In an earlier piece I laid out exactly how to design your company’s ideal culture by identifying desired behaviors and describing them in relation to values. The outcome is a list of values and descriptive behaviors that your people understand clearly.
Once you have your values listed, it’s a matter of putting them into action. Values in action, collectively, is culture.
So how do you do that? Easy – through repetition, so that the values become second nature to everyone. I like to describe it as people knowing “how we roll around here.”
It’s your job and your senior team’s job to do the repeating, to be the chief communicators, modelers and reinforcers. After the values become embedded in everyone’s natural way of being, your culture perpetuates itself because new members of the team will look around and copy what others are modeling.
For example, if everyone shows up at meetings on time, the new guy or gal will show up on time. If people make it a point to encourage each other and catch each other doing things right, the new people will do the same. It’s a virtuous circle in that the more people do it the stronger it gets and the more people do it.
That’s why designing and actively reinforcing a positive culture is so important: because left to its own, a culture can deteriorate in a vicious circle where the more people behave poorly, the more people behave poorly.
The following are concrete steps you and your team can take to embed your company’s ideal culture in everyone on the team. Start with these then develop your own.
- Communicate the values so that everyone is aware. Put them on your website. Include them in job postings. Hire for values. Include them in your regular employee coaching sessions, etc.
- Model the values. Every senior leader must live the values. You can’t have a set of values (behaviors) that the leadership team doesn’t demonstrate daily.
- Have every senior leader “catch” people living the values. Doing this in a group is the most potent. Call it out, congratulate.
- Run a survey every six months or so that lists the values and asks employees to score each one according to how well they believe the company lives the values. Have them list a couple of examples of someone living a value (through their behavior). After the survey is complete, have all employees in groups go through the results, talk about them and suggest ways to bring some or all the values up.
- And fire for values. When someone violates the values in a substantial and/or repeated manner, take action. After counseling and warning, pull the plug. And let everyone know why the person was let go.
Every morning, when an employee crosses the threshold of your business, literally and figuratively, make it an elevating experience. They may struggle with a values-challenged life at home but make your company a place of refuge, where people enter a world of strong positive values and enjoy the benefits.