Great culture doesn’t just happen. Building a strong culture requires planning, effort, and incorporation into your daily processes and behaviors.
If culture is the sum of our daily actions, then people and teams are the true drivers of culture. The people you choose to be leaders, the individuals you promote, the way you organize teams, and who you decide to hire all send strong messages about your culture.
Ensure cultural fit is an evaluation criteria for selecting leaders or employees. Make cultural fit part of your design considerations for organizing a team.
At one consulting firm whose culture is very strong, they focus on being a meritocracy. People are valued about all else. Selection to lead teams and become a partner at the firm is based in large part upon people leadership and cultural fit for their behaviors.
One candidate to become a partner used to beat their teams up. He would overwork them, not show appreciation for their work and, in some cases, be disrespectful to team members. During the partner evaluation process, 360 evaluations were conducted. This person received very strong negative feedback about their behaviors. They weren’t promoted that cycle. He was given a clear development plan to behave in a more culturally appropriate manner. He did change his behaviors and eventually got promoted to partner.
Let’s look at tying culture to organizing your teams. There are several techniques for building teams that will support your culture:
Leadership Role Selection
When selecting someone for a leadership role, assess their prior efforts and how they’ve strengthened or weakened culture. Have the strength to pass over someone who gets results at the expense of the culture you’re trying to build.
Make culture a promotion selection criteria. When you promote someone, ensure you discuss their cultural contributions very clearly in the promotion announcement. When you do so, people will see that culture is clearly a consideration for promotion and hopefully they’ll modify their behaviors accordingly.
During the hiring process when you have a consensus meeting to discuss the candidate, have an explicit conversation about a candidate’s cultural fit. If there are strong reservations over cultural fit, pass on hiring that candidate no matter how strong their track record is elsewhere; because if you hire them, you may be adding a bad actor into your cultural mix.
When you structure teams, consider team mix as it relates to culture. Mix cultural champions or exemplars with young team members or with problem team members. Having those strong performers living and working alongside the people who don’t know the culture yet or the people who aren’t living up to the culture can accelerate the behavior change you’re looking for.
When I was at the United States Military Academy, roommate assignments weren’t random. Every semester we got a new roommate. There were many situations where the Academy said “we’re going to take this high performer and have them room with somebody who needs a little cultural tuning up.” The notion was that the low performer could learn from the high performer on a daily basis. A lot of times that was a successful approach.
As you look at building and organizing your teams, make sure you have culture as one of the major evaluation criteria for who you promote, who you hire, and who you have working with one another.
Want to learn more about this topic? How about taking an entire course on it? Check out the video below to learn more about Creating a High Performance Culture to get started. You can also go directly to the course and start learning how to create your own high-performing culture. The entire course is available at lynda.com. Enjoy!
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