October 4, 2019

How You Create Culture By What You Do and Do Not Reinforce

Your company has and embodies a culture, whether or not you’re intentionally investing in it. It could be a culture that requires team members to come in early, leave late, sacrifice taking lunch, and value productivity at any cost. This IS a culture, but it’s not one worth celebrating. That was an extreme example, but some of those things may sound eerily familiar. 

Too often, companies that start off small and culture-driven start making sacrifices in the name of “growth” as they start scaling upward in influence and size. These sacrifices may yield, at the moment, increases in workflow, but the damage they cause to your culture can be devastating, and in some cases, irreversible. Building a company culture worth celebrating will yield the most efficiency out of your team members and make you a company people never want to leave. 

Culture and Hard Work Can Be Synonymous 

Before diving into the biology of a culture worth celebrating, it’s important to understand that incredible culture and hard work are not opposite ends of a spectrum. In fact, the kind of culture you should be striving for actually inspires the best work out of your team members. 

Even in a culture worth celebrating, sometimes staying late or arriving early to wrap up loose ends is inevitable. However, what drives your team members to take on these challenges changes. This could happen because the culture your company celebrates is one of leadership and integrity and therefore your team member has elected to stay by their own volition because they feel a sense of pride driving their work. On the other hand, the culture your company celebrates could be the one that inspires a sense of fear that they’ll receive reprimands if they fail. Although the outcome is the same for the business, the reason behind why the outcome was achieved was completely different. 

“Culture can happen on accident” – Brandon West

Your Organization’s Values Create Culture

To begin to understand how what you celebrate defines your culture, let’s look at an anecdote found in Steve Curtin’s book “Delight Your Customers.” This story is about a new hire at a local grocer. In this story, the team member is trained with the expectation that he is to value the experience of his guests above all else. Over the first couple of weeks, he does his best to serve his guests intentionally and takes time to make sure they are well served. However, when receiving feedback about his performance, his supervisor only comments about how the new hire does not spend enough time fetching loose shopping carts from the parking lot. After a couple of experiences receiving this feedback, the now-settled team member begins to sacrifice guest experience to maintain a parking lot that is clear of all carts. Unintentionally, by celebrating the job function of “cart retrieval” over the core value of guest experience, the supervisor has created a company culture that doesn’t value their guests as highly as the corporate training program would suggest.

This story does not suggest that the specific job functions you execute every day are not essential to your business. In fact, it’s the relationship between your core values and your job function that defines your company’s culture. In other words, when you view your job through the lens of what your company values, it creates the culture that your team members and clients experience (good or bad).

Celebrate Your Team and Your Values

Looking back to the story about our grocery team member, the supervisor overlooked an opportunity not only to celebrate his new hire’s servant spirit but also to frame his feedback through the lens of their core value; guest experience. Imagine if the supervisor had reminded the team member that the number of carts in the parking lot could inhibit safety for guests who are both attempting to park and guests who are taking their groceries to their cars, which directly affects the guest experience. This reframing of the original feedback helps the new hire visualize his job function through the lens of how it affects his guests rather than it becoming a cart collection game. 

By looking at situations through the lens of what your business values, you can elevate the level of critical thinking individuals can achieve and define a balance between all job functions. By equipping each team member with these tools, it gives the supervisor the freedom to address more pressing issues rather than focus on micromanagement.

Start Creating a Culture Worth Celebrating Today

Take your core values off the wall and start celebrating them at every opportunity. My favorite way to celebrate values is by spending time during meetings giving shoutouts to my peers about demonstrations of their values in action. This positive reinforcement keeps what’s truly important at the forefront of our minds and brings those words we see on paper to life. Once all forms of praise and feedback are being viewed through the lens of these values, the culture of your dreams will form right before your eyes.

Corey LaRosa

Corey serves our clients by helping them achieve their maximum potential and cultivate powerful ideas into actions that multiply their purpose. His greatest joy is digging deep to tap into wellsprings of passion and guide that passion toward accomplishing previously untouchable goals.

When he’s not drinking copious amounts of coffee, Corey can be found on Discord bonding with his friends while playing video games, downing a burrito bowl at Chipotle, or petting all of the foster animals at PetSmart.