Culture is the holy grail of organisational success. Getting it right will not only drive the right behaviour but it will ensure that everyone is engaged in something more important than the work itself.
It will drive discretionary effort which means that team members will work harder, deliver higher quality work and give more of themselves because they truly believe in the culture of the organisation they are choosing to work with.
Creating a thriving culture is not always as easy as it looks, and it requires more effort than purely hanging a vision statement on the wall.
Instead, there are a number of factors that come into play in both defining and embedding a culture throughout an organisation.
In this article, we share some of the common pitfalls we see leaders make when it comes to culture so you know what to avoid when building your culture.
Pitfall One: No common purpose
At the core of every strong company culture is a clear purpose or common cause. Think of this purpose as the heartbeat of your organisation—without it, none of the other elements can function and thrive. Ask yourself: do you have a clear purpose and cause? Are your team aware of what this is and understand why you exist as an organisation?
People naturally want to be part of something that is bigger than themselves, so if you can ensure your team knows their work matters your company culture will thrive.
Pitfall Two: Not showing your team what ‘success looks like’
One of the most common mistakes made in introducing a new culture or shifting the focus of an existing one is the belief that communicating it alone is enough to bring it to life.
Simply explaining why culture is important and sharing your vision will not have a lasting impact. Instead, your employees need tangible guidance on how to actually align to the culture. Ensure that you communicate the values that underpin the culture as well as the behaviours that align to those values so your people know exactly what success looks like and have something clear to strive for on a day-to-day basis.
Pitfall Three: Focusing too heavily on the behaviour
In contrast, focusing solely on behaviour, without defining your company’s ‘why’ can have an equally negative effect.
Years ago when it came to driving performance at work, the focus used to be solely on behaviour and tangible activity. Certain behaviours would be associated with strong performance, so it would be a leader’s responsibility to instill these behaviours within their teams by telling them to act in very specific and rigid ways.
What we now know is that simply enforcing certain behaviours onto a team is not the most effective means of driving performance. Instead, if you want to build a high-performance team you need to focus first and foremost on the culture that underpins everything else within your organisation.
Pitfall Four: A lack of accountability
It was Peter Drucker who famously said: “What’s measured, improves.” Just as you have accountability measures when it comes to sales and revenue targets, you also need to have this same level of accountability when it comes to embedding culture.
Think about how your company accountability frameworks line up with your new desire to focus on culture. Are you making sure people’s KPIs and objectives include an element of culture and behaviour? When it comes to holding others accountable to these KPIs and objectives, there needs to be the same level of consequence, both positive and negative, for those who are doing the right thing and are embracing the culture that the companies are looking for.
Pitfall Five: Leaders are failing to act as cultural role models
Leadership is the critical success factor for any company that is looking to change, build or embed the culture it is going to need to grow in the future. Role modeling this behaviour to your team will make it easier for others to recognise opportunities for them to change and grow, as well as demonstrating what’s required to be ‘on culture’.
If fellow leaders within a company are not setting a shining example of the culture you want to create, how can you expect more junior employees to be on board?