Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habit.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.
– Lao Tzu
As busy managers, we may overlook the important role we play in creating our workplace culture. The mindset we bring to our jobs can impact the destiny of the whole organization.
Imagine an average day at your organization. A consultant visits the office to observe and interact with the staff. How would this consultant describe your organization’s culture?
This is one of my favorite prompts to use when doing an organizational culture assessment. Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, recently shared this post which sheds light on why this type of question is so effective. In short, people are more likely to give their true opinion when speaking for others. By taking the spotlight off the individual, we often get a more honest response.
You can find other prompts in the Culture Assessment – Short Form on the Toolkit page.
Organizational culture: The system of shared values, symbols, beliefs and norms that exist within the organization; the features of everyday existence that give the organization its character and set it apart from other organizations.
As an anthropologist, I think of culture as the way we create solutions to shared problems. Consider how human groups have evolved over the millennia. Bands of individuals are repeatedly faced with common problems – how to communicate, how to divide labor, how to show respect for one another. Each group chooses to solve these problems in its own way. These unique combinations of beliefs and behaviors are what define human cultures.
At the organizational level, we can view culture in a similar way. Organizational culture evolves as its members find solutions to everyday problems. How do we interact with one another? How do we best serve our customers? How do we prioritize our time?
Your organization has a culture. Your people have been asking and answering these kinds of questions since day one, and in doing so, have established what is expected and accepted within your organization. The big question, then, is how is this culture driving behavior that serves your mission? Is it making your organization more effective or is it dragging you down?