What is culture when it comes to businesses? It is often hard to pin down, and if you were to ask 10 different executives, you would likely receive 10 different answers. Everyone knows that culture is critical to success, but we cannot seem to agree on what it is, much less how it affects a business.
Simply put, culture happens. It grows organically from the soil of everyday actions and activities. It doesn’t matter what’s written down on a website about a company’s culture. Words are ephemeral, with no bearing on reality. Culture springs up from repeated actions, from the values held in people’s hearts, and from the examples set by leaders for employees to follow.
To put it another way, culture springs up whenever people come together. Each group has its own culture, from football teams to stockbrokers. However, not all cultures are created equal. Some are positive and foster growth and success. Others are negative and stymie creativity, or even quash diversity.
Finally, no matter how positive a company’s culture may be right this second, it can and will change. Again, culture is an organic thing and like all organic things, it will evolve. Managers and decision-makers must take an active hand in guiding the growth and evolution of culture within their organization. In this post, we will explore several tips to help transform culture into something more supportive and positive.
Make Time for Check-Ins
Whether in a Zoom meeting or an in-person gathering, let everyone start the meeting the same way. Have them describe their current mental, emotional, or physical state with a single word. “Tired”, “elated,”, “excited”, or “stressed” can all be viable options. There are several reasons to do this:
- When employees sum up their condition in a single word, it helps them focus on the here and now.
- Team members are better able to empathize with others when they know something about their mental/emotional state.
- Sharing this information helps to bring team members together, creating a sense of unity through sharing.
Set Aside a Day for Gratitude
Gratitude has amazing, transformative powers. These have been well-documented, too – think Psychology Today, Forbes, and Harvard Business Review. Gratitude practice might sound New Age-y, but the truth is that it is critical for mental, emotional, and spiritual health. When implemented, it can have a profound effect on a company’s culture.
For those struggling to put this into practice, a few simple tips might help:
- Set aside one day per week to focus on gratitude as a team.
- Get everyone together.
- Have each team member share one thing they are grateful for from the previous week.
- It’s fine if they’re thankful for their spouses, their families, and the like, but encourage them to look deeper.
As each person shares what they are grateful for, give the team a moment so that all members can meditate on what was shared. Over time, this will have a deep impact on how team members see things, transforming mindsets into something more positive and uplifting by changing what people look at and focus on.
Make Meditation Matter
Like gratitude practice, regular meditation can have immense benefits for teams and the company as a whole. Many organizations have implemented meditation support systems, too. One option is to make meditation part of a weekly meeting. Here is how to implement this:
- Build additional time into one of your morning meetings. Even just five minutes is enough.
- Before the meeting, explain what will happen so that everyone is on the same page.
- Have everyone take a few moments to simply sit, focus on their breathing, and quiet their minds.
- Continue with your regular meeting, refreshed, and focused.
- At the end of the meeting, encourage everyone to carry that sense of quiet and focus into their workday.
Ask a Probing Question
One critical part of transforming a business culture is fostering stronger, deeper connections between team members. This can be done through a simple ritual – once per week, ask each team member to answer a specific question. These should be deep and probing, and perhaps somewhat personal, too.
Examples of these types of questions include the following:
- What one experience in your life would you choose to relive if you could?
- What mistake in your past would you change if you could?
- What are you most proud of in your personal life?
These types of questions help reveal the real person beneath workplace facades. They also help employees see each other as three-dimensional individuals, rather than just “someone at work”. It’s about humanizing your people and helping them forge stronger bonds and develop a better understanding of and appreciation for one another.
Make Time for Reflection
Without reflection, there can be no growth. After all, without looking back at where we were, we cannot appreciate (or even accurately gauge) how far we’ve come. With reflection comes confidence, appreciation for one another, and more. Building this into a business culture requires intentional steps, but does not have to be particularly challenging.
Start with a once-per-week focus. During the morning meeting, go around the table and have each team member discuss one thing that they learned in the previous week, or on something that they achieved. Alternatively, they might choose to discuss a failure or an area where they struggled.
With group reflection sessions like this, team members become better able to see how interconnected they truly are. They see how the actions of one person affect someone else, and they become more mindful of those actions. This also helps to transform the organization’s culture for the better.
It’s Time for Cultural Change
An organization’s culture can make or break its success. A positive, supportive culture attracts top talent, retains employees, and supports success for all. A negative culture, on the other hand, drives talent away and leads to dissolution and failure. What’s your company culture like?