Innovation Junkies Podcast

Five Factors That Fuel Culture

The Jeffs talk about the necessity of having a healthy workplace culture. They discuss identifying & understanding your organization’s culture, what causes cultural shifts within an organization, & the importance of defining & adhering to core values.

Jeff Standridge (Intro):
Are you ready to change the trajectory of your business and see massive improvements? Each week, we’ll share strategies and practices to generate sustained results and long lasting success in your organization. Welcome to The Innovation Junkies Podcast.

Jeff Standridge:
Hey, guys. Welcome to another episode of The Innovation Junkies Podcast. I’m Jeff Standridge.

Jeff Amerine:
This is Jeff Amerine, glad to be back.

Jeff Standridge:
Hey, me too, man. Got another good episode today. Before we get into that, what’s going on in your world?

Jeff Amerine:
You know, I’d have to say that I’m really excited about retro music, specifically Boy George and the Culture Club. Is that what we’re going to be talking about?

Jeff Standridge:
Where did that come from? Man. Yeah, one of these days I’m just … No, no, no. Some days I’m just sorry that I ask questions.

Jeff Amerine:
That’s one that won’t even make it to the dad joke list, right? But culture is important. I think that’s kind of what we’re trying to get to here, and probably not the Culture Club or Boy George.

Jeff Standridge:
Either one.

Jeff Amerine:
And now I think they call him Old Man George, I’m not sure.

Jeff Standridge:
Is that right?

Jeff Amerine:
Yeah, because he’s about 75 now, I think.

Jeff Standridge:
Yeah, exactly. Yeah, the reason it doesn’t make it into the dad joke world is because our kids are too young to know who he was.

Jeff Amerine:
Exactly, exactly.

Jeff Standridge:
When I tell a dad joke, and they go, “Huh?”

Jeff Amerine:
Yeah, there’ll be exactly five people that watch this that actually know who Boy George and Culture Club are.

Jeff Standridge:
Well, let’s talk about a high quality culture. Five factors that fuel culture, first of which is recognizing the importance of culture. Talk a little bit about that, Jeff.

Jeff Amerine:
Yeah. Well, it is crucially important to understand that it’s not this sort of marketing veneer. It’s not just the posters on the wall that talk about purpose and vision, and mission, and core values. Peter Drucker, who was one of the great management thinkers of the 20th century, allegedly in a meeting with four, and I say allegedly, because there’s some question as to whether or not he actually said it, but everybody attributes it to him, said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” And what he meant by that was you can’t build a strategy if you have an ineffective culture in a company or a negative or toxic culture. It really, in my mind, what he really meant by that was it has to be integrated into the overall strategy and operation. And if you don’t have it right it doesn’t matter all your great strategic thinking, your planning, your processes, if you don’t have a good culture, it’s not going to work well. I think that’s the key. It has to be recognized.

Jeff Standridge:
Well, I think you’re right. And I think the other component to that is there’s a culture, whether you want to admit it or recognize it or not. Every organization has a culture. I had a client one time and a CEO of the organization and I said, “Hey, I’d like to share with you some observations that I’ve made about the culture of the organization and maybe some areas where I think we might be able to work on culture.” And his response to me was, “Culture. Culture, we don’t have a culture. People do work and I pay them money. That’s our culture.” Those were his words verbatim. But seriously, every organization has a culture and so understanding that and understanding that your culture is everything that you do as an organization. Everything that you do.

Jeff Amerine:
It is so true.

Jeff Standridge:
And everything you do either contributes to having a positive work culture or it contributes to having a negative work culture because very seldom do you have actions that have a neutral effect on culture. They usually either slightly build it or slightly erode the culture in terms of positive work culture that produces results and retains people and makes them effective and what have you.

Jeff Amerine:
Yeah, I say it’s so true. And as leaders, you can imagine a situation where you’re an incoming leader into an organization assessing that culture, whether it’s formally documented or whether it’s informally askew, is really an important first thing to do. Because if you’re going in as a leader to try to improve performance, and you’ve got a culture that is antithetical to high performance, where you’ve got victimization and poor communication and warring factions, and I’ve seen all of that, then that’s a very first thing that has to be addressed. You’ve got to start by rebuilding that. Sometimes it’s wrong people in wrong seats. Sometimes it’s people that have been sacred cows that need to be moved along. Sometimes it’s any number of things. Lack of appropriate leadership, in general, and setting the right tone. But culture is crucially important.

Jeff Standridge:
Absolutely. And with our growth DX, the strategic growth diagnostic that we use, we do some assessment in the areas of culture, particularly around leadership effectiveness, organizational effectiveness, operational effectiveness. And then we ask some questions around, why do people join an organization? Why do they leave an organization? Why do they stay with the organization? And through that assessment of best practices, plus the open-ended questions that we ask, we get a really good understanding of what are some of the cultural strengths. What are some of the cultural weaknesses? What are some of the leadership effectiveness, strengths, and weaknesses and ways that we can help organizations fine tune that culture in order to help them be more effective and more culturally aligned.
The third one is knowing where we’re going and knowing how we’re going to get there. So part of a culture is actually having a direction, actually having a strategy. Knowing what the vision is or that destination at which we want to arrive three, four or five years down the road, which we talked about a few weeks ago, and knowing how we’re going to get there or the strategy we’re going to use to get there. That’s actually part of the culture of an organization as well.

