The Top 10 Myths About Company Culture


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We’ve talking a couple of times about how you can develop a great company culture.  But recently I was talking with a client about culture, and I was stunned to hear her ideas about what culture is and how you get a great one.

So, just to help us all get on a level playing field, I thought I’d debunk the top 10 myths about company culture.

First of all – it’s not about just perks and benefits.  Now, of course, both perks and benefits can add to a positive environment – but you can throw all the foozball tables and 5pm open beer fridge Fridays at your team that you want – and while they may have a good time (oh, and by the way – the open beer fridge thing…..well, just no); you’ll find that good time is fleeting.  It’s a transitory feeling … of the moment.  It won’t fix a bad culture.

That’s because company culture goes much deeper than a surface good time.  It’s about your values, beliefs and the behaviors that define how you show up in your world.  And, are your team members aligned with those values and beliefs.  You see, a huge part of culture is walking the talk.  So, if there’s friction between what you say about how the company behaves, and what actually goes on in the day to day – well then, that’s going to have a huge, negative impact on culture.

Another big culture myth is that responsibility for creating and maintaining a good culture – well, that’s the responsibility of HR, or the CEO, or the leadership team.  When actually, it’s the responsibility and accountability of everyone – that’s right – every single one of your team members is responsible for creating and maintaining a great culture.  And by the way – that includes you.

Everyone has to be held accountable by everyone else to uphold the company’s values, beliefs and practices.  Again, it’s in the doing – what happens every day.  That’s what matters.

we’ll be ready to apply for a best workplace award in just a few weeks!

Um – no you won’t.  Well, that is unless you were ready to apply before.  Listen, you just can’t build a strong culture overnight or in a couple of weeks.

Now here’s one – just for my CEO friends – you read a great book, or attend a moving seminar on culture and decide – that’s for me.  I’m going back to my team, putting all these techniques in place and our culture will be top notch – in fact, we’ll be ready to apply for a best workplace award in just a few weeks!

Um – no you won’t.  Well, that is unless you were ready to apply before.  Listen, you just can’t build a strong culture overnight or in a couple of weeks.  It takes time, effort and consistent reinforcement.  After all, we’re dealing with people’s behaviors – and you know it takes more than a minute to break someone of bad habits and replace them with good habits. You’re going to have to be dedicated, and be able to adapt as the company grows and evolves.

So you say – well, alright.  I can’t grow a stellar culture overnight…how about this.  How about I look at the culture of Company XYZ, and do everything they’re doing.  Basically, I’ll just co-opt their culture.  After all, if it’s good enough for them….

OK, well not so fast.  Trying to copy company culture is like trying to copy someone’s retina scan.  In both cases, there are so many variables that impact the final product, you can’t account for everything.  You’re far better off doing everything you can to learn from successful companies.  What strategies are they using, what roadblocks have they run into.  Then use that information to adapt a solution for your team.

Every company will have a unique set of values, goals and even employees – the culture has to reflect those distinctions.

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Oh, I bet you’ve heard this one – what’s the big deal about culture.  It won’t really impact the bottom line.  Well, that’s where you’re wrong, my friend.  A strong company culture can improve employee retention and attract top talent – and in this of all talent markets – aren’t we all looking for that non stop?  Having the right people, in the right seats, and keeping them there for a minute – well that will absolutely contribute to better financial performance.

This is one of my favorites – let’s just do this thing, I did it at my last job and it worked perfectly.  Sorry, there isn’t a one size fits all approach that will work for building culture.  Again, different industries, company sizes, employee demographics – they all require a tailored approach.  So forget the overalls – and think Haute Couture.

A great culture is all about the office environment.  Translation – beautiful offices equal great culture.  Well, again – not quite.  Sure a beautiful and comfortable workspace can certainly make you feel better.  But culture goes deeper – what about the leadership style, communication, policies and interpersonal interactions.  If you don’t address all those – the pretty office is just that and nothing more.

Now, this is a huge myth – a strong culture means no conflicts or problems.  Afraid not – don’t forget, we’re still dealing with humans here, so disagreements and challenges are a natural part of the soup.  That’s why a strong culture has to promote open communication, effective conflict resolution and continuous learning and improvement. (sound familiar?).

And here’s one for all us boutique organizations – Company culture is only important for large organizations.  Now – while #1, that’s simply not true, in fact company culture can really be a game changer for smaller companies.  It will help you get great talent; and go miles in creating a differentiator for your company.  In short, a great company culture helps you stand out, with both candidates and clients.

And finally, great culture is a guarantee of success. Nope – I’m afraid it’s not that easy.  Great company culture is only one of a number of factors that influence success – you can’t forget things like strategy, execution and innovation.  But I will tell you this – while a great culture won’t guarantee success; a bad one will definitely impede it.

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