As we work with many different industries, one initiative that continues to arise at the head of both corporate organizations and community efforts is, culture creation. For corporate teams, they may define culture as the core values they all hold in common to produce meaningful work and significance for their clients. For humanitarian and social outreach groups, we hear them declare culture as the foundational glue that binds them together for national or universal success.
However, you define culture, it can shape your behavior, language use and engagement in societies, in countrywide identities, even in the ethnic groups we spring from. Culture can be a prevailing force for long term good or prevent much needed change when obstinacy has become the collective mindset.
How do you create a positive working culture? Here are some guidelines that you can use to create or refine the culture you part of now:
- Declare What You Think is Critically Important. Organizations exist from business requirements to fulfill needs or follow a vision that is larger than one person. It will be critical to define the values that management and the direct reports care about; the relevance of the company story, the value of the story to ‘caring’ about success or failure; and, how to have conversations that produce a shared future. At all levels, everyone should determine what they care about and nurture the principles around that pursuit. Passion is a prerequisite for producing remarkable results.
- Language Use. How you engage each other defines the culture of the group. Positive psychology has demonstrated that declarative statements towards a shared future will keep the passion and focus for the all the members of a workgroup or entire divisions. Statements such as, ‘when we get there, not if’ underwrites the determination and perseverance required towards the collective vision. Language does more than describe the world; it creates your reality and shapes your identity.
- Monitor Negativity without Over-Policing. While working positive language into your thinking, speaking, and writing is healthy, avoiding or ignoring the negative can be a form of policing. From the news media, the phrase of “Don’t Text while Driving” doesn’t have the same personal impact as managers who tell their staff “I want you to be safe on this business trip. Please don’t text while driving”. The last statement implies trust and care for the employees that may have to drive some length to a client’s location.
- Use Collective Influence. Developing a culture of positive actions aids in relationship building and broadens the domain for problem solving among colleagues. Scrutinize the current teamwork through the concept of reciprocity. This concept will help employees mutually inspire each other through performance and behavior. Additionally, team-based groups organize themselves cross-functionally, often producing the greatest results in the shortest amount of time.
- Honor the Past. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge people from the past who gave themselves to that first vision. It is not uncommon to ‘forget’ those that began a company or movement. Declare a day or week to remember those men and women, who gave their energy, sweat, and visionary talent to bring you to today. How can you, and all associated, transport their commitment forward? Think of the efforts carried on today by the American Red Cross, founded by Clarissa Harlowe “Clara” Barton in 1873. Clara was a pioneer who worked as a hospital nurse in the American Civil War, and as a teacher. During the administration of President Chester Arthur, Clara succeeded in establishing the new American Red Cross, stating that the group could respond to crises other than war such as, earthquakes, forest fires, and hurricanes.
When you are first creating or refining your positive culture, think about:
- How can you identify ways you, and other leaders, can focus on the people in your group? Remember success is always about people.
- How can you and your colleagues spend more time connecting with each other? Would it be prudent to arrange a coffee session where all can explain what matters to each of them with retribution?
- When you sense that colleagues have shifted their priorities since any difficult situation, can you define the positive changes since it occurred? Would it be helpful to have an open discussion about the changes, possibly after work hours?
- How can you nurture curiosity for new projects that the company or group has initiated? The difference between feeling dread over a new workload and curiosity, may be as simple as letting go of not having all the right answers at that moment. How can you craft your speech to invite inquisitiveness from everyone?