In our previous two blogs we tackled the importance of corporate culture and how we can begin to measure culture. We analysed why we cannot separate organisational culture from the hard statistics in our business. As Peggy Johnson, Vice President of Business Development at Microsoft, said, “When a culture is broken, the cracks show – morale is weakened, but so is profit and performance.”
The key to cracking corporate culture is awareness. Someone once said, “Leadership comes from within” and that “self-awareness is the start of this journey.” The same is true of culture. We cannot begin to change the culture of our business, or hone it, until we understand the organisational culture we already have.
Here we lay out 6 major organisational culture types. Check your organisation against them. Grow in awareness of your own corporate culture, so you can begin shaping it.
“The simple act of paying positive attention to people has a great deal to do with productivity.” – Tom Peters
An inclusive culture is one that prioritises diversity and cross-culture unity. This is partly achieved through policies and programs, but it is also achieved through the language we use and the platforms we give to people. The advantage of an inclusive culture is that it enhances all other types of culture, such as innovation. Sachin Adhikari, India’s first Transformational Training Designer & Chief Mentor of Viztar International, writes that when a diverse team feels included, “it breeds the opportunity to bring more experiences and ideas to the table.”
“If a mentor has a coach approach, then it is more likely to be a mutual learning experience that is interactive, because the young leader has experience that can be of equal value.” – Carollyne Conlinn, Partner, Essential Impact
A coaching culture is one that prioritises the exchange of learning. It does not only have a top-down mentoring program, but also values the informal sharing of information and experience. This kind of corporate culture can improve an organisation’s performance dramatically. A report by the Human Capital Institute revealed that “65% of employees are highly engaged in strong coaching culture organizations compared to only 52% of employees in other organisations. Organisations with a strong coaching culture also report greater financial performance.”
“Yet too many of us are in a constant state of over-extension, which fuels an instinctive reaction to ‘protect’ work. This survival instinct ultimately dilutes our impact through an ongoing, limited effect on others.” – Jesse Sostrin, HBR, To Be a Great Leader You Have to Delegate
An empowerment culture prioritises autonomy and ownership of work. It enables employees at every level of the organisation to enact change. The results of maintaining this culture is pervasive: innovation in every department, a satisfied workforce, high performing managers. Empowerment is the beating heart of giant creative organisations, but is essential for sustained success in any industry.
I strongly believe that you can’t win in the marketplace unless you win first in the workplace. “If you don’t have a winning culture inside, it’;s hard to compete in the very tough world outside.” – Douglas Conant, CEO
A winning culture prioritises achievement. It can be seen in cultures such as Google, for whom a key maxim is to: “10x everything” or Facebook who have repeated a similar, “move fast and break things.” This kind of culture can unite teams around capability, generating a camaraderie and loyalty based upon their inclusion in an elite group. But in the HBR Leader’s Guide to Corporate Culture, Boris Groysberg and others warn that over-emphasising a winning culture, “may lead to communication and collaboration breakdowns and higher levels of stress and anxiety.” A winning culture cannot be maintained at the expense of other important types of organisational culture.
“I am able to control only that of which I am aware. That of which I am unaware controls me. Awareness empowers me.” – John Whitmore, Coaching for Performance
A feedback culture prioritises candour in communication so that improvements can be made. This can be achieved through formal reviews but the most successful feedback cultures encourage feedback at all levels. When employees and executives alike actively seek out feedback because they are determined to keep learning, high levels of performance will naturally follow. Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall write in HBR, “Learning happens when we see how we might do something better by adding some new nuance or expansion to our own understanding.” A culture of feedback gives everyone the chance to keep growing.
“The starting point is curiosity: pondering why the default exists in the first place.” – Adam Grant, Originals
An innovative culture prioritises freedom of ideas. It cannot flourish where a winning culture is overemphasised to the point where failure is not tolerated. For an innovative culture to grow, failure should even be celebrated. The MIT Sloan Management Review notes how W.L. Gore successfully create a climate of safety to experiment: “When a project is killed, staff celebrate its passing with beer and champagne. When a project fails, a post-mortem is conducted. Flawed concept or poor execution? Bad decisions? The goal of these post-mortems is not to punish, but to learn and improve.”
Where does your business fit? Often it’s not so simple to accurately assess the culture you’re immersed in. If you need some outside perspective to help diagnose your own organisational culture, check out our leadership consultancy services.