Creating The Culture You Want

Friday, February 19 2021

What Is Culture?

Culture has an impact on success. And success is fundamental to succession planning. This year I spent two months in hospital with a nasty infection (not COVID) and each of the three units I stayed in had its own culture that affected the care offered by the staff. It provided food for thought about the impact of culture on an organization.

In ICU there was a very positive culture, staff demonstrating competence, passion for the work, and confidence in what they were doing. They had the right tools and resources to keep patients alive and reasonably comfortable.

It was a bit different in the next area: less experienced and skilled staff seemed run off their feet. They exhibited less confidence, worked with fewer resources, even substituting cheaper items for patient care.

The third setting was more relaxed. Although there were fewer staff who had the additional training and experience, individuals were kind, compassionate, engaged, and generally intent on providing an atmosphere in which to rest and recover.

Although these three areas were providing similar services, and they all functioned under the same corporate values, the execution and my customer experience were vastly different.

Why The Difference?

I observed factors that underpin all corporate cultures:

  • You get what you pay for. Skilled, trained, and experienced people cost more, but they are usually worth it. Hire the best. They might cost more but they probably do twice as much as someone who is simply hired to fill a position; and, in an emergency they can make a big difference between success and failure.
  • Resources make a difference. If your people don’t have the tools they need, even the best of them will get frustrated, feel disrespected, become demoralized and leave.
  • Make sure your staffing numbers are equal to the job. Don’t burn out committed workers by running them off their feet.
  • Leadership is key. What’s expected, tolerated and supported gets done.

You can’t always follow this advice, because reality gets in the way of best intentions and the pandemic is putting most workplaces under incredible pressure. But culture has a lot to do with leadership. Marcus Buckingham said that “people don’t leave companies; they leave managers.” So will customers. If you or your managers lack the leadership skills that encourage, support, and inspire loyalty and commitment to a common cause, your business won’t hit the numbers you need to impress a prospective buyer. Strengthening those skills is inexpensive compared to the benefits.