Every workplace, sports team and family has a culture. Is yours a good one?
Most people can tell you what their team does, but culture is something underneath it that is more powerful than the product you turn out.
Culture is not WHAT we do, but how we do things around here.
Your company provides a service to people (hopefully), but how your people go about doