Sometimes it’s good to get back to the basics...
It's easy to slip into the habit of thinking about your culture as a project, or a series of activities that have to be performed: Communication training, values alignment process, reward systems, workplace redesign— tick, tick, tick. But culture isn't separate from normal business activity, it is created through what is done every day.
The most transformative impact on a culture day to day is a leader who walks his talk.
Culture is created by the messages that people receive about what is valued. They receive these primarily through what's done, not what's said. I see a lot investment in crafting outstanding communication messages – values statements, roadshows, presentations. But beware the colourfully drawn 'values on the wall,' they lift the bar considerably. The ‘talk’ message just got a whole lot louder.
Take a look at our logo.
Action man is hurrying along, walking to catch up with his talk, this is what I often see happen. Your people hear the ‘talk,’ then they compare it to the ‘walk’. We're all hard-wired to fit into the communities of which we are a member, thus a culture is created as we all work out what we need to do to fit in. Where do we look to find out? At other people’s walk. Especially leaders. They are, after all, the ones who are setting the pace.
'Walk' plays out in 3 ways:
BEHAVIOUR. How you are day to day.
SYMBOLS. The visible decisions you make: How you use your time, assign resources and who you have on your team.
SYSTEMS. The processes you use to manage: HR systems, financial reporting, budgeting.
If you asked people what they thought you valued based on the way you operate in these three areas, what would they say?
What do you notice about other leaders when you observe them through those three lenses?
Carolyn is the CEO of Walking the Talk and author of 'Walking the Talk: Building a Culture for Success' (2005, Random House).
You can follow us on Twitter @walkingourtalk.