How to Build Intentional Culture

The management team was assembled in the conference room. Culture was the topic of the day.

“You can either try to get people on board with your culture, or you can build the culture that people want to get on board with. Which is it going to be?” I asked.

Since Miguel called this meeting, everyone looked at him. The silence worked its discomfort. I broke the group into teams of two. Erica’s team was the first out of the gate.

“I don’t think you can talk people into it. The culture has to make personal sense and they have to believe it is really true. People can smell a pig no matter how much lipstick is on it.”

“What do you mean, it has to make personal sense?”

“I mean the values of the company have to be close to the values of the person. If there is a conflict, either the company has to change or the person has to go find another company.”

“Do you think culture comes from values?” I continued to probe.

Erica wasn’t sure where this was going, but she had already stuck her neck out. “I think culture is the collected values of every person who is a member of the group. Culture is that unwritten set of rules that governs our behavior as we work together. It sets the expectation, creates the environment in which we work.”

“So, would you agree that the first conscious step toward a positive culture is to actively collect the values of each member of the group?” I stopped. “A little scary, perhaps. Until we collect the values, we can get away with ambiguity. Once we collect the values, there is no place to hide.”

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