Company Culture: A New Buzzword for a Familiar Concept

Yogurt has it. New York is known for it. Grandma’s pearls were created with it. Now we learn that companies have it, too. The “it” is culture. Company culture is all the rage as if it were a new concept. Culture guru Adam Grant preaches about creating a “company of givers” and Simon Sinek lectures on transforming culture by “starting with why.” Yes, it’s important to create a culture that prioritizes giving. And we should know why our company exists. These so-called new thoughts aren’t new. Many of us have been saying the same things for years, but Adam and Simon just gained the attention by creating audiences around their ideas, and now you are listening. Bravo for them.

But, how is whatever new lesson you learned at the last conference you attended actually impacting the culture at your workplace? Is it having an impact? If you’ve had an epiphany, either by reading a book, attending an event or even reading this article, how will you translate it into action at work?

Because action — not ideas or catchy slogans — is what’s required to build and shift cultures.
I don’t know if Adam and Simon have been in the trenches lately, and I am not here to call them out. But what’s important from your company’s standpoint is working with someone you can trust who has gotten their hands dirty solving real business problems, such as:

  • lack of culture
  • lack of engagement — or the crappy engagement in your very crappy culture
  • lack of retention
  • hard-to-fill open positions
  • the “lack of leadership” boss
  • turnover period
  • constant change
  • employee relations calls, disputes, conflicts
  • mid-level managers you promoted who didn’t get leadership training

There ARE corporate leaders willing to close their eyes to these problems and sing “We Are Family,” hoping they will go away? Well, we aren’t family. You don’t fire your family – at least most don’t. And many owners and CEOs say “we are a family” when they don’t realize what they are implying? The truth is, there’s no slogan or catchphrase or single principle that will remedy these culture issues… let alone use them to create a culture that you’re proud of…a culture that builds your reputation, your brand, and your bottom line. To do that, you’ve got to be willing to go way beyond the slogans made palatable for the masses. You’ve got to be willing to do the hard work of leadership, regardless of title.

A great place to start is scheduling a deliberate conversation with your boss, your team member or your co-worker to discuss specific changes you’d like to help create in your organization.

Consider these questions:

  • What does the change you’re interested in creating look like? Feel like?
  • Why will it be great for the company
  • What outcomes are you looking for or moving towards?
  • What will it take?
  • Who needs to get involved?


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