Heart Centred Leadership #1 Work Place Culture

14th April 2014


This is not the age of boardroom bred culture.

Of slick nifty mnemonic values contrived to sell a story.

With sexed up by eye-catching posters and copylicious words. Crafted by message making marketing teams, to wow and seduce investors. 

Nor is it the time for investing in expensive, expansive, top down culture creating, change programs, specifically designed, for an end in mind. Profitability.  Share price. Engagement. Productivity…

You cannot create culture by committee or, management consultants.

The thing is… a company’s culture is fashioned by the collective personalities of your employees. 

An eclectic blend of values. Truisms. Underlying assumptions and beliefs. Experience and up-bringing.

This is what culture guru, Edgar Shein, calls ‘basic underlying assumptions.’

Assumptions that result in shared behaviours. The ‘how, what and why things are done around here.’

Deeply entrenched, these behaviours are the unquestioned, unconscious essence of the business. 

The truth of what’s really going on. The stuff of lunch time, dinner and BBQ conversations.

So embedded is this collective unconsciousness that people think and act automatcally. Mindlessly.

This reality is the prime reason 97% of culture change programs bomb. You cannot bring about change from a state of unconsciousness.

The real culture is…

noted in common language

heard in informal and formal conversations

witnessed by behaviours

demonstrated in relationships

by what gets done. And doesn’t

and in the acts of love. Or, distain.

I am not dismissing the importance of creating a values based culture.

You have to know what you stand for. Personally. Collectively.

And you have to communicate your stand. Strongly. Internally and externally.

With integrity. Humility. And, passion.

I am, however, questioning the validity of culture created behind closed boardroom doors.

Vision. Mission. Values statements. One-off designs intended for external communication and then, lazily,without imagination, used internally. With expectation of creating a ‘positive culture.’ 

To have any chance of creating a positive culture, one truly embraced, you need, first to accept and understand the existing underlying assumptions and beliefs.

You need to know how the ‘real’ culture serves or sabotages. What it’s value system is. On what basis it makes decisions. Moves. Responds. Interacts.

It’s a complex, dynamic, breathing system. And, in being one, will not yield or, be manipulated by boardroom directives that make no sense or, don’t connect to its values and seemingly fail to serve it.

It wants you to be curious, open and willing. To understand it before it will accept help in working more effectively.

It wants clarity of expectations. Guidance on acceptable and unacceptable behaviours in alignment with the values. With measures in place to praise or admonish. Fairly. With dignity.

In collaborative relationship you can agree a set of values that engages your right people. And in turn serves the business.

Creating a sense of belonging. Pride and purpose. Certainty of contribution. A willingness to do a great day’s work.

Your culture is a living thing.

Engage with it. Invite company wide contribution. Have a culture committee.

Speak of it. Report on it as you speak and report your top and bottom line results.

Values a business’s compass.  Let them reflect its deepest heart’s desire. And guide you to success.