If there’s one thing that recent fiascos at Uberand at Google can teach us, it’s that culture make a difference. Culture can help your company and the people in it succeed, or it can destroy everything you’ve worked to build. The big question is: how do you gain some semblance of control over the way culture grows and changes?
Culture is a fickle thing and slippery to control. It’s not something you can force with slogans and motivational posters. Rather, culture takes shape naturally as your team and your business grows.
So why even bother with culture if it’s ultimately out of your hands? That’s a typical response to the “you can’t force culture” statement. However, forcing something and guiding it are two completely different things, and you absolutely can guide culture as your company grows.
You do that by leading by example and demonstrating the core values you feel should define your business. Rather than stating and commanding what you feel your company’s purpose should be, express it in your actions. This strategy, in turn, will help to influence the actions of everyone on your team.
These days, nothing is more important to people than a sense of purpose in the work they do. Everyone wants a job they feel genuinely matters. For companies that don’t necessarily fit the mold of work that is traditionally considered substantial and important, everything comes down to how you build your culture.
That culture and attitude is so often a reflection of the people at the top. Whether you like it or not, your every move as a leader will echo through the company. In the case of establishing meaning, clearly demonstrated passion for the work that you do can very easily spread to every single member of your team. At the same time, apathy and disengagement trickle down just as quickly if they become the standards you set.
We talked last week about how important meetings can be. They aren’t important because they are a space to militantly declare your company’s mission statements. Rather, they are nexuses of energy — gathering places to communally establish why all this work matters. It doesn’t have to amount to some lofty, world-changing purpose. Just knowing that you are part of a team collaborating to do badass work can be enough. But that only comes across if you, as the leader, are enthusiastic about achieving that purpose.
There’s no doubt that it can be a lot to ask. No one person should be expected to carry the torch of purpose every single minute of every single day. The good news is that this kind of single-minded and constant dedication to culture building doesn’t have to rest firmly on your shoulders. If the message comes across, your team will start doing the work of instilling purpose and keeping morale up for you. All you have to do is listen to them and be aware of what they have to say. The same is true if the message isn’t sticking. Staying connected to your team is the best way to ensure that your culture doesn’t get off track.
The second piece of good news is that culture really does make a difference, and it’s worth the time and effort required to build it. Uber and Google are case and point that a failure of culture can do irreparable damage not just to internal dynamics, but your brand itself.
Because at the end of the day, your culture is your brand. It’s the story of your business inside and out, and it’s a story that’s being written every single day. Don’t try to force it, but don’t lose sight of it either. And above all, make sure that you are working everyday to craft a story worth telling.