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At first, I thought that one of the most important things in order to choose a good company to work with was the company’s culture. Now, I realised that what I actually wanted is to work in a team that has the same understanding as me, and can motivate, challenge and inspire me.
An effective team is a very valuable business tool that has many facets and requires sound leadership. In my experience, a team is rarely built and complete, it is an evolving collective of people that requires constant maintenance to ensure it operates in a positive manner ie: no sniping, and it’s goals remain aligned with the company.
The team is many times what keeps people at their company. A great team can make a “iffy” company palatable – your friends within the company are most likely inside the team verses somewhere else in the company
I have been working in companies with “great teams” and felt horrified by the team leader and then I have been working at companies in teams that did not have such a “great reputation” but I felt great, cared for and enthusiastic about my work.. which leads me to the thinking: what does “great team” mean for me personally and what does it tell me about myself? This question cannot be answered in an interview by someone else.. this question needs to be answers by our self before we go searching for a new place to work..
I like that – “It’s hard, but at least it’s the right hard thing.” I can use that!
Thank you for providing this resource, it’s brilliant! Here are my thoughts;
These are the type of issues that ‘Challenge-Centered innovation – Stephen Shapiro’ or similarly, the ‘Innovator’s Method – Jeff Dyer/Nathan Furr’ when built into a software platform help teams dynamically form around a challenge and progress it through the organization providing the structure to communicate the information outward and upward so that the left hand does know what the right hand is doing. It allows teams to build around both the idea or challenge and the inspired idea generator/sponsor or project manager. In addition, this connectivity can be modelled by quantum entanglement and is necessary from an evolutionary perspective and supported by the Physics.
Thank you for answering my question, Marcus! And yes, you pronounced it correctly! 🙂
What time will be the Q&A with Marcus?
I think that the “peacock feathers” are used to recruit people who value the same things, perhaps thinking that once they are hired on they will form teams who also value the same things and therefore will work well together. But these “peacock feathers” really are a form of currency so of course they lose value over time. A good team would be more valued because it provides a sense of community where our best selves can exist. A good team brings out the best in us. Who wouldn’t want that?
I wish I had asked four questions during an interview: 1) How does my position integrate into other teams successfully? 2) What specifically will company x,y,z do to foster and encourage team strengthening? 3) How many people are on my team ? 4) How does company x, y, z measure a successful team?
I read chapter/lie 1 last week. It was great to get these research findings to support what we may have had in us as a vague implicit notion. Now I am wondering, whether this situation is caused by the inability of the senior management of an organisation to make their visions trickle down to the rest of the organisation in a practical way or whether the management is not quite interested such a trickle-down per se, but use the visions as “peacock feathers”.
I love this innovative thinking. It’s out-of-the-box conversation when it comes to discussing the workplace. Looking forward to more interaction concerning this topic.
I follow and believe on “the future of work” and “the employee experience” as Jacob Morgan express it, the premisse on his statements are that the employee can´t bring to the client an experience he has not lived on the company, how can you relate this truth to Jacob´s point of view.
I am SO excited to be re-engaging with you two on this incredibly important journey of bringing humanity, compassion and truth to the world of work, It is so needed. Grateful for the research that exposes these lies and the wonderful stories you tell that bring the truth to light. Cheers!
Well that’s a great question when interviewing a company to see if you want to work there. What do you do to create great teams?
As to lie #1, I worked in Leadership Development for a retail company that’s been on Fortune’s best place to work ever since the list existed. The turnover in that department, though, was huge–exceeding the turnover even in the retail portion of the business. Although I and many others were excited about coming to work at this recognized “Best Place to Work,” the team we were on created a lot more loathing than loving the work.
People want the ability to make progress each day to the work that’s most important to them. As leaders, we need to enable them. How do we get people to the “apex” of maximum satisfaction and maximum engagement; a work environment where they bring their best selves (passion, knowledge, skills, abilities, etc.) to work every day and give that extra discretionary effort. This is a multi-faceted issue and one size does not fit all, but there are some practices that support employee performance that we can embrace and there are practices to avoid that do little to motivate employees.
Yes! So true! Typically a company’s culture statement is exact opposite of what they really are…..what they are not and wish to be. LOL So disappointing huh…been on that hook….a couple of times. This is great….this coalition is talking about things that have been mum for too long. Thank you for your voices! 🙂 C.
I am curious if Marcus commented on another top executive’s by name like he did about Sheryl Sandberg’s performance. It sounded like feedback and the book states feedback is counter productive. Why this example and why her?
Lie 1: My experience is that greater meaning and autonomy at work weighs more than company ranking or compensation.
