a culture, based on the values, goals and a vision and mission statement that aligns with your beliefs, you will need to ensure that your leadership team has a clear understanding of the expectations and that they’re all on board to assist in cascading this throughout the organization.
This will require group meetings and conversations amongst the leadership team so that any challenges can be agreed upon at the highest level. Without leadership alignment it will be impossible for the desired culture to permeate throughout the organization.
This is the best time for the leaders of the organization to ask questions, challenge and disagree until a common understanding is reached.
Once leadership is fully on board, you then need to begin with actions that support and justify the culture as you wish it to be. For example, if your culture includes accountability, then all leaders within the organization need to hold themselves as well as their subordinates accountable for their actions.
If you decide that you want a culture of accountability, but you choose to overlook the actions of an employee, you truly do not have a culture of accountability. The same could hold true for integrity, safety, continuous improvement or whatever other values you choose for your organization.
Company meetings, team meetings, daily huddles, training classes, etc. should all have some mention of the core values that helps support the desired culture. For example, if safety is one of your values then each meeting there should be a brief conversation about safety or some mention of a safety objective or a safety concern.
As mentioned earlier under accountability, team members need to see the values in action so that they do become part of your culture.
Now that your current team members are all beginning to understand what your culture is and now that they are beginning to see it in action on a daily basis, how do you introduce this to new hires? Hopefully the culture that you have created is now beginning to attract like-minded people and it will hopefully help you to grow your organization.
When a new employee begins with the organization, day one needs to include an orientation that talks about the values, goals and practices of your company. This sets expectations in the very beginning and solidifies to those new team members the culture that you have chosen for your company. There is no doubt as to what your company stands for and what is most important and allow new employees to see it occurring from top to bottom.
With everyone within your organization understanding very clearly what the company culture is, you now need to be sure that this is what your clients, vendors and subcontractors experience on a daily basis. For most it should come across as positive, however, there will likely be a few people who do not fully agree with your culture and that’s okay, you must remain true no matter what.
At Isaac Heating & Air Conditioning we talk about our core values. A core value is something that you will stay true to even if it becomes a competitive disadvantage, meaning that no opportunity is worth it if we need to compromise one of our core values in order to obtain it.
Whatever you decide is going to be your company culture it’s important that you own it and that most, if not all, of your decisions consider culture when being made. Because of your culture you will attract new employees and you will likely lose some employees but you are staying true to yourself and everyone who works at your organization will understand with clarity what your company stands for.
The attitudes of your team members should reflect your culture and when they do not, you have an opportunity to coach and educate (unfortunately, you will at times need to end working relationships).
It may seem daunting at first and it will take time, but I can assure you that once you have established a strong company culture that all decision making will become easier. Opportunities will present themselves and team members will be able to rally when that culture is challenged by internal or external factors.
If you don’t know where to begin, consider bringing in a consultant to help guide you through the process — not to determine your culture or your values, but to help bring them out to the forefront.
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