You get the culture you practice

Dad bod
Published in
3 min readNov 5, 2021


When we were growing up, I don’t recall my parents sitting my sister and me down and telling us how the culture at home should be. There was no manifesto or video telling us how we should conduct ourselves and what the ground rules were. We learned through observation.

For instance, ours is a family of early risers. Unfortunately, I got into the advertising industry, where late-night parties and working late were prized over punctuality and common sense. Mornings at home were punctuated by the sounds of the cooker in the kitchen and MS Subbulakshmi’s suprabatam, and by default, I am a morning person.

We never switched on the TV in the mornings, and that’s something that has stuck with me. While I make allowances for live cricket, the TV is never switched on before noon in our house. Again, not a rule, just an imbibed practice.

We saw how our parents dealt with disagreements, conflicts and challenges. We saw how they conversed and treated vegetable vendors, watchmen and maids. They never told us this is how you’re supposed to speak to people. They just did, and we learned from them.

When you become a parent, you become more self-aware by default. Suddenly, you’re responsible for another human life. Recently, I said a curse word out loud and was sounded off by my wife. While our daughter is still a year old and can’t comprehend what we’re saying, she will soon. I can imagine her cursing in school and when asked by the teacher where she learned to talk like that, she says ‘from my dad.’

You can’t bullshit your kids. If you tell them to eat healthy and snack all day, they’ll call you out. If you tell them not to be hooked to screens and are peering into your phone the whole day, you’re not fooling them. If you tell them watching too much TV is wrong and then go off on Netflix binges, they’ll know you’re not serious.

It’s a simple fact — children learn by example and observation.

Somehow, I think many organizations miss this point. They confuse grandiose statements, fancy offices and perks with culture. It’s easy to say we’re transparent yet have a slew of coteries operating in the office. It’s one thing to say we put our people first but run roughshod when people question how things are done. When you work in a place, you define the culture by what you observe:

How do people treat each other?

Is personal time valued?

Do people keep their word?

Are people psychologically safe?

Is everyone given a level playing field?

How are conflicts resolved?

How are things like gaslighting and abuse of power tackled?

All of the above are practices, and this is what you will observe and remember. No one remembers platitudes. Just like you can’t see a happy family photo or a lovely house and come to the conclusion that it’s a happy family, a fancy culture manifesto or office doesn’t mean the culture is great.

As parents, we fail every day. We lose patience, have disagreements and feel we haven’t done enough. The idea isn’t perfection; it’s progress. But we always have to be mindful of the example we’re setting through our actions.

Because in the end, the culture in our home is a reflection of our daily practices.

Worth a watch — One of my favourite ads ever. If this entire piece could be summed up in a video, this is it.

Worth a listen

My wife sent me this podcast. Gavin McCormack is a Montessori teacher who also writes aboout his experiences on Linkedin. One line from the podcast stands out. When speaking to his mother about becoming a teacher, she tells him that if he took a regular job, he’ll always be working for someone else. But when you become a teacher, you have a chance to influence millions. Got me thinking about my own career path as well.

Worth a read

I have just started reading this book. As they say, it’s never too late to unlearn.

Till next time!

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