1. I am really enthusiastic about the mission of my company.
2. At work, I clearly understand what is expected of me.
3. In my team, I am surrounded by people who share my values.
4. I have the chance to use my strengths every day at work.
5. My teammates have my back.
6. I know I will be recognized for excellent work.
7. I have great confidence in my company’s future.
8. In my work, I am always challenged to grow.
Does anyone know where I can find the 8 questions? Are they they taken from the Gallup 12 Questions, just the ones focused on team and individual?
Just found them again by repeat listening of Lie 1 chapter, Ashley basically reads them out 🙂
The question I am getting from Senior Leadership is how are you defining “engaged”? That definition seems to be different from engagement company to engagement company.
Question: 82% work on a team, and 72% of them work on multiple teams (59% of total). People care about which team they are on (and the dynamics of that team: trust, belonging, support, recognition, etc.).
1. When you’ve done these surveys, how do those 59% respond: solely on their “primary” team where the org. chart shows them, in an overall sense across each team they belong to, or answering separately for each team they are on?
2. How would you suggest asking these questions within our organizations, particularly where people work on many, many teams? (e.g., do project managers answer in terms of their team of project managers, or in regards to each project team they are on?)
…Or does that even matter? 🙂
This makes sense. The 8 questions identify what we’ve known are important: a compelling mission (that is making a difference and larger than one’s self; ,meaning on the macro level), clear expectations, shared team values (belonging), opportunity to excel, team belonging (again), recognition, security, and growth opportunity/challenging work (that gives meaning on the micro level). And, of course, that TRUST is everything. Nice to have it backed by data, though, putting the “hard data” into the realm of “soft”. Great stuff!
Such an interesting point. I joined a company because of what the company stood for and their vision. At the time, what they did matched what I wanted to do. I stayed because of the teams I was on; staying for 22 years and moving throughout the organization on different teams, sometimes as a member of the team, sometimes as the leader of the team. I ended up leaving this same organization when what the company stood for no longer matched their behaviours and practices and when my Manager failed to deliver on promises. The strength of the relationships within the team no longer outweighed the grand errors the company and my Manager continued to make. The culture lever became damaged as the company grew exponentially fast and the infrastructure of that culture was not maintained. ‘And yet…is it true that companies has 1 definable culture?’ In my experience no, this is not true. In fact, not only are their various defineable cultures within an organization, there are varying degrees of commitment to that culture no matter the team you may be on. Some individuals are committed to that team and others are not. The proverbial ‘fit’ to a team is paramount to individual success and to team success. In my experience it can be one bad apple that ruins the whole bunch just as it can be one magnificent individual that influences the whole in a tremendously uplifting way.
I really like the idea of breaking the company into smaller teams and in turn work the engagement of these individuals. When you conduct a survey on engagement at the company level, you might be misled by the overall result and loose the oportunity to work on the specific needs of your team members. It is virtually impossible to design an approach that works well for a large number of individuals. As someone that is new in the role of team leader, I find it very challenging to create the right conditions for my team members to thrive. The 8 questions shown by Marcus shed some light on it. Personally, I’m more attracted to how I feel in the environment I’m working in than by the company’s stated culture.
Hi! Has anyone come across an effective way to measure engagement on a team level? The most well know instruments like Gallup Q12 seem to focus on a company level, but, as this section shows, this does not seem to capture the spirit of it. Thank you!
HI Bogdan, I have just joined. What size team, please?
Hi Bodgen. I’ve just been introduced to GoalsIQ. They have an employee flourishing survey that goes beyond just engagement measures. It does allow for data that is discernable for the whole organization, for teams within the organization, for positions within the team, right down to the individual. http://www.goalsiq.com
Watching Ashley’s videos, you seem to be going down a path of some of the “theory of the firm” researchers. What I am hearing you say supports Yochai Benkler’s argument of the increasing importance and success of “commons-based peer-production” systems, questioning the concept of a physical firm (permanently aggregated factors of production), questioning the inefficiency of constantly going to the market for resources (why firms have employees instead of contractors – rising of the gig economy), and even questioning the idea of firm ownership as reasons for companies. This suggests (as does your emphasis on teams) that the firm has various members rather than owners. The members are not only pursuing economic value, but value in all the differential function systems. Member self-interest must be optimal rather than maximal to keep other members engaged. Maximizing shareholder wealth is replaced by optimizing stakeholders wellbeing—not unlike it is done in the open-source movement, the makers movement or even an Amish barn raising.
Maybe it is the exception that proves the rule, but my research into benefit corporations, B-Corps, L3Cs and other alternatives to shareholder primacy structures suggest that some people do care about the company they work for. I think (suspect) the common denominator is these forms of company, and most teams, are focused on the value they are creating and for whom they are creating it. Most companies, lip service aside, state implicitly or explicitly the value they are creating is wealth for shareholders. The other point could be that these alternate forms for profit-seeking enterprises tend to be smaller and well within in the Dunbar number, making them more like teams from an affiliation perspective.
