Lying on my bunk on the Liverpool to Belfast ferry in 1977, I started to think about what was ahead of me in the coming hours. I was heading towards Northern Ireland at the height of the ‘Troubles’ for a two year tour. I was 20 and had no fear, but I was nervous about how I would fit into the ‘culture’ of the Royal Signals unit I was joining. I had heard they loved ‘Drill’ ‘Discipline’ & short haircuts! It was all that!!
In 1984 I was joining a Royal Marines Commando Squadron and I was excited as during the previous couple of years I had shared a room with a Royal Marine who had caught my imagination about their ‘culture’. He told me that their culture was one of positive attitudes, adventure, fitness and humour. It was all that!!
Then exactly 10 years ago I arrived at the offices of Thera for my first day. I knew I was going to have to up my game. I had done some checking and their ‘culture’ was (and is) that it is all about people with learning disabilities; hard work; commitment and innovation. If you don’t have plenty of enthusiasm, energy and momentum you are not going to cut it. It all sounded right up my street!!
I have always been fascinated by ‘cultures’ within teams and organisations:
- What they are? Cultures are a sense of identity, tradition, history and structure
- How has culture developed? Cultures develop through rituals, beliefs, legends and values
- What difference can you make as a Leader and developing a culture? Let’s see….
Developing the Culture within your team and organisation
My 10 tips and recommendations are based on what has worked for me:
- Be open and talk about what you are about – and do it often so it becomes entrenched in people’s minds. People then can decide at the outset if they want to be part of this culture
- The culture must fit and match your organisations values, aims and objectives
- If you want to change the culture it is better (and it works) if you start with making small changes over a period of time. It is tempting at the outset to go big with change but, believe me, it will fail.
- Cultural change requires long term investment for the people you support and for me it is a life-long commitment
- Recruit people. not just for their competencies, but also for their values, attitudes and beliefs
- Knowing the culture of your team and organisation – the best leaders are those who adjust their style to suit – they are all different.
- Develop a ‘can do’ attitude that becomes shared – we say “yes” then get busy finding out how to do it.
- Just like your ‘vision’ you must live your culture everyday – there are no days off. As Leaders there is no putting your feet up and thinking “today I feel like being negative, idle and miserable”.
- Always remember culture is led from the top but grows from the bottom!
- At the outset tell everyone that we are going to have ‘fun’ and mean it.
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast”
US Management Consultant
What does a great culture look like for me?
My Top 10
- We have great stories that inspire (we share those stories with each other)
- The culture doesn’t need to be written down – it is in people’s minds
- We have a dynamic culture that changes and develops
- We know who we are and what we stand for – We have a sense of identity
- We are proud about what we do – our culture is that we want to make a difference
- We have a common language, rituals and routines “how things are done around here”
- We have a “no blame” culture
- Managers are close to the people on the ground and they care about them – it matters that people are happy
- There are no surprises – everyone knows what is coming next – because we all talk to each other – trust and integrity
“The thing I have learned at IBM is that culture is everything”
Louis V Gerstner Jr
As the Managing Director for Dosh Ltd I wrote about our culture in ‘Leadership the Dosh Way’ I hope it inspires you.
So as a leader have you considered the culture within your leadership team and organisation recently? Now that I have your attention what are you going to do to develop it?