Don’t Let Your Culture Be An Accident

Sangita Kasturi

Friday, July 10, 2015

Organizational culture has become a “hot” topic as leaders realize its impact on business, employee engagement, talent development, retention and more. In fact, being a good or poor cultural “fit” is among the top reasons employees give for leaving an organization – along with limited advancement opportunities and lack of rapport with an immediate supervisor. How well a candidate “fits” into an organization or team culture is also high on the list of qualities hiring managers look for when bringing on new employees.

Most people wouldn’t argue that (a) culture exists and (b) it is hard to define, but there is some disagreement on what culture actually comprises. Some believe it is about values, others say it is about how people look and dress and still others may say culture is about all of those things. However, most people do agree that the key ingredients of culture include intangibles such as values, as well as day-to-day practices such as what behaviors get rewarded and how work gets done.

Still, most organizations find that their culture is a result of happenstance, rather than carefully crafted to align with business goals and values. In fact, most companies’ publicly stated values and mission statements are out of sync with the way work really gets done.

For instance, an organization that outwardly states that it values teamwork, but internally rewards the lone ranger who is known for putting out “fires” may be perpetuating a culture in which individual achievement trumps teamwork. Similarly, an organization that claims to value diversity but under-represents women in leadership positions may have some cultural alignment work to do as well.

Misalignment between stated values and actual business practices are discouraging to employees, detrimental to business and negatively impact reputation. The remedy involves opening up conversations around what a company says its culture embodies and comparing that to how work really gets done, what behaviors get rewarded, who is hired and who gets promoted.

These conversations take courage and time, and must include voices from all ranks and areas of the organization. Having these conversations is a step toward avoiding an “accidental” culture and creating one that truly aligns with goals, values and customer needs. Learn more about how to have those tough conversations and create an intentional culture on the Tan270 Consulting Blog.

Sangita Kasturi teaches Executive Success SkillsGlobal Business & Cultural Diversity,and Leading Organizational Change at Lake Forest Graduate School of Management. Sangita is the principal and founder of Tan270, a global consulting firm that builds organizational  effectiveness through programs and consultations in leadership, women in leadership, diversity, cultural intelligence, change management and communication. LinkedIn



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  • Steve McEllin

    I like this. Effective leadership is a multi-faceted and sustained ability to energize, engage and influence other people; finding positive ways to engage individuals and restore and reawaken “sleeping” commitments to organizational missions, objectives and envisioned future. It’s vital for leaders to connect with others to sell their vision for the organization. More importantly, “a leader must mobilize and motivate others to find adaptive solutions to today’s changing business challenges.” Effective leaders are also empathetic, honest, and sensitive to diverse points of view of others. Successful leaders show compassion and respect, listen attentively, elicit concerns and calm fears, answer questions honestly, and involves employees at all levels in the organization’s decision-making process. Active leaders are motivating, imaginative and authentic. Leadership does not exist in a vacuum. Successful leaders draw on the talents of each and every employee in the organization. Successful leaders think “outside the box” and are creative in their own right but more importantly, they are effective because leaders motivate and inspire the “rank and file” of the organization to be imaginative and innovative. In other words the role of a leader should be to create other leaders, which sustains an organization by allowing for a succession of strong, values-driven and active leadership.

    Effective leaders build value in organizations by nurturing a culture of values-driven behavior and practices. Active leaders know that to create values-driven behavior, they recognize:

    — Good leaders must first become good servants
    — Leadership is influence and example
    — Leadership is action, not position
    — Leadership is leading from anywhere in the organization
    — The success of others and celebrate that success

    In sum, effective leaders have no ego. So what’s my message? Be humble and build value through values. More importantly, recognize that “A good leader inspires people to have confidence in the leader; a great leader inspires people to have confidence in themselves.” I am happy to see that Values-Driven and Servant Leadership is alive and well!

  • Carlos Jarrin

    Great article:

    Organizational culture alignment is more critical today than ever before as people interact frequently and fluidly with an ever increasing number of diverse employees at all levels. I think it is becoming abundantly clear to folks when an organization provides “lip service” instead of having a carefully crafted culture alignment between their business goals and “core values.”
    The leaders and organizations that are committed to this practice will survive. And that will
    be no accident!