How Does Your Culture Grow?

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Organizational culture – what is it and why has it become so important in the landscape of corporate America?

Where does an organization’s culture come from? Is it just a set of rules written by a committee and everyone is expected to blindly follow them? Is an organization’s culture a slogan or thought that a CEO just thinks up on the fly and insists everyone admire his or her brilliance? Does culture amount to the way in which everyone within an organization behaves or interacts with one another? These questions could go on and on, as there are probably as many interpretations of organizational culture out there.

I am always interested in hearing what people think about culture within the organization that employs them. Some believe it is the best thing out there, others believe it stinks. In reality, how many people actually understand the basics of your organization’s culture and could communicate them to someone? I have spoken with people throughout the years about the culture within their organizations, and to be honest, I was surprised at the responses. Many could not articulate a concise idea of what their organization stood for. They got hung up on the idea that organizational culture was how leadership treated them. While that is an important part of an organization’s culture, it is not the only thing. An organizational culture extends past the leader-team member relationship to also encompass an overall attitude about how you do business. Are you an organization that likes to have fun while working, are you passionate about making the world a better place, are you completely possessed with providing excellent service to your customers? These are all examples of what an organization’s culture might look like. Do we allow our team members to understand how our organization’s culture was created and why it is significant to our success?

How often do we communicate this information with our team members? Is organizational culture something we talk about during new team member orientation, and then promptly forget about it, leaving it on the shelf along with the new team member handbook? A piece of paper on a bulletin board in the team member break room doesn’t cut it. Organizational culture is not something that can be stuck up on the wall if you expect people to live it. If you expect your organization to have a strong culture, it needs to become part of your everyday thoughts and actions. If you personify the culture of your organization, then others will follow.

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Finding Common Ground

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Finding common ground with your customers was a golden rule of sales. Back when I was fresh out of college working as a sales manager I received this important piece of advice. I was taught the skill of walking into a client’s office and quickly scanning the room looking for something about their surroundings that I could relate to.

Throughout my career, I felt that if I could find common ground with my customers, I could quickly gain their trust, and then be able to sell my property. I was never comfortable just busting into someone’s office and throwing the hard core sales pitch at them. Anyone who knows me knows that I am not an “in your face” kind of person. In finding a commonality with the customers, it made my job easier as they saw me as a person, not a sales person looking to make a dime.

How often do we find common ground with our employees? You may lead a very different life than your employees, but that does not mean that you have nothing in common. I once worked for a general manager who had a gift for finding the common ground with everyone in the hotel. Through his actions of actually getting to know all of his employees, he was successful in encouraging all of us to learn something about one another. This led to a very cohesive work environment with engaged employees. This also led to a work environment where people cared about one another, including the guests.

Through the process of finding common ground with your employees, you are showing that you care about them and value them as individuals. After all, finding common ground shouldn’t be that difficult, as don’t we all walk on the same earth?