Identity is an inside job.
Culture is an inside job.
It is easy for people outside an organization to make broad sweeping statements labeling your company or stating, “The culture of this organization is ____________________ (fill in the blank)” Sometimes those statements are referring to culture in a positive way, too often the comments are negative.
People outside the organization can certainly state how they identify with your organization, or what they believe the culture is based on their interactions with your organization. Different groups and individuals will identify differently with your organization depending on their experiences, interactions, perceptions, influences and biases.
They do not however, get to dictate what the company identity and culture actually are. Identity is who you are as an organization, what you stand for and what you believe. It is about what you do and whom you do it for. It is about your stated and lived values.
Culture has many definitions. Three that I like come from Pat Welsh, Rob Newson and Owen Eastwood.
“ Culture is the expected and accepted way of thinking, talking and acting within a group.” Pat Welsh
“Culture is what people expect to get rewarded and punished for and how people make decisions when no one is watching them. From an organizational perspective you need to get people on the same page about what actions are accepted, expected and celebrated. Culture is not the feel of the place (ping pong tables and snacks), it is how people live and the expectations they place on themselves and their teammates.” Rob Newson
“Culture is not a stand-alone aspect of performance. Culture is the environment and experience we have every minute of every day.” Owen Eastwood
As a leader you need to be intentional about identifying, understanding, building and sharing the identity and values of your organization. These are too important to be left to chance. As a leader within your organization you need to be intentional about imbedding and sharing these concepts within your area of influence. The people you have the privilege and honor of leading need to feel like they play an active role in the development and modeling of your values, identity and culture.
If people outside your organization have a negative view of the identity and culture of your organization, then you have some work to do. That work starts inside the organization to get values, identify and culture all in alignment first and then you can work to change the perceptions of those outside the organization who have had less desirable experiences. Too often we start outside the organization and try and put a fancy façade on a crumbling structure. Without addressing and issues within the organization first, that façade will crumble and fall. Identity, values and culture need to be built on a strong foundation that ensures your people are your number one priority.
Identity, values and culture are inside jobs. Start there and realize this is a continuous process of building, refining, educating, and living. When these areas are all in alignment, your people, who are the face and the future of your organization, will work to change any negative outside perceptions through their daily actions.
Remember that leadership is a choice and a journey and it starts with you. Choose well, keep learning and enjoy the journey. The Dare to Be Great: Strategies for Creating a Culture of Leading online workshop was created for aspiring leaders and frontline leaders to help you on your leadership journey.