Show me ten organizations, and I’ll show you ten different organizational cultures. That’s the beauty of it – every organization has its own story, its own unique culture that guides strategic thought and practical application.
Culture ties a person’s daily efforts to the higher purpose of the organization, driving excellence and inspiring achievement along the way. The challenge lies in how well an organization utilizes that culture to influence and engage its talent.
I’ve worked with companies that can tell great stories, but when you look around their work environment it’s like, “What gives?” There is little, if any, evidence of the company’s past to provide direction toward a promising future.
It is a leader’s responsibility to act as a Cultural Attaché, ensuring employees remain immersed in the richness of their culture. While organizations will be diverse, three tips help guide your efforts:
Size Doesn’t Matter
Fortune 500 or family-owned business, every organization can embrace their unique Culture. If you’re just starting out, this is a great time to gather a collective focus, determine who you are, and how you will be conducting business. You are creating your future from this moment on.
Larger organizations, with more storied histories, will want to evaluate their cultural strategies periodically, to maintain relevance to today’s workforce. Your efforts should inspire a balance between what you have done, with the potential of a bright and prosperous future.
I know first-hand how hard it can be to establish a workable culture when you first open the doors. When we started our restaurant, the best way to describe any presence of culture would be “Desperation.”
Please invest the time to share your visions and aspirations with your team. Solicit input to promote engagement. Remember that your culture will guide and influence strategy over time, but your staff will be interacting with your customers and guests daily.
Let The River Flow
Make your culture visible and relatable to everything you do. This is the secret behind some of the world’s most successful brands – the ability to emotionally identify with and understand the connection to the organization’s higher purpose.
The Ritz-Carlton, for example, is the world’s most recognized, iconic Luxury Brand.
Every element of hotel design, menu planning, guest service experience, heart of house and guest facing behaviors, including verbal and non-verbal communication, refers to a set of five Gold Standards both directly and intuitively. This culture permeates a property, inspiring each Lady or Gentlemen to think innovatively, always questioning, “What more can I do to exceed my guest’s expectations?”
That’s the power within a culture.
Consider ways that you currently promote your culture. Breakrooms and cafeterias are great places to display items of cultural relevance. These could be quotes from previous leaders, or statements that describe and define ultimate objectives.
This can also be the platform to reinforce your organization’s Core Values, guiding principles that influence behavior among individual employees and the organization in general. Like any aspect of your business, it is the process that will produce results. The more consistent you are with reinforcing culture, the more influence it will carry among your work force.
Weave In A Great Story
Storytelling is a great tool to promote what culture represents to the success of an organization. This will require vigilance on your part to catch people doing something right, then provide the appropriate connection to your higher purpose. The more you practice, the more natural the process will become. For example:
Arrivals had slowed to a trickle, and I wanted to seize the opportunity to provide the Front Desk Supervisor my impressions and positive feedback. She was walking toward the end of the desk when I asked if she had a moment.
“Well, I was going to grab a coffee before Starbucks closed,” she said, then paused and asked, “How may I assist you?”
We laughed and I began to share my feedback with her. Admittedly, with the pace of the evening, I thought this was my one opportunity to highlight the many positives of her performance.
Just then, a late shuttle arrived from the airport and guests began to pile into the lobby. The supervisor glanced briefly toward Starbucks, then excused herself as she moved back to her station to assist with the new batch of arrivals.
I felt awful, and jubilant at the same time. The only thing she wanted to do was grab a coffee before Starbucks closed, a last-minute pick-me-up to help power through the rest of her shift. Looking back, I acted selfishly, consumed in my determination to provide in the moment feedback.
But when faced with a choice, the ultimate moment of truth, the supervisor chose to serve her guests, placing that commitment above personal wants and desires. I was overcome with pride, having witnessed a living application of the organization’s people first culture.
My shift ended before I could share this secondary recognition and promise that the coffee would be on me next time we worked together. While I still owe her that coffee, it hasn’t stopped me from sharing this story with service professionals across multiple brands and industries. Great examples, great stories are invaluable to the efforts of any Cultural Attaché on a mission to inspire performance.
One Stone At A Time
An organization’s Culture is a precious commodity. Able to withstand the twists and turns of time, it stands as a constant among the chaos, reassuring every employee of what the organization represents. It provides a glimpse into the past, while slowly forging a bright and prosperous future for everyone involved.
Leaders act as an organization’s Cultural Attaché, leading the process of cultural awareness by referencing elements of performance and achievement back to cultural touchpoints, such as a Vision, Mission Statement, or Core Values. This process is enhanced through great storytelling, the art of catching people doing something right, then turning that into a lesson others may learn from.