The Role Your Culture Plays as a Leader
When you build your culture right, it becomes one of the most powerful leading influences for your company. The goal is to get people to stop asking you, "Can we take this action?" and start asking themselves, "Is this the kind of action we should take?"
The main challenge for many leaders is pinning down exactly what culture is. The specifics are different for everybody. For a housewares company, culture may rely on product buyers sticking to aesthetic principles. For a family law office, an important element may be the amount of direct contact partners have with clients.
Every group has a culture. In essence, it's the way everybody in your company follows through on the commitments you've made. That's one of the most important things to remember: Culture is about action.
Your job as a leader is to make sure you are using your culture to guide your company. The first step is defining what exactly what kind of actions you want your team to take. Ask yourself some general questions to start:
What attitudes do you need?
What behaviors get the results you want?
Which core values work with your operations?
Your next goal is to communicate your culture to your team. The most straightforward way of doing this is by setting rules. Make sure they're clear and actionable to everybody in every department.
Many people tend to think of business as a team sport, and there are some strong parallels. However, if you're leading vs. managing, your company should usually resemble a game of golf more than a game of football.
In golf, you have to take your penalties, count your strokes and keep your score. It's the way you develop the skills you need to succeed. In culture leadership, you have to make decisions that embody your core values — whatever you decide they should be. Nobody's looking over your shoulder to improve your golf game or to focus the culture of your organization.
This honor-system approach creates leadership potential in every member of your team. You'll be communicating a clear set of rules and helping everyone understand their value. Everyone gets to make their own decision to play by the book.
Sometimes it might seem like a good idea to do something against your group's culture. Remember that you built your culture around the attitudes, behaviors and values that align with your vision of success. Trust that your vision gets closer to becoming reality as long as everybody is following the same cultural guidelines.
In a leadership role, your influence on culture is immense. People look to you for big ideas, such as vision and inspiration, but they also look to you for a practical example of how to act. When you and your leaders walk the walk as well as talking the talk, the rest of the group will follow.