The concept of team or workplace culture is often referred to an important ingredient of success.
Terms such as "a winning culture", "innovative culture" are often used to describe successful sporting teams or workplaces.
It is generally considered a very real thing yet for most, it is an abstract concept that is difficult to define, harder to assess, and virtually impossible to manage.One client described how they felt about the prospect of defining and managing her organisations culture as "like stapling water to a tree".
This attitude is not uncommon in business and often results in culture being ignored rather than shaped, or more often, strategies for creating an effective culture that are based on satisfaction surveys and being 'nice'.Nothing could be further from the truth.
Culture is simply the shared beliefs people have about how are expected to behave in order to succeed or get along with others.For example, we often hear organisations talk about a 'safety culture'.
In such workplaces, the stated expectations of employees might include a directive to never undertake any task that they believe to be unsafe, to report safety concerns that they see, and to be open and honest about what went wrong if a safety incident occurs.
In reality, employees in some organisations may be made to feel like a trouble maker if they refuse a task or raise safety concerns. Despite requests for open and honest feedback after a safety incident, employees might be made to feel blamed for what happened.
In such cases, the actual culture - the way people feel they are expected to behave in order to succeed or simply survive - is to not 'rock the boat', to keep their head down or to tell the boss what they believe he or she wants to hear. Such beliefs are not always a reflection of the current leadership, it may be a result of memories or stories about 'what happened to Bill' when he raised an issue a number of years ago.
Further, Shaun McCarthy, Chairman of Human Synergistics provided the following insight: "Some organisations unwittingly structure jobs in ways that reduce autonomy, variety and feedback and, through this, make members reliant upon their managers for any sense of how well they are performing. Within such cultures, expectations are to conform, to not ‘rock the boat’, to maintain stability and clearly follow practices and procedures. As a result, creativity is reduced".
Leaders and the intentional (and unintentional) signals they send to their employees have the greatest impact on team culture, but every employee has a role in shaping culture through their own behaviours.
How we do things is just as important as what we do.