In my experience, it has become common to view culture as this indistinct entity that looms. It is prey the the whims of those who influence it and has a nasty default disposition which must be tamed in order to be of any real benefit to an organization. So, it is approached with the seemingly appropriate whip and chair routine as a means to get it in shape. This external approach to culture is the main culprit as to why many of the efforts….well, suck.
When we view culture as this external thing that puts us in the position of being a victim, we completely disempower ourselves. This mentality puts us in a very defensive position and creates an unhealthy and inaccurate view of culture. If culture is viewed as this default negative that requires massive effort to be transformed into a positive, it will always be some ominous external entity that lords over an organization. In reality, culture is much more personal.
We all have our own personal culture. Just like no organization is devoid of culture, no individual is devoid of culture either. Each one of us have been influenced by national, regional and familial culture. Our experiences, education, temperament, personality and world view intertwine with these various cultural influences and we develop our own personal culture. Usually our personal culture comes in the form of “opinions” or something along those lines. At the end of the day, our personal culture is about the atmosphere we attempt to create for ourselves as well as in what kind of atmosphere we choose to interact regularly.
Organizational culture is a “meeting of the minds”, more than anything. The sheer design of culture makes it exclusionary by nature. Collectively, organizational culture is a group of similar personal cultures working towards a common goal. Leaders understand the culture that contribute best to the common goal and they then communicate their personal culture in a way that supports that goal.
This purpose, focus and set of ideas will resonate with other personal cultures that are in alignment with the goal. The organization will gain momentum and the goal will be achieved…over and over again. As things develop, there will be a need for more people to be involved, so seeking out more personal cultures that properly align becomes a priority as well. This ongoing process is what we call business and understanding how personal cultures create organizational culture is crucial to being successful.
Culture begins inside each one of us, and as a leader it is your responsibility to communicate that personal culture in a way that inspires and challenges others. The culture you influence as a leader is based on the context you create for culture to develop and much of that happens through language and example. What your personal culture is makes up only half of the equation. How you communicate that personal culture, relative to how that culture can help achieve organizational goals, is the other half of the equation.
What is your personal culture and how are you communicating it? Your organizational culture depends on it.