How To Build An Intentional Culture

Will Corley
BetterManager Executive Coach

May 17, 2018

What is Company Culture?

Company culture is the emotional and psychological environment your staff operates in, day in and day out. It’s the most pervasive and influential determinant of your organization’s health and success.  

Ask yourself: Are your employees engaged and excited about your company and their work?  Or are they just putting in the time to earn a paycheck? Passion and enthusiasm are contagious. But so are cynicism and negativity. As a leader, you are the biggest influence on your company’s culture. Whether you intend to or not, you are always molding your company’s culture.  

Despite being a huge driver of the company’s vision, profitability, and long-term viability, few leaders take the time to build and nurture their company’s culture with purpose.

Before discussing how leaders can think purposefully about culture and facilitate behaviors supportive of that intentional culture, let’s define “company culture” as:

… a set of shared assumptions about values, visions, norms, language, systems, beliefs, and habits that influence and determine human behavior. Company culture affects how everybody–employees, partners, clients, and other stakeholders-interact with each other.  You’ll know you’re dealing with company culture when you hear (or say), “This is how we do things around here.”

The benefits of proactively shaping an organization’s culture are immense. Company culture can make or break an organization. The good news is that you have more control over it than you might think. The bad news is that if you don’t choose to create and nourish an intentional culture, it will evolve on its own, often leading to a lack of trust, toxic behaviors, and other negative cultural components that can ruin a business.

When leaders know what they want to achieve and how to create the culture they envision, they are closer to aligning their employees’ efforts to the company’s goals, mission, and vision.

How to Create & Nurture Your Intentional Company Culture

So what can you do right now to create a healthy and thriving culture that maximizes your team members’ well-being, engagement, and productivity? After coaching hundreds of leaders, we’ve identified two major criteria for success:

  • Make culture a priority. This may require a change of mindset. It might also require a change of your belief system. It also takes constant practice. Think about it as a kind of exercise. Intellectually, you know you should work out a little bit every day, yet your intention to exercise can get derailed when other urgent demands arise. The same thing happens with culture. Improve your company culture by exercising it like a muscle: with regular frequency.  Put culture on your team meeting agendas and in your one-on-one’s with your boss.
  • Make use of practical tools to guide the culture in a positive and intentional direction. There are many elements that shape culture-enough to fill a book, but in the space of this blog post, I would like to share one exercise that you can include in your next team meeting.

Prompts for Discussing Culture at Your Next Team Meeting:

  1. What do we mean by culture?
  2. Why is it important to our team? To our company?
  3. What is the leader’s role in creating an intentional culture? Each team member’s role?
  4. What kind of culture do we currently have today and what is its effect?

    On a whiteboard or flipchart, draw two columns. In the left column, each person writes three words that describe the culture as it is today.
  5. What kind of culture do you want to create?

    In the right column, each person writes three words that describe the culture as it should be.

Leaders tell us that these discussions promoted stronger employee understanding about the culture, more enthusiasm about the company, and deeper engagement in their work and with other team members. Everyone felt involved in building and nurturing an intentional culture.

Episode Transcript

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May 17, 2018