Culture Definition Tool

by | Mar 19, 2018 | Culture, High Road Leadership, Leadership

Now that you have jump-started a culture improvement initiative, how do you define what you want to become?


Starts With Your Ideals

Corporate culture is the story we tell about ourselves. if there is any INCONGRUENCE, outsiders will pick up on it in a second. thus your reputation is tarnished.

I occasionally partner with a training firm [to protect the guilty – I’ll call them BAD BIZ, Co.] that tells everyone ‘we are oriented towards all out clients.’ I was attempting to assist a newer client decide on which BBC workshops to offer in 2004. This client’s purchaser, Lyda, complained to me she had just tried to order a course from BBC. It is a new workshop, exactly the topic she needed.

But when she asked to order that course, Lyda was told by BBC that “You need to purchase two other courses, and then we will sell this new one.” Lyda responded, “We can only afford one. Your other two courses we presented last year and our member won’t’ sign up this year unless we offer a new topic. I just need this new one. A survey of our members told us that this is the topic they are most interested in.”

Lyda told me that BBC’s reply to her was, “We only sell that one as a package. You have to order two other of our courses before we can sell you this one. Sorry, nothing I can do about that – it’s our policy!”

I felt embarrassed because as I am trying to make BBC look good, they shoot themselves in the foot. Worse yet, Lyda did not order any courses from BAD BIZ. They lost an easy sale and tarnished their brand. I’ll wager Lyda doubts BBC’s claim that ‘we are oriented towards all out clients.’

The Win for Everyone

By getting your team, company or club to develop, shape, and implement its own definition of the desired culture, you will experience an immediate and lasting impact on your culture.

Most corporate cultures are undefined, so they naturally ‘reinvent themselves’ due to inattention and the lack of clearly shared values.

How do I ensure we all act our best?

Clearly Define What Your Culture Needs to Be

The tool to quickly accomplish this is the Culture Statement. It is not your Mission Statement because it focuses and clarifies the values and actions that employees (members) need to adopt in order to live your story.

Here are the steps to crafting your own empowering and transforming Culture Statement.

Step 1

Take your team, company change agents or board of directors to a retreat. This session can be done anywhere – someone’s home, a park, a resort, or even Starbucks. But you need to have several uninterrupted hours where you can brainstorm in a relaxing manner. Serving food and refreshments is critical because nothing builds bonds faster than ‘breaking bread’ with someone.

Make sure that you – the leader – is not driving this process. You are only one of the participants. If necessary, so that you won’t appear biased, turn the meeting over to an outside professional facilitator. This ensures better results and faster buy-in.

Step 2

Ask the change team, these questions; “How does an employee (member) need to act so that it is clear to everyone that he/she is living up to the culture we want?” and “what traits does an employee (member) need to display to demonstrates that he/she supports the culture we want?”

Break your larger group into smaller groups and have them make a list of these actions and traits. It does not matter which one you tackle first.

Use the rules for innovative brainstorming – a) there are no bad ideas; b) all ideas are welcome; c) save the defense or explanations of the ideas until after everyone’s ideas are collected and recorded.

Step 3

Collect all the ideas together then sort them into similar groupings. Mind Mapping is an excellent technique to accomplish this.

Have several objective observers note the patterns that are emerging. Concerns around areas such as “honesty”, “ethical behaviors” or communications will be clearly indicated often.

Step 4

Once you have narrowed and winnowed the list down to a manageable number by combining or renaming traits and actions, then use a decision-making method to prioritize them. This is now the time for debating, explaining and such. Often employees will have the same concern but use different words to describe the behavior they desire.

The reason you are narrowing your list – not because any trait is more important than another – is that if your cultural ideals are too long, it will distract from making the tool effective. There will be time to hone and fine tune it later.

Step 5

Now that you have a listing of desirable of between 10 and 12 traits and actions, prepare the list using the format below. Place the actions and trait in alphabetical order so that no one trait appears more important –they all are!

Read the statement aloud several times and give the change team time to absorb it. Overnight is often the right amount of time.

Then discuss the document as a whole. Tweak it a little but not too much. The goal is to get the consensus that everyone in this meeting – no matter who they are – can buy into it, support it and LIVE with IT!

Step 6

Your culture definition statement will look something like this:

Culture Statement

The staff (employees/partners) of the XYZ (company/team) supports and enhances a Culture that respects and practices these Norms:

“We Value…

  • Accountability
  • Commitment to quality and accuracy
  • Demonstrated honesty and integrity in our actions, decisions, and words
  • Flexibility
  • Privacy and confidentiality
  • Open Communications
  • Openness to new ideas and innovations
  • Respect for each other
  • Superior customer service
  • Trust”
Step 6 1/2

In next month’s Culture Clips, I will give you the next tool you need to employ, to define and hone in on the culture that you desire. It is something that will help you to get employees (members) to start accepting and acting out this new story you are creating.

In the end…

As always, I am available to provide you with tools, ideas and support you will need to undertake a successful culture transformation.


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Ron Rael Leadership Provocateur, is a keynote speaker, consultant, and author.

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