Culture Your Culture appeared on Small Biz Daily's Business Books for the Holidays List! I always felt the red on my book's cover was festive.
Makes for a great Christmas gift or birthday, or anytime gift for that matter! Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season. I'll see you in the New Year!
"One good turn deserves another" as they say. That was true in this case. We had such a good time talking back in September that we decided to do it again in December. Being a radio show first and a podcast second, time allotments are limited. I was happy to return for another conversation on Sharon Kay's What's the 411? Sharon is a generous and inquisitive host, and it was great to provide perspective on recent headlines related to GM's plant closures and the scandals plaguing the tech industry (especially Facebook at the moment). Check it out!
This article originally appeared on the SHRM Executive Network HR People + Strategy Journal Blog.
What does it mean when “culture” is a part of your job title or role description? Can one person (or even a whole functional area) alone be totally in charge of and wield its power?
Culture is not about amenities, employee appreciation days, company picnics, or community service events. It is “a construct reflected in all things that have the power to influence behaviors, interactions, and perception within a socially defined entity or institution…[delineating] the boundaries of what is acceptable and not acceptable. [It] is manifested in how people behave, interact, react, and perceive reality. Culture is created, reinforced, and experienced by people.” Because it’s shared, no one can control culture, and yet it is accessible enough that a single person can make a difference. There are a number of roles for HR to play when it comes to culture:
Educator. The topic of culture can be intimidating to some because they don’t understand it. This might lead them to push it aside or ignore it when they really shouldn’t. Who will enlighten them? If this describes HR, corrective action is needed if they truly want to be the conscience of the organization. The educator must first be educated, and there’s nothing like having to learn something in order to teach it. As attributed to William Glasser, we learn 95% of what we teach others. People have to learn the importance of culture, how it impacts behaviors (like decision-making), and influences outcomes (for better or worse). Leaders have to understand that culture is more than a liability--it can also be a business asset.
Facilitator. Culture change gets that extra boost and attention as a designated initiative, but it must also be continually managed as part of “business as usual.” In either scenario, the CEO should be the ultimate culture champion. In partnership with or in the absence of that leadership, HR must step up to make it happen. Either empower others, or lead yourself.
Evangelist. When it comes to culture, be visible, communicate frequently, and consistently demonstrate by example. Recruit other evangelists across the organization regardless of role, level, background, or responsibilities. Make culture the backbone of how your company operates and integrate awareness of culture into daily work life. Compel people to take active roles in supporting and experiencing a healthy culture. You’ll know how successful you are based on how well the aspirational culture sticks.
Sponsor. A sponsor doesn’t just endorse. Sponsorship means you are willing to stick your neck out for it and be an active advocate. If you believe in the aspirational culture the company is promoting, there should be no hesitation. I don’t mean that you sacrifice yourself for the cause (without champions of culture, things will be worse off). Influence as much as you can for the intended outcomes.
Connector. Should you and your HR function assume these other roles, you become a nexus point in the organization, one that knows what’s going on, who’s who, and what’s to come. This enables you to connect people and create the platform where new connections uncover possibilities and catalyze results.
Notice advisor is not on this list. That’s because assuming this role could lead to the misconception that you “own culture,” which isn’t true and won’t help your cause. Advising also promotes a certain emotional distance and separates you from being a part of the shared community. Leave advising to the external consultants. Remember that within the company, culture is accessible to all as “consumers of the work experience,” and “everyone is prequalified to contribute.” Avoid being known as the culture advisor.
HR is by no means restricted to these roles, and there are certainly connection points and overlaps. Resist the temptation to see these as a checklist—instead, treat it as a collective state of mind that influences actions on a perpetual basis. If fulfilled, HR will have an amazing impact when it comes to culture, for it creates a virtuous cycle of positivity when done well. Healthy culture = trusted HR function.
Where to start? First, there are things you can do right away in your of daily life. Look for and pay attention to culture and how it is revealed day-to-day—in meetings, interactions, written communications, decisions, etc. Ask yourself: How is our culture influencing our perceptions or actions? What anomalies or individual circumstances might create an undesirable long-term impact on the culture? Are we reinforcing a desirable or undesirable pattern or norm? Are we building up our culture or eroding it? Do our words match our actions? What are the cultural consequences of my behaviors as a leader?
Adopt language that indicates your understanding and priorities when it comes to culture. Point out what you are paying attention to and observing. This reminds people of culture’s pervasive influence and encourage others to follow suit.
Make employee engagement a priority--not just in task or operationally--but strategically. Start with a deep dive into the current state to uncover and understand its complexities and mechanisms. Answer: Do values, brand, and intentions match lived experience? Are cultural norms intentional and positive? Are other experiences compromising the integrity of the culture? What strengths enhance the organization? Where are the unmet needs when it comes to culture?
With that knowledge, the excuse of ignorance is no longer valid. That’s a good thing, because now you can take informed action. Design of Work Experience can guide your organization through the process of understanding your current state, designing for change, implementing for the future, and sustaining it. Don’t wait to leverage culture for the better, because you could be heading off a brewing firestorm without even knowing it. A better, stronger future awaits.
All quotes from Culture Your Culture: Innovating Experiences @Work by Karen Jaw-Madson (Emerald Group Publishing, 2018)
Thank goodness a friend of mine received a copy of this magazine and snapped a photo for me. I otherwise would not have known that CYC was included in the Best issue of TD Magazines under the Best of HR Books. What an honor to mentioned next to titles like Amy Radin's The Change Maker's Playbook and Marc Effron's 8 Steps to High Performance. I am awestruck seeing my baby in print every time, and it never gets old.
We sometimes are our own worst enemies when we practice self-limitation, especially with either-or thinking. The Looking For And podcast seeks to make the shift to "yes, and," a principle popularized by improv to open ourselves to the possibilities and make connections. So much of practicing Design of Work Experience is about Yes And, but you can find the specific shout out to it on p. 113 of the book. Check out the interview!
Despite it's success predicated on the talents of individuals and teams, most conversations about Design of Work Experience are about organization-scale culture and change. On Get Yourself The Job, we delve into how culture affects the individual, what they can do about it, and the implications of culture "fit." Many of my coaching conversations cover this territory and people's specific situations, but here's a chance to hear about it as a general audience. Give it a listen here.
My publisher has been supportive of Culture Your Culture--this podcast is an example. It was a luxury to not have to worry about time limits and commercial breaks while doing a deep dive into the content. All that being said, this episode still clocks in under 30 minutes, and yet we covered so much. Please enjoy it!
It's every speaker's dream to have an engaged audience. I was truly honored to present Culture Your Culture at The Design Collective's Salon in SF last night, which included lifestyle brand makers and creative directors, furniture designers, high-end plumbers, an auditor, life coach, product designers, purveyor of wall coverings, a UX designer, an architect, writers, and other creatives. Highlights from the dialogue are worth sharing!
The host of Thank God for Monday, Brother Greg Cellini, has an interesting background. He spent almost 30 years in corporate (working for big pharma) before joining the Franciscan Brothers and returning to his roots at Seton Hall University and becoming a broadcaster. This interview was a homecoming of sorts for me too. I spent 8th, 9th, and 10th grades in South Orange, living less than a mile down the road from Seton Hall. I love the name of this show because it reflects what work is meant to be--a welcome and meaningful endeavor even on Mondays. This interview had some great questions (with hopefully equally great answers from me). Lots of great topics covered--from entrepreneurship to diversity to leadership and employee engagement. You will have to scroll through the episode list to find me, but it's worth it!
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