Consciously creating culture

Because culture has a profound effect on employee behavior and, ultimately, the organization, leaders need to know how to shape it

Just as the topic of leadership has morphed into lists of traits, principles, philosophies and concepts, organizational culture has received similarly superficial treatment. While most people in leadership positions are aware of culture as an organizational phenomenon, their limited understanding of two important points seriously limits their effectiveness at creating the cultures they desire.

  1. They don’t understand the true power of culture, the impact the culture has on individual and organizational performance.
  1. They don’t understand the specific things they can do (the process they can use), to consciously create cultures that reinforce and support behavior essential to organizational success.

Culture is to organizations what attitude is to individuals. And who among us would quarrel with the notion that individuals’ attitudes are powerful? What evidence can we see of a person’s attitude? A person’s behavior provides evidence of his or her attitude. The internal (attitude) is manifest in the external (behavior).

We can also say that a person’s attitude drives his or her behavior. Behavior is an inside-out dynamic; a person’s behavior in certain situations or toward certain people generally reflects that person’s attitude toward those situations and people. Most of us would agree that people’s attitudes exert powerful influences over their behavior.

The same principle applies to organizational culture. An organization’s culture is not necessarily revealed in the words and phrases found in things like core values or mission statements. True, those words and phrases often describe what the authors would like the culture to be. But an organization’s actual culture is revealed in the behavior of the people working in that organization.

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