So far this feels overly simple, just like the idea of a monolithic culture. Each person is a complex adaptive system, existing in complex adaptive systems, that exist in complex adaptive systems, ad nauseum. My experience (which drove me back to school for my doctorate to try and understand) is that culture (and associated climates) is an emergent property of the moment (including the people, places, things, ideas, experiences at that point in time). Individuals, I included, seek to maximize our well being across lots of different dimensions (like Roth’s 10 differentiated function systems from social systems theory – which gives you a way to harden the concept of values – each system supplies some). What a company offers is an environment that “defines” the limits of those dimensions (scope and scale). Teams then emerge and create an instance of a “culture” with “climates” based upon movement across all those dimensions. Your affiliation with a team is a function of the synchronicity of your needs across the dimensions, and the team’s ability to supply those needs. The work gets done when the needs are being met. Productive teams (engaged) are emergent, self-organizing, non-linear (which is why they outperform forced teams), and evolutionary. My experience is that leaders emerge (see research on special forces teams and how leadership dynamically shifts among members) based upon trust – in the person, in the person’s knowledge, in the person’s conviction (see Fukuyama’s “Trust”). I also think you must think about the team’s purpose – production or creativity/problem solving/innovation have very different dynamics. I’d argue that the best team leaders allow situational leaders to emerge when it is right. Ties well to Dan Pink’s Drive (seek mastery, seek purpose, seek autonomy to do the work my way). Looking forward to the next video.
Great comments, I agree with this thesis. Applying it to the innovator’s method or the challenge centered innovation approach, there is then a framework to understand when the different leadership requirements are needed and at what cadence.
There is an old saying that “People join companies but leave because of managers” …From my experience, expectation not reflecting reality !
I say that the company’s culture is made by cells of people. The cells are bigger or small as a variation of the influence the leader that people admired and are inspired by and pass it along their own sub-cell making a merge into a bigger one. Not only that but also how the leader’s profile inspired and encourages a set of behaviours and “punishes” others.
Cells are created and dismantled according with the lifecyle of that leader. That is why in the same “department” people doing the same functions are immersed in different cultures and thus have different working experiences. The diversity of the constituents of the cells of culture make each cells different from each other, by providing them with a colourful tone.
I would say that company cultures are made up by collective habits of the people working there. The bigger the company is, the less monolithic the culture becomes.
Lack of employee engagement is largely caused by poor leadership. We still hire, train and manage people like it is 1950. Look at most organizational reward or recognition programs. They are largely based upon longevity which given the nature of work today makes no sense at all.
I’m a relatively new leader at work and I have been using the book “First, Break All the Rules” as a guide to develop my strategy for how I lead. I’m already learning more from the first three lies – I appreciate this opportunity to grow and develop other leaders on my team.
Get out of my head!!! I was having a conversation with a prospective client last week and I said that teams are what is important. Now I can’t wait for the book to come out.
I am still shocked that only 17% of employees are engaged. Seems so a powerful opportunity!
I am curious if there is any other study linking this lack of engagement with stress or mental health challenges
Different research shows different results, but regardless of the exact number, the key is that the majority of people are disengaged at some level, whether that is moderately or severely, and that only a very small portion are highly engaged. Most are, it seems, somewhere in the middle: zombies, showing up and going through the motions, but not fully alive. (And, thankfully, also not actively setting the place on fire.) But that’s also what makes it an easy problem to ignore or pretend is better than it is. Sigh.
I would really love to see the ADP Research Institute research showing that an employee is 44 times more likely to be fully engaged if he/she trusts the team leader. That is a mind-blowing statistic that we could really build on to drive leadership development!
I started sharing the 8 questions(2 questions a day until friday) to my team this week in preparation for their weekly technical training. This is to get them mentally prepared, challenged and inspired to learn and update their skills one step at a time. I am just excited about this for all of us! Just sharing what i am hearing and it feels really good! Thank you flc!
I appreciate the use of research over theory and these videos always inspire thought! It reminds me of a conversation I was having with a leader the other day who works for one of those companies that comes to mind for this topic. He made the comment that he sees the company culture changing and he doesn’t like it. After getting into some specifics with him, I asked if he could push those elements of culture within his team. He threw up his hands and said that fixing one team isn’t going to fix the company. I’m going to share this Lie with him and delve further into the culture he can create within his team. I thought it was interesting that the change in corporate “culture” was actually stopping him from creating his own ideal climate within his team. As if having a strong company culture prohibits micro-cultures within teams?
Jukka – what the research tells us is this: while it’s great to recommend one’s company as a place to work, that’s not something that’s distinctive about the best teams, nor that predicts higher performance. So it’s not at all clear that the intent to recommend is something we should be worried about, if we’re in the team excellence and team performance business. Hope that helps!
