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Chris LoCurto

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March 27, 2012

5 Ways To Force Culture

March 27, 2012 | By | 36 Comments">36 Comments

How to implement culture is a subject I get asked about all of the time. It’s something so many people want or they want to change, but they don’t know how to do either. I can promise you this: You will have culture. It just may not be the one you want.

You see, wanting it and creating it are two completely different things. If you don’t make sure it exists in the form that you like, outside forces will create it for you. And then, it’s a pain to reverse.

How does culture get created at your company by others? When you hire folks and don’t lead them, they give you lip service but begin to create the atmosphere they desire. It’s not uncommon for them to begin to gossip and backstab to get their way. As dramatic as it sounds, they begin to spread poison throughout your team. Next thing you know, you have a atmosphere that is nothing like you want it to be.

How can you avoid allowing people to create their own? It’s simple:

  • Force It – “If it doesn’t fit, force it!” was a saying I heard as a kid. It’s meant to be a joke. But in this case, you really need to force your culture! You have to make your whole team realize that you will do whatever it takes to create the desired outcome.
  • Teach It – Whatever you want your business to look like, you have to spend time teaching about it in your staff meetings, team meetings, one-on-ones, etc. Say it so many times that your team can finish your sentences.
  • Recognize It – It is a well-known fact that people do what they get rewarded for. If you spend your time telling team members only what they’re doing wrong, that’s where their focus will be. But if you recognize that they are doing a great job by not gossiping, being team players and taking care of each other, then they will work hard to protect that culture.
  • Attack It – If you see something happening that’s hurting your business, go after it quickly!! Your team needs to know that you will attack anything that is attacking your culture. If you don’t, your team will eventually come to believe that you don’t care about keeping a strong culture for them.
  • Repeat It – You can’t implement culture and hope that it stays that way. You have to keep it in front of everyone ALL of the time. Again, bring it up from time to time in staff meetings. Celebrate it at big company events. Champions want to see that you will stand for that cause. When you do, so will they.

If you’re just starting out, forcing culture is easy. You just do it. If you’ve been in business awhile and you need to turn the ship, understand that it will take some time. However, being passive won’t make it happen. Roll your sleeves up and go to town, metaphorically speaking. Don’t actually go to town … well, except to go to work, if that’s where it is.

Question: What methods have you used to make your culture stick? 

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  • http://www.epreferreds.com/ preferred stocks

    When I write it once (in the halls) it is one thing – but when it is repeated, and sinks deep into all of our hearts – it makes a difference.

  • http://www.SevenPillarsOfSuccess.Net Louise Thaxton

    Many of the things you mention, I have done. My challenge – is the last one – “repeat it”. Doing everything ONCE – but not constantly repeating, repeating, repeating it – doesn’t create culture. Thanks for enforcing what I have been thinking about on the culture of my team – it won’t change overnight – but when these principles you have shared – and repeated – the culture we are aiming for will be created.

  • cabinart

    This all seems like common business sense. If you have a company where people want to work, feel happy about working, and have influence and support, then that company will be more successful. Besides, it costs money to hire and train!

    I know of a local business with a high turnover of employees, and their excuse is ‘You just can’t find people who want to work!” I’d love to say “You just can’t find people who want to work for YOU!!”

    • http://www.ChrisLoCurto.com Chris LoCurto

      If you have an incredible culture, champions will flock to you. If you don’t, you have high turnover.

    • http://www.SevenPillarsOfSuccess.Net Louise Thaxton

      Ok – that’s funny! But telling it like it is!

  • chris_rainey

    Right on Chris – keep bringing it! There’s a difference between culture being written on the “walls in the halls” and our “hearts and minds”.

    • http://www.SevenPillarsOfSuccess.Net Louise Thaxton

      So right on! When I write it once (in the halls) it is one thing – but when it is repeated, and sinks deep into all of our hearts – it makes a difference.

  • http://www.lilykreitinger.com/ Lily Kreitinger

    Culture is like your last name, your family heritage, the things you are proud of. The things that get people to say to the rookie “we don’t do that here”. We are going through difficult times in the family as my mother-in-law passed away this morning. What I see in the way she raised her six children? Pride, faith, ethics, love, commitment to each other, on and on. It’s the same in a team, department or organization. If you’re not living it, you can’t teach it. If it needs to be written down somewhere and people can’t recall what your mission, vision and values are, you don’t HAVE a culture.

    • http://www.ChrisLoCurto.com Chris LoCurto

      Lily I’m so sorry!! Somehow I missed this yesterday. I’m prying for you guys!!!

      • http://www.lilykreitinger.com/ Lily Kreitinger

        Thanks Chris, I appreciate it!

    • http://www.SevenPillarsOfSuccess.Net Louise Thaxton

      Beautiful comment, Lily – and I am so sorry for your loss. But what a wonderful legacy your mother-in-law left. And you are so right – you can’t fake culture. It is what what you are living.

      • http://www.lilykreitinger.com/ Lily Kreitinger

        Thanks Louise, I appreciate your kindness!

  • Carol Dubline

    I think the most challenging part of changing our culture is going to be repeating it – it’s so easy to have meetings and announce that this is what we need to do, but then we have to live and breathe it as a leadership team every day. Doesn’t Patrick Lencioni say in “The Advantage” that your team needs to hear things 7 times to believe what they are being told?

    Love these reminders as we go through this process. Thanks for the solid advice.

    • http://www.ChrisLoCurto.com Chris LoCurto

      You are absolutely right Carol! Not only do they need to hear it to get it, but I’d they don’t continue to hear it from someone of influence, they’ll let it go. 

