Culture Killers

Everyone’s talking about it, but few are building it. Everyone says they want it, but few are willing to commit to it. Everyone thinks they have it, but few actually do. Yes, I’m talking about culture – more specifically, a culture by design.

One truth about culture is that unless you started today, every organization and every team already has a culture – the question is whether it’s a culture by default or a culture by design. Another truth about culture is that we don’t create a culture, but rather transform a default culture to our design culture.

While there is lots to share about creating a culture by design, today I want to focus on what can (and usually does) get in the way of your culture by design – the all too prevalent culture killers.

While there are many potential culture killers, I’ll put them all into the following three categories:

  1. Incongruity– This is really simple and a real culture killer. Simply put, this is saying or claiming one thing (or value or culture), but doing something else. This is when your walk does not match your talk. It’s easy to slip, but every slip can allow your culture to slip away. If you’re committed to transforming your culture to one by design – to putting your values into action – then you must be just as committed to ensuring that your communication, your decisions and your actions are always in alignment with the culture you have designed.
  2. Leadership– This culture killer covers a wide range of topics, including incongruity, but it addresses all the opportunities we have to reinforce and confirm the culture by design (or to minimize it). One example is when leaders allow culture and values to be an afterthought, rather than having them be imbedded in the organization’s daily activities and decisions. One critical role for all leaders is protecting and preserving the culture, not just talking about it. When leaders fail in this role, they are the biggest culture killers.
  3. Tolerance – This is the one area many leaders are missing in their leadership – being conscious and aware of the situations, behavior and people they are tolerating andbeing conscious about the impact of that tolerance. Nothing kills culture faster than tolerating anything inconsistent with that culture.

That’s it – three powerful culture killers. If you’re truly committed to transforming your culture, get clear about your values, get even clearer about ways to live those values (culture in action), and watch out for these culture killers!

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