Thanks for your reply Ashley! After I posted my question I started to wonder about the same thing – does recommending a company as a great place to work necessarily tell anything about team performance? I think you’re right – it probably doesn’t. One could recommend Company X as a great place to work when he/she feels salary comes “easily” without much effort. That’s not something we should be aiming at!
Right!?! If the worst performers are recommending it, that’s a problem…. 🙂
Thanks for sharing the eight highly valuable questions! The company I work for is very much stressing this question in our Employee Engagement Survey: “I can recommend Company X as a working place”. Do you consider this to be of value? Or should it be thrown out the window?
Thanks for any possible comments to this already in advance – highly appreciated!
What did you end up doing?
I can’t see much harm in asking it, but also minimal value. Rather, you should likely already have this measure. When people apply for a position, or are interviewed, do you ask how they heard about the opportunity and who do they know who works there now or in the past? If you’re capturing that, it won’t be hard to know if people are *actually* recommending it instead of just saying they would. (It’s basically the classic Net Promoter Score question and will have the same value/problems in asking it; better to look at the reality of it.)
Thoughts? What results did you find?
Ashley – great commentary around the power of Teams! I particularly liked the comment made that if someone is looking to serve the company, vs the team, they are not serving the company at all. Powerful statement!
Jeff – that’s good to hear! It’s a strong statement, but I do believe it’s true.
Looking at the questions, all questions with the exception of #6 deal with current state, as in the behavior is currently happening. #6 links to a future state that may exist; is there a reason behind this or would the question restated as “I am recognized for excellent work” also a predictor?
(Thinking the hope that you’ll be motivated by a future state where you get praise is a pretty good light at the end of a tunnel but that future state can be a lie we keep telling ourselves.)
I feel pretty good about all 8 questions in relation to my work. But, as a trainer (I work at the Center for Leadership Development), how can I help other team leaders develop these 8 conditions in their respective teams ???
Sonia – this might seem like a simplistic answer, but the first step is to have the entire team talk about the eight things together. Figure out what’s working well, and how to amplify that, and figure out what’s not so good, and how to improve that. In my experience the team will have better ideas than the leader alone.
looking forward to the truth!
I hear a lot about diverse teams being more innovative, it’s only possible if we value the uniqueness of that individual and connect them to the bigger picture. Just want to make sure that we are not saying that a good team needs to be homogeneous
Although all 8 questions seem valid, does the data show there one in particular that exhibits the most influential for engagement?
I truly believe we can only engage people by respecting them as individuals. Too often people are treated as the person that does a role and maybe has some potential for the future, but not truly who they are, what their values are and what drives them as a person – not as an employee. It was so great to hear you say we need to build on people’s uniqueness
Do teams then have a definable culture that would potentially retain people with compatible personalities, and if so, should companies try to encourage that culture?
“what is a better way to make change in the world” – thank you for asking that question, Adi!
LIVE! in 2 minutes!
I do see a need for an organization’s leadership team to publicize an aspirational vision of ‘culture’ representing very succinctly more the Values and Beliefs the team or organizational stands for. Also to then speak to and report on how they, the leadership team have ensured and continue to ensure they are walking the talk on those Values and Beliefs. The direction of my organization DOES matter to me. Below that strategic level I see a need for acknowledging and valuing difference. Just as there’s no perfect personality type and we need different safely-shared perspectives to drive creativity and innovation, so the imposition of one culture, one way of doing things would drive homogeneity and reduce creativity. Finding the balance between valuing individual uniqueness and also organizational Values seems to be an interesting balance….eager to hear more thoughts.
I think for some the company they work for is an “extension” of themselves — it can beyond providing, paying bills, having a reasonable commute. I think most of us want to have their values aligned and to feel like they make a difference in the world. So initially we do care a lot. That being said, once in a company and supervisors, work relationships, projects are less than desirable – people will look somewhere else. Cultures (organizational, corporate….) are not bounded; they will dictate in general what is and is not acceptable – behavior, communication. But at what point do we stop caring less for which company we work for? When our supervisor is less than stellar and there’s no room for growth ? When the pay is not fair? At the end of the day, the name of the company may be just another variable in our decision making.
Or, if the conditions you lay out are true, we look for another team. After all, many of the conditions (ie unfair pay) is influenced by the leader is it not?
My question is: if it is so that the everyday work experience for each individual is what matters, what kind of regular discussions or activities we should be having to best support the everyday employee experience? And what should be the roles of the individual and the leader in those activities?
This is a close topic as this week we got 3 new employees and lost one. We are a small company and putting quite a lot of effort to support our people in different aspects of working life so things are quite ok. But still it clearly is different things that keep people coming to us vs. making them stick and be happy.
Ashley’s take on culture .. in real working life… is right on. Can’t wait to hear the ‘truth’ and tangible steps we can take!
