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What’s the Big Deal about Culture?

Jan 22, 2012
By Dennis Clemmer
Comments: 1

Categories: Leadership & Organizational Development

What’s the Big Deal about Culture?

January 22, 2012

What’s the Big Deal about Culture? by Dennis Clemmer

At times you undoubtedly get tired of hearing us pound away at this organizational culture stuff. There are times when I, too, think maybe we overdo it. About the time I begin to think that, a story or two emerges that makes me realize just how important the culture of an organization is.

I, along with my wife, Fern, are part of a couples group that we affectionately call The Big Chill. (Many of us met at college, like the couples in the movie, “The Big Chill.”) The group has been together for over 35 years, and at the beginning of each year we go on a weekend retreat. It’s a time marked by fun, reflection, stimulating conversation and great food. During the course of the weekend we give each member of the group air time to talk about things that are important to them.

One of the members of our group, while visiting two different organizations, described overhearing employees at both places grumbling and complaining about issues they experienced in their workplace. (The employees were particularly free to discuss these issues because no one from the leadership group was around due to being off for the holidays.)

Another member of our group, engaged in important and meaningful work, shared that the toxicity within the organization where he works contributes to his frequently feeling drained and discouraged.

This got me thinking about the leadership in these organizations. Are the leaders unaware that people in their organizations experience their work life so negatively? Are they aware but don’t know what to do about it? Are they too busy working on their own agenda that they don’t take time to connect with their people and ask about how their work is going? Or do they just not care? The not caring I find hard to believe.

Susan Scott in her book, Fierce Conversations, uses a phrase she learned while working with a commercial fishing company, “The fish rots from the head.” How employees experience their workplace is the direct result of those providing primary leadership.

The creation of a vibrant culture does not occur accidently. It happens through intentionality—living out the organization’s core values, engaging employees in meaningful ways, consistently sharing important company information, providing resources for people to do good work, and affirming work well done. Rocket science it ain’t. Disciplined behavior it is.

So, what do you want your employees to say about their work experience when you aren’t around?

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comments: 1
  1. Dennis you make some excellent points about the importance of culture. In addition to living the core values and keeping an open line of communication, an organization needs to foster an environment where all employees have the opportunity to be respected and heard. When people feel valued, outcomes and culture improve.

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