    • http://www.bluebridgecomm.com/ Joel Fortner

      I agree. Repeatable processes are hard enough to achieve and you can actually see and quantify them! Culture is much more squishy and therefore much more difficult to wrestle with. But there’s where having culture triggers comes in.

      In other words, having clarity about the type of culture you want and being deliberate about hiring, what’s acceptable, what’s not, recognition, accountability, team functions, etc. If you just leave it to chance, as Chris indicated, you’ll get something much different than you want and then righting the ship becomes quite the chore.

      • http://www.ChrisLoCurto.com Chris LoCurto

        Yeah, what Joel said.

      • http://www.SevenPillarsOfSuccess.Net Louise Thaxton

        “Being deliberate” is the key, isn’t it Joel? And leaving nothing to chance.

        • http://www.bluebridgecomm.com/ Joel Fortner

          It’s pretty important!

    • http://www.ChrisLoCurto.com Chris LoCurto

      You are absolutely right Carol! Not only do they need to hear it to get it, but I’d they don’t continue to hear it from someone of influence, they’ll let it go.

    • http://www.SevenPillarsOfSuccess.Net Louise Thaxton

      Seven times – the perfect number. Hmmmmm that is good!

  • http://www.indueseason.net skottydog

    In our workplace, I have been trying to turn the ship for some time. Your opening paragraph unfortunately describes approximately a third of my team.
    The gossip and backstabbing is rampant, and I feel like a parent that has raised a bratty kid. I can’t blame anyone but myself.

    While my hands are tied as someone in middle management than cannot fire someone for gossip, I should have not tolerated it on a PERSONAL level, so if they want to spew poison–they need to do it in someone else’s department.

    It is a difficult ship to right.
    I am a big practitioner of positive reinforcement, but for the few who like to complain for the sake of complaining, it falls on deaf ears.

    I told one team member in a meeting a few weeks ago that “…if you come to work every day and complain about your job, your coworkers, and your management team, there are only two possible outcomes: either you will leave, or you will eventually be ASKED to leave.”

    I was told that my comments were inappropriate, hence the company view of tolerance.

    Recognition has been my greatest ally from the examples you listed. It works for most of my team, and creates appreciation for each other.

    • http://www.ChrisLoCurto.com Chris LoCurto

      AHHHH!!!! You were really told your comments were inappropriate?!?! That explains the whole culture right there!!! Do they even have core values or a mission statement? I would love to know if that’s contradictory.

      • http://www.indueseason.net skottydog

        They say that gossip is character flaw, not a policy violation. A small part of the reason I’m stepping down.

        More time with family, more money, and about $450/month less towards the gas envelope are the other reasons!

        • http://www.ChrisLoCurto.com Chris LoCurto

          Smart move!

  • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

    Agreed Chris! Additionally we can —

    ~ Demonstrate it (by action)
    ~ Live it ( as a daily way of life)
    ~ Breathe it (ie, keeping reminding as often as possible)

    • http://www.ChrisLoCurto.com Chris LoCurto

      Oh, nice Uma!!

    • http://www.SevenPillarsOfSuccess.Net Louise Thaxton

      Love it!

  • http://www.lifeofasteward.com Loren Pinilis

    I love Dave’s views on recognition in EntreLeadership – and what I’ve heard him mention in the podcast. Really made me rethink my approach to recognition!

    • http://www.ChrisLoCurto.com Chris LoCurto

      It really changes your view form you, to your team members. When you do that, they are more engaged and more productive. Thus, duplication has occurred.

  • http://twitter.com/robertremodels Robert Warren

    Chris,
    Culture is something you hear about so much it almost becomes a cliche. Yet it is so important. One thing I have noticed with the companies you have on your podcast is even though they might not be a Christian company per se the values of their culture are usually biblically based! My challenge has been getting it out of my head and before our people so we can spread it to everyone. When you first start out its just you and then you add a few people and you all work all the time and then one day you realize we really need to standardize some things and culture is a key thing. So we are working on establishing our culture along with some other things and even though most of our people are Christians we want to make sure those Christian values are seen by other employees and especially our clients.

    Great post!

    • http://www.ChrisLoCurto.com Chris LoCurto

      You’re so right Robert. The reason it’s become cliche, is due to a lack of actual belief in culture. If you think correct culture is making some statements, and posting something on a wall, and then hoping people abide by it, you’re crazy wrong. You’ll soon have a culture created by the strongest personalities in the building.

      • http://twitter.com/robertremodels Robert Warren

        Great point!
        Thats why it has to be thought out and planned, otherwise those strong personalities dominate and set the culture!

    • http://www.SevenPillarsOfSuccess.Net Louise Thaxton

      My challenge also, Robert! Getting it out of MY head and on paper – and then sharing with my team. Over and over and over again!

  • TroyD

    Great Post!
    When you have a culture of hard work, how do you get leadership to recognize their responsibility to address culture? Working hard shouldn’t be your only goal for the day, friendships, loyalty, teamwork, growth and fun need to part of everyday. I need to quit commenting so I can have my boss read your blog!!!

    • http://www.ChrisLoCurto.com Chris LoCurto

      HAHAHA..nice! Just keep in mind that to get leadership to do anything, you have to have influence. If you can influence your leadership, you can show them the importance of addressing culture.

    • http://twitter.com/robertremodels Robert Warren

      Troy,
      Many times those in leadership only measure results by how much money a person produces for the company. Its understandable because without profit the company goes away. Yet Culture is one of those benefits that can add to the bottom line if done correct. I know it is easy for me to get caught up in running the business and miss things like recognizing someone for a job well done, or even giving someone a well deserved raise. I have to watch myself to not overlook those things. Your leadership might be the same way and maybe sometime you will have the opportunity to discuss this on a deeper level, you might find out they just haven’t thought about how important it is.

      Robert