I wonder then what do you call the overall company vibe, if it isn’t culture? My experience has been that there is one (an overall company vibe), Apple has one, Cisco had a different one, Pacific Gas & Electric different still. I have also experienced a culture within a subgroup of a company… as many have stated also.. within my group, under my direct reporting line or even under my direct supervisor. I am very interested in how to change that ‘culture’ or ‘vibe’. Do we concentrate on behaviors, as some have suggested? As ‘culture change’ is too hard???? That eventually if behaviors change… then you will have ‘changed the culture’. Like backdoor culture change? Probably aside from this month’s topic… lastly I agree that I do care which company I join, and argue that there is some cache in belonging to a company that has a good reputation, but at the end of the day, if I am not happy I will move.
Great points Sabrina. Perhaps by vibe you mean more the company climate? As in how the company is looking and feeling today. This can change quickly like emotions and weather (e.g., a really negative quarterly report can set the climate on a low end for a few weeks). Or for some time the climate/vibe is that you are the cool company… super trendy because of the products and positioning, and over time if the that cool factor isn’t kept fresh the climate could start to feel more traditional
Thought provoking Jay! I was thinking less like weather and more like ‘sector’ culture…. maybe. For example, working for a utility provides many benefits you don’t find in the tech sector, and vice versa. But your comment about super trendy aligns… I do think however that it takes a long time for the ‘fresh climate’ to change into something ‘less trendy’.
Great introduction Marcus. To an extent, I do believe that people care about which company they work for. Pragmatically though I wonder if self interests rule. In other words, based on where I am in my life and the situation I’m in, my personal needs will be more important to me in selecting where I go. For example if coming out of college with heavy student loans (I’m sure many can relate) caring about what company I work for might be relevant, but far more important will be finding a company with the perks that are most relevant for me right NOW – whether that’s a loan payback program, good salary, health benefits, etc. However if my financial situation is off the table I can think more about the company’s mission, culture, etc. So in a sense, purpose and culture is a higher order need. Unless that purpose or culture is diametrically opposed to one of my personal beleifs – then its easier and maybe more truth to think that people care about which company they WOULDN’T work for. Personally I’ve always had that in mind looking for a company, but what’s always been more important is the people that I’ll work with. Knowing I can fit with them, learn from them, and do meaningful things is what I’ve cared about. I’ve walked out of interviews with companies with a strong feeling of “no chance I would work with that leader, team, etc.” Probably more choice words in my head though!
I strongly believe that people DO care about what company they work for as ones skills soems alive when it meets something they are passionate about. That is what keep the fire going when they know they are making a bigger difference. Skills are transferable and aligning to a world need I believe is the sweet spot; in which the company you work for, has a big part of that. Check out Davita- people RAVE about the culture there of “Community before Company”. Question then for you, “If people don’t care about WHAT company they work for, what do they care about?” (I’m thinking its a hybrid of the purpose of the company and culture).
Keen to see how this discussion unfolds. Eager to hear people’s views on the company’s with a compelling purpose, core values, and a culture which aims to emulate these values – in a country with a very high unemployment rate, so quite frankly, people just want a stable, secure job and to pay their bills. In my experience, this company (where I work) allows a few lucky folk (perhaps a lot of lucky folk) to become the versions of themselves…
What you find more and more is this, people love their organizations but feel their organizations do not love them back. As a result of this, employees leave their organizations in search of more.
I have been in large multi nationals, small family.. and, big family. The issue of culture is the engagement and collaboration that is drawn out in the video and in many of the commentary and book entries I have seen over the years. I heard the comment that HR is tasked with building those cultures.. wrong. The leadership and the management have a need to direct and orchestrate the cultural aspects regardless if it is central or local in nature. In many cases HR is so task driven and disengaged they are not able to help attract, onboard and participate.. they just try to get through their calendar for the day; honestly they have been ran over just like the IT services folks in many cases. Also, the sense that people care about the company they join but then have a different set of requirements once on board I believe.. I just want to see what THEY say! I have a great interest in this posting/video on the 4th to see what is lauded as the reasoning.
Definitely food for thought. When drawing on my personal experience I definitely am quite selective when thinking about what company I could potentially join. Does the mission of the company align to my ethics and values? Do I feel in contributing to its success I am touching people’s lives in a positive way? Once in the company I find myself at times re-evaluating that decision. Is this alignment still intact? Am I still inspired by the mission, impact of the company? And how much personal/professional growth (not necessarily upwards) is possible. So the “what” is important and the “how” a company conducts itself and “how” I feel valued. And yes, the climate and culture of each team is different. Like Laurie Manning stated in the comment before, real culture develops at a micro level. The company can send a guiding light from the lighthouse and establish rituals and narrative in an attempt to align micro-cultures to the aspirational culture of the company and often this works out. And it can establish strong values and hold its leadership accountable to these values. So I guess my question is: in your research, what role did values and a value match/mismatch play in impacting employee engagement?
