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You Control the Culture

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The buzzword of 2022 is knocking on our doorsteps. What is supposed to define us is quickly becoming a patch on a uniform and rally campaign word by CEOs and managers during their “what are we going to do now” speeches. 

Don’t get me wrong, culture is huge! To be “that guy” quoting dictionary excerpts, culture is the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group.

Culture is not a buzzword, it’s a feeling from the masses and it is very fluid. Consider the culture of the 1940s when we, as a nation, decided that the world needed a greater good and stepped up to lead it for centuries to come. We did this by winning over and over again through military, industrial, technological and economic triumphs. Eighty years later, American culture still loves a winner (as long as they do not win that much). See Tom Brady.


Deeper Definitions

I begin by harping on “buzzwords” because culture is something that is formed by plans, actions, failures and successes that adjust, adapt and repeat. What is your culture? Those who say they have a strong culture probably do not understand what they have. A growth culture simply means that you are growing. A winning culture means that you probably set your bar low so you can feel good about yourself. 

To define your culture through your company leader’s desires is actually the vision, or what they want it to be. Understanding your true culture comes from the words and actions of your customers, both internal and external. The puffy-chest leader may take offense to the idea that your employees are actually your internal customer. And if so, it is echoed in your culture.  

How can we define an employee as a customer? You pay them, and a customer pays you, so they can’t be a customer. Your employee pays you with hard work, thoughts and ideas to grow your company. A positive image and experience that match your advertising campaign. They give you time and life in an exchange for finance and experiences. To treat your external customers horribly would certainly lead to your black font going to red on the finance statement. The same holds true for your internal customers, you just may think it’s them and not you.

A culture may differentiate you. Your external customers come to you for a certain reason that you should easily be able to pinpoint. Can you equally pinpoint why your internal customers come to you instead of the competition? I can assure you this: If you think your employees come to you because of money, you are looking shallowly into a losing battle. If the great resignation has taught us anything, it is that today’s culture will not accept hostile environments for money given the options that fly in their face in every store front and social media ad.

Do your employees take care of your customer as if the money was actually going into their bank account? Does the shop get cleaned for your inspection or for their pride? Do ex-employees stop by, check in on social media or give you a quick text to check on you? Do you think that you can fix your business by firing everyone and getting a fresh start by hiring the right attitudes?  

“But they don’t make them like they used to,” cries the opposition. Many would say that the great employees we once had servicing our needs are no longer made. That society has produced people who do not want to work anymore. They are defined by safe spaces, low motivation, and all they want is a trophy.

The people that you want are in fact there. Upcoming leaders are born every day and molded by the interactions of their mentors, peers and society. If you don’t get them at your doorstep looking for a job, or you hired them and they just quit for a “better” job, you can bet that you don’t get great people because they are not attracted to your culture.  

To the few readers I have not offended yet, your culture is in your actions, feelings and rituals. Your culture does not live in your memos, emails and speeches. You have the unique opportunity to create the culture you want in your stores, teams and customers (both internal and external).

Because culture is fluid, it just takes guidance and purpose over time. Just like the Colorado River, given the time and persistence, that fluid repeating motion can make huge marks in the landscape of your lives and the lives of those who you serve. What is your culture?  


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