The Culture Slip and Slide
The Culture Slip and Slide
Business is a funny thing. On the surface it seems to be about making money. Ultimately any business owner knows the question you have to answer day after day is "are we making money?"
But if we go a step further we must ask ourselves why do we need money? Why as a business or organization do we care? What does the world lose if tomorrow your business is gone?
So here we have it. The true purpose of business. The answer is your legacy, which is how you impact the world, and you only do that by impacting people.
So how many people's lives did you change for the better?
As a business we have the privilege of giving our people the ability to provide for their families, the ability to contribute to something greater than themselves and a higher purpose to believe in.
Which is really the human experience we are all desiring is it not?
So what then is the Culture Slip? How do we go from this perfectly beautiful idea to an organization that is driven by profits? How do we lose site of the dream of a higher purpose?
The First Slip
The first thing that happens is things get hard. If we don't know exactly who we are and who we want to be as individuals how can we know as a team? And if we don't know that, then how can we make choices that align with this identity when things get tough? Do we take that contract with the shady client? Do we layoff without looking for creative solutions?
Tough times cause people to chose the easy path, and these actions reflect a lack of connection to foundational values. Being true to your values can be a hard path, but it is a righteous one. For some it is the only one. Is that you?
The Second Slip
When you are a small business, you the owner make the hiring decisions. Whether you know it or not you find people who share the same values and energy and you engage with them.
At some point this gets convoluted. You need this skill or that skill and the endless dance between skillset and fit begins. Without understanding who you are as an organization it is easy to get caught up in personalities that may not reflect your true values. Do you value performance or relationships? Strict execution or flexible innovation? Do you see how this matters?
The Third Slip
Even if you have been able to avoid the first slip and the second slip, the third one is lurking around the corner.
If you grow, eventually someone other than you (the owner) will hire somebody. That person, although he/she may have an intimate understanding of your culture can't help but put their own perspective on it. And so on and so forth so every time this happens, the original identity is diluted a little bit.
The only way to combat this is to define exactly who you are and who you want to be, and to reinforce it again and again in a cascading repetition of messaging. But even this only gets you so far. You have to back it all up with your actions, especially in hard times. These are the stories that shape a culture.
So there you have your answer.
To avoid the slip look inward and know who you are and who you want to be, both as an individual and as an organization.
To avoid the slip, know your purpose and what the world loses if you didn't exist.
To avoid the slip, define these things and define them well.
To avoid the slip, reinforce with cascading messaging.
To avoid the slip, take the hard path when you need to because you know it's the right thing to do.