Feedback re: web development: this input box is very small which makes it hard to review my comment. It would be wonderful to be able to edit spelling mistakes and the like after posting, i.e. similar to a facebook post. 🙂
Thanks for your feedback, Lena! We’ll work on making comments editable for the next lie.
I believe people start out believing which company they work for, but to your point once the rubber hits the road it becomes much more important whom my team leader is as a manger. Will I be encouraged to do my best work, free of political intervention, or will the team be managing much more than the workload?
I also think that individuals with certain pedigrees believe they must work for certain companies. To do otherwise could reduce their status.
Company culture is really just company norms. Real culture develops at the micro-level, and is what the team is exacting from the local environment.
I messed up my first sentence
I believe people start out believing which company they work for is important…
There is a vast disparity working in the for purpose sector. It’s true about company culture – there can be a big between espoused and actual culture, but the purpose can be clear and it attracts the people and the culture kicks in to ensure the right people join for the purpose. If the HR practices are strong in a for purpose organisation, the culture can align nicely.
My experience from large, multi-national companies is that the mission and vision statements may have very little to do with however the local (country-level) leadership happens to run their own operation. And as an employee, it’s slightly jarring to see a disconnect between what is the stated way of work and the day-to-day reality, especially concerning areas such as mentoring, promotion criteria and professional growth. Looking forward to seeing this truth revealed. My specific question would be: how can you effectively motivate and inspire people from different cultures to support any specific initiatives and ideas, especially if you have limited options for face-to-face dialogue?
It’s always interesting to me to see the employees commenting on new leaders (eg, VP) and how they are trying to change the culture but “it won’t be changed. “
Is the “culture” really defined by the leadership? What exactly is “culture” anyway? If it’s a derivative of the leadership, then for some companies it ebbs and flows every few years as leadership turns over. The term “culture” seems to be overused in so many different ways. Looking forward to October 4th.
I have been with the same company for 14 years, and though other opportunities present themselves, I stayed because of the culture we built. It was decentralized and highly accountable. People were aligned and focused on simple key performance goals. We were always classified as one of the best places to work in our community and we grew our business tremendously.
We were recently purchased by a much larger organization that is more centralized, less accountable, and has trouble making decisions. People are not focused on performance but individual initiatives and individual results. It is now much harder to drive the business when everyone is tooting their horns and covering their flanks.
This is resulting in large turnover we haven’t seen before now.
I think culture keeps the teams together, which does have a positive impact on results, but the real key is having a cohesive group that is aligned with mutual goals and secure to make decisions and fail. When they lose their security and alignment they are fearful.
So I get what your saying it not the culture but the security, freedom, and ability to affect the results that keeps us there. But is not all of this based on the leader and whom they have asked to join the ride or get on the bus?
Looking forward to October 4th
Company culture is often driven by the top leadership expressing their “tone at the top
I care about what ‘Project’ I’m a part of and for what ‘Purpose’ – and the human quality of the people I work with. If that is what is meant by ‘Company’, then I agree.
People who are not of independent means generally don’t care which company they work for or even what it does, provided the company meets some minimum standards. However companies do have a culture. To say one worker’s experience differs from another is a bit like observong one person’s experience as a seasonal worker picking grapes in France differed from another person; no one would say France doesnt have the culture. The bullshit is that CEOs are able to set and cultivate a particular type of culture – they embrace whatever is identifiable, and that employees have the luxury of choosing one company over another based on culture. It’s categoru D in terms of “relevant considerations informing your decision which company to work for”.
How do we measure “culture”, how do we know we are making progress with the culture we want to form, e.g. a culture of collaboration.
When orienting new employees to the “culture,” there is always that fear that what we describe won’t be their experience. In fact we KNOW it won’t be true for all (maybe most) of them. That’s always been a concern of mine.
Let’s talk more about aligning organizations that are in essence a culture of many sub-cultures. What is the process?
Surely culture is defined by the experience of each individual rather than dictated by leaders either benevolently or not. Yes the leaders can lay out the “societal” norms want to follow BUT that is more about trying to get people who they have never met to behave in a certain way. Just as monarchs, presidents, law makers and faith leaders have done for centuries. How these are interpreted and followed is a choice often influenced by more local circumstance and behaviour.
My two cents here is related to the truth that there’s no one-sizer-fits-all solution for the complexity of human nature and relationships. I agree that you indeed join a company rather than engage in a culture as the reality is that every leader in the organization will shape his/her own cultural code through a combination of life’s experiences and knowledge s/he acquired throughout life. I believe this explains why two different people in the same job and city can have completely distinct perceptions of the company. And for me it’s surprising that companies today are in a Diversity & Inclusion journey where plurality is mandatory yet the need for one cohesive culture is aimed. How’s that possible?
What an interesting concept and perspective. I can’t wait to hear the next part!
Will the October 4th live session be recorded? I will be traveling but would like to see the session.
Hi Amy! It will be recorded and available after we film it on October 4th.
There are some overreaching truths that can be “defined” or “sold” as a corporate culture – however, does everyone walk the same walk and talk the same talk? NO. Leadership, team dynamics, individual hunger, atmosphere, etc…these are all key drivers and alas, undefinable.
Lie 1 provides a really interesting perspective on culture. When you are onboarded you get the monolithic “this is our culture”, but as you work within an organization you experience reality – the different sub cultures within the organization. Individual perceptions of the culture really do permeate the larger “culture” of an organization. I agree that your perception of culture can be different than the person you work beside. I think it really comes down to the relationship you have with your leader, and how your leader coaches, engages, motivates you. I’m looking forward to hearing more!
I agree that the culture really depends on how the leadership shapes it. For me this is one of the main reasons why people working in the same job and same city can have completely different experiences as an employee.
People care which company they join, but once they’re there they care about other things. NOTHING is more resonant that this for me. I worked for a company with a very strong “culture” that focused on treating customers and one another with respect. There was a “water cooler” honesty that permeated throughout the organization. That was when there were 400 people. When it tripled in size, the “culture” was lost…at least according to some. I realized it wasn’t culture, but a leader that lived, breathed, ate, talked, and expected us to behave with decency and respect. We all knew what it looked and sounded like when we were (and weren’t) behaving that way. The bigger we got, the more that was lost. So, was it culture or simply a leader being consistent in thought and action?
I’ve always been cynical when consultants were brought in to “define” a culture. Or workshops happened to help support the “culture.” Never got it. Never understood that. What I DID understand, firsthand, is that the “environment” that my various managers created either made it safe for me to do my best work, or made me paranoid about looking bad or making a mistake or not getting it perfect.
Really thought provoking. Sorry if I’ve offended any who do culture work with organizations.
yes Leesa! And you brought something really pertaining to the discussion as it ties the abstract culture to the tangible leadership. When Google released the results from the Aristotle project, the first thing that really stands out for me was the psychological safety effect and I believe this is what you refer to about the safe environment vs. paranoid one…
What an interesting “Lie” – Company culture is sometimes more of a perception as opposed to reality, which explains why there may be so many different cultures within a company. I have spent most of my working life in the Military and the “Culture” there is nothing like the corporate world. The company I work for now just released our 2019 goals and one of them is “Continuity of our Culture”. How timely! I look forward to hearing about the “truth”.
For me, it appears that people’s behavior is determined by payoffs and or avoiding pain – projections of anticipated or perceived payoffs or pain. A solid starting point it to determine what one really wants, then create a hierarchy of wants – and use that as criterion for evaluating their experience. Engaged workers have to be in touch with what they want and also with what they actually are experiencing. In other words, the primary focus is on one’s self, one’s own personal culture.
I agree with the comments below about different cultures across different areas of one company. I have seen that as well. I do think people get a bit addicted to the lie that they care about the company they work for. It might actually keep people in a company longer than they really should stay. You can hear pride in someone’s voice when they say, “I work over there at XXX company. Our culture is about innovation and working hard…” They like to tell themselves this lie to maintain the illusion of happiness, even though they are not feeling it. The wonderful thing about having a defined culture with a list that people can refer back to, is that at least the company says it stands for something. Leaders can then choose to aspire to those elements of great leadership, or corporate culture, or whatever the list may be called. It’s a sign post to point to when something doesn’t feel right. It gives an employee the empowerment to say, “I don’t feel that here on this team with this leader, so I will try to leave now”, instead of assuming they entire company has the same employee experience. As you can tell from my long-winded comments, great inspiration for thought! Thanks Ashley and Marcus!
I see both sides of this Lie. I think people care about which company they join and, over time, how the company they work for is in alignment with their needs and care abouts. Of course, when we think of company we do think of those who lead the company. Leaders who are not ethical and don’t create a sense of compassion and direction may still have a followership but I believe that results will not be what they set out. At the end of the day, people work for and with people that they choose and hence create cultures within a culture.
The real issue is the manager who is on the front line isn’t empowered, and is really just a daily task doer with a little bit a leadership responsibility sprinkled on. We need flat organizations and empowered leaders that embrace change.
Hi Marcus! Agreed. I believe people leave people, not companies. So, here is my question for you:
How might I lead others to understand that the practice of (for lack of a better expression) “Lord over” others is not a part of working with one another in our company?
I ask because I believe the underpinning of fear fueled by team members who have the tendency to “lord over” others verbally and non verbally diminishes our investment in human capital.
The investment we make in the spirit of team members we have – and recruit – functions powerfully when our team exudes humility and curiosity. Our investment begins to lose a bunch of value when there are cliques, closed minds, verbal marginalization, etc.
Is it even realistic to believe that there is a means to operationalize and cultivate a working environment in which it is ‘safe to innovate, safe to take action when intuition knows it is time, safe to offer enthusiastic ideas that sometimes fold into meaningful and profitable realities… etcetera… yes, even input from a team member who is ‘brand new’, or ‘hasn’t been in OUR business’ or, ‘isn’t in (insert silo here)’ e.g. operations, finance, marketing, etc…?
Hope that made sense. I wish there were some data I could use to indicate what I’m trying to say here!
I wonder if culture is not better defined according to the fundamentals desired by all humanity – sense of purpose, security, acceptance – which we should all experience regardless of function or longevity with the “company”. Worthiness.
I think this lie is mostly valid. I can tell you when I joined the company I work for I cared a little bit about what they did – but I was more interested in getting a job. I have made a career here and am one of the individuals who helps spread our company culture. However, I can attest that how each employee receives or experiences the Culture is vastly different. The biggest difference is their direct supervisor or their Executive Leader. If those individuals don’t drink the Kool-Aid of Culture it’s painted in a very different light and the day-to-day experiences for those employees generally isn’t as positive. I do support our company’s culture and do see the company as a whole living those values daily. However, when you look individually at the experiences they are not the same for everyone.
So how, in a massive organization, do you try to create a like-experience for staff? Or should you even try? We all want to enjoy our jobs, as we spend the majority of our time there, or is simply getting a paycheck enough? I think the answer to that is no. So, how do we help the experience of staff?
Lie #1 resonated with me. I have worked in extremely large as well as relatively small companies, and the inconsistency of stated values or culture statements with what any given employee experiences has been perplexing. Even the best intentions of leaders to define and drive consistent experiences often fail to achieve the desired result; and there are always “sub-cultures” and even variation of employee experiences within those. I look forward to digging into the Truth behind this.
On Ashley’s video..”what if” we focus less on lists of behaviors and focus more on what we want peoples’ experience to be when they experience our culture? Focus on the feeling, the outcome rather than the desired behavior.
I totally agree with what you say, Marcus. But this really isn’t a “Lie” is it? Do you think HR, Managers, Team Members all walk around and say “Company X” is the best! I’m so glad I work for this corporation? Probably not, but people do say, “I had a great meeting with my boss today, she’s really looking out for me.” “Our team had a breakthrough on our product design, we’re going out after work to celebrate!” All this to say, I’m not sure who you think may be believing Lie #1 these days.
As is well stated in some of the other comments that are some real challenges to defining and a unified culture in a global company. Achieving this on the macro level continues to be a challenge with geographic and lingual diversity. It becomes an even bigger challenge on the micro level if the team itself is diverse. I recently had a team in North America where greater than half the team had English as a second language. Just getting agreement on common definitions was a challenge. Also, as stated elsewhere, the culture at corporate head quarters (where the culture definitions originate) are vastly different than those on night shift at a production facility for the same company.
So insightful – companies have multiple cultures depending on the team/group is what I believe and I have experienced first hand and in my coaching engagements with clients. In fact, the experience is so varied that at times, I have felt disenfranchised as my experience has been so out of kilter with the company line about what our leaders, managers and company should be doing. This feeling of disenfranchisement has incited me to make moves when the team I’m in does not feel right and/or does not leverage my strengths. Thanks for bashing Lie #1!
“Culture”, even if defined as ….. by a company, never feels the same for team member.
If the top leaders of a company do not really live and breath the “culture”, it doesn’t exist.
Culture is a concept that is crafted but must be acted out by people. Each person approaches it differently – what “inclusive” means to one person is completely different to another. And then if you have a global organization you add people AND cultural differences to the mix. There is no way to ensure that culture looks and feels the same from person to person / manager to manager / department to department. However, I think there is still value in providing a framework within which people’s experiences can vary.
The global nature of our company makes it very difficult to establish a single identifiable culture. The organization is different from country to country. Sure there are things that we do the same as dictated by leadership, but to say that this is our culture is incorrect. In parts of the organization, long term positions are threatened by movement to countries with cheaper labor bases. And yet management keeps trying to figure out why employee opinion scores keep going down. In the country where these job are being moved to employee opinion scores are stellar. Same company, same supposed culture, yet vastly different results.
Culture is such a big part of the conversation in each company. It is said to create magic; we only need to believe. Unless you have a company that invests in and focuses on leveraging the strengths of each individual, is it really every about the people. About you? Sidonia Gause [Provider|Creator]
Company culture is like ice cream. We might all be able to agree on the fact that we are ice cream, but the chocolate flavors are richer and deeper, the fruity flavors are textured and creative, and vanilla ties them all together. In the quest to become the “Best Places To Work’ too many companies have become focused on meeting a set of criteria to qualify, rather than enjoying the ice cream sundae in front of them.