Jeff Amerine:
Yeah. It’s again, one of those things that has to be lived every day, talked about on a regular basis, rewarded, motivated. You know when you’re getting there from a standpoint of a strong culture, by virtue of those things not feeling like something that’s just on the wall or in a book somewhere, but they’re talked about every day. You’re hiring people on that basis. You’re firing people on that basis. You’re making important decisions on directionality of the company on the basis of the culture as defined to include the vision and the strategy.

Jeff Standridge:
That’s right. Very much so, very much so. If you have an organization that has no real unified direction and has no unified strategy, that will actually come out from your folks when you do some assessment of the organization. They’ll say, “Yeah, we don’t know where we’re going. We come in and do our work every day, but we don’t really know to what end, ultimately.”

Jeff Amerine:
Yeah and you’re exactly right and it leads to this next one of the core values that are being cleared, shared, and lived. The thing that comes to mind there is, again, you ask yourself as a leader or someone in an organization when you are at an inflection point or you’re about to make a decision or about to do anything, is this consistent with our core values? When I take actions, when I’m working with shareholders, their customers or my colleagues, am I doing it in a way that’s consistent with what we’ve defined as our core values? Because oftentimes people will be aspirational in their core values, but their actual behavior won’t align with the core values. And so it is important for everyone and any kind of team to be a little bit introspective about, am I really living up to what we said we were going to be all about?

Jeff Standridge:
It’s interesting. A lot of times an organization will get two or three people together at the senior levels of the organization and they will just articulate those core values and then roll them out across the organization. Well, those aren’t necessarily core. I go back to Covey’s statement that says without involvement, he said, “Mark it down. Without involvement there will be no commitment.” And so really engaging folks across the organization to … If you’re not going to engage them in the vision casting for the organization, then at the very least engage them in the core values because those are the behavioral compass, they’re the behavioral guardrails for the organization. And if you’re going to hire people according to the core values, fire people according to the core values, train, coach, develop, and promote people according to the core values, then everyone in the organization needs to have some input into what those actual core values are.
Now, ultimately the senior executives are going to have edit or veto responsibilities there, but giving folks the opportunity to have input into those. Core values are only core if they are believed in, so highly, by everyone in the organization, that they not only impact individual behavior, but they impact collective behavior as well. Otherwise, they’re not core.

Jeff Amerine:
Yeah, it’s so true. And when you get that part of it right, a clear indicator as an outside observer is everybody wants to work at that particular organization or on that team. And people seldom leave or seldom want to leave, at least of their own volition, they may leave because they’re not a good fit. But when you see those places that have strong core values, have well defined strategic vision and good strategy and a good mission, people don’t want to leave. They want to work there and they’re going to stay. It’s really, really an exciting thing to see when that aligns the right way.

Jeff Standridge:
That’s right. And that brings us to our fifth one of leaders set the example in every way, every single day. So you talked a little bit about that in another episode, but share your thoughts there.

Jeff Amerine:
It’s this idea of being always on parade. It’s something I learned when I was a young midshipman at the Naval Academy, was that regardless of what was happening, regardless of what time of day it was, regardless where you were, you are always on parade. People who reported to you or looked up to you or were your colleagues were going to pay attention to what you did. And I’ll tell you what, it doesn’t matter how old you get. Occasionally, things will occur in your life or in situations where that is brought to the forefront, again. You can never really let your guard down. And it doesn’t mean you have to be some imagined or inauthentic person, you can be yourself. But it is crucially important to live those values, to demonstrate it and to lead by example. I 100% believe that that’s really important.

Jeff Standridge:
Yeah and I would even say that the core values are only as strong as the senior executive’s willingness to live by them as well. And the first time that a senior executive violates a core value and is not called to account for that, then the value or the impact of those core values has been eroded significantly.

Jeff Amerine:
Absolutely. And you and I have both seen circumstances where we had pretty strong conviction around core values and we had high performers that didn’t align with core values that we had to invite to their future elsewhere. It’s a difficult thing to do, but you have to do that at times.

Jeff Standridge:
You know, that’s a great point. I’m glad you brought that up and we’ll kind of finish on this one. The true test of a core value is the degree to which you’re willing to fire a Rainmaker or a high performer because they just don’t fit the culture. Someone who’s a 110% salesperson, who sells like the Dickens, but they alienate their teammates in doing so. A leader who’s not willing to step up and to leverage those core values, to invite that person to move on to another organization, then really is just giving lip service to those core values.

Jeff Amerine:
That’s exactly it. I think that’s a good one to land on my friend.

Jeff Standridge:
It is. We’re talking about culture and the five factors that fuel organizational culture. It’s not fluff at all. It’s really a key component to making your organization’s growth come to fruition more quickly and more efficiently. This has been another episode of the Innovation Junkies Podcast. Thanks for joining.

Jeff Amerine:
See you next time.

Jeff Amerine (Outro):
Feedback from listeners like you helps us create outstanding content. So if you like this episode, be sure to rate us or leave a review. Also don’t forget to subscribe to get the latest growth in innovation strategies. Thanks for tuning in to the Innovation Junkies Podcast.

Change The Trajectory Of Your Business

Our GrowthDX package has been responsible for massive improvements in many companies. Some thought they had it figured out but had blind spots, while others knew they were missing the mark but had no idea where to start.

This is your chance to make significant breakthroughs in your organization. Don’t miss out!