I call Bull@#$% on your company culture

This article has been a long time in the making, but it was important for me, that I do not write about a single case, or even outliers. It has taken a long time to see enough examples for myself, or speak to trusted sources, in order to confirm my hypothesis.

William Shakespeare wrote: “The lady doth protest too much, methinks”.

My experience pertains to company culture and values. In short, I’ve noticed that the lauder a company touts its incredible culture, the further in real life it actually is from following its core values.

From my observations I concluded that leaders of organizations which truly have their core values embedded in their “DNA”, do not need to remind their staff about them. Larger staff meetings or town halls, focus on distributing relevant information, future plans or company results.

Inversely, when a manger chooses to reference the company core values every other sentence, I immediately ask myself if s/he is trying to sell me something. Is there an underlying message, which is being transmitted? After scratching a little under the surface, almost without fail, it turns out that the company does not actually live its values, and they are just words on a poster.

Most concerning are situations, where leadership is oblivious to its short comings. A simple example is transparency. It is incredibly ironic, when information about a company’s future is kept from its staff, but a core value of “transparency” is proudly featured on every poster.

The most difficult part in ensuring that company values are adhered to, is in fact the simplest. From top down, you just have to live by example. That easy. 
 If you taut a same desk policy, then each leader has to actually sit in the open space with everyone else. I totally, understand that managers spend a lot of time in conversations, which by their nature have to be conducted in private. However, at the very least drop anchor at a desk in the open space, and return to it between meetings. People will notice, and appreciate the gesture.

Years of interaction with various managers in many different cultures, means, I could write here a litany of examples scolding many “leaders”. But the truth is, we have all seen them. Don’t ignore those situations, but learn from them, analyse why you believe it was inappropriate behaviour, and make sure you don’t do it.

In my experience, implementing and maintaining a given culture, and its set of values, is not about big statements, meetings and posters. It is about the small everyday things, about leading by example, and about thinking what perception a given action will have amongst our people.

After all, perception is reality.