Building a Better Culture - 16 August 2012
Dr Neil deGrasse Tyson is one of the world’s most well known astrophysicists. In a recent interview with TIME Magazine, he was asked this question: “What is the most astounding fact you can share with us about the universe?” His answer has been recorded in a YouTube clip that has had over 3 million views in the past few months. Here’s a sample of his response:
“We are part of this universe, we are in this universe, but perhaps more important than both of those facts is that the universe is in us. Many people feel small because they’re small and the universe is big, but I feel big because my atoms came from those stars. There’s a level of connectivity. That’s really what you want in life. You want to feel connected. You want to feel relevant. You want to feel like you’re a participant in the goings-on of activities and events around you. That’s precisely what we are just by being alive.”
Inadvertently, he has also articulated an eloquent definition of organisational culture. The best cultures are ones in which employees feel big – despite being small – because they’re connected and relevant. They’re active participants in the goings-on of activities and events around them. That’s precisely what they are just by being at work. To build such a culture within your team, consider the following elements:
The Why: This is the overriding purpose. Remind employees why they do what they do and the impact it has on the greater good.
The Who: This is the shared identity. Employees should understand each other’s work preferences and feel as though they have close friends in the same office.
The What: This is the vision. It requires an imaginative strategy, one that’s ambitious yet obtainable, and inspires people to talk about it.
The Where: This is the location. One of the biggest barriers to culture is when teams are dispersed or when they’re separated by high partitions.
The When: This is the timing. The frequency and immediacy of communication, feedback, and the solving of issues are all of huge significance.
The How: This is the plan. Involve employees in the creation and implementation of ideas to strengthen The Why, The Who, The What, The Where, and The When.
Something you might not know about culture is that there isn’t any evidence to suggest it has a positive impact on productivity. There are amazing company cultures that achieve nothing, and there are shocking ones that achieve a lot. But what a great culture definitely gives you is an enjoyable and electric workplace. That alone is worth the effort.
And contrary to popular opinion, senior managers don’t have that much of an effect on culture. Team leaders, on the other hand, have a massive influence. They’re either shooting stars that light up the environment, or meteors that bring it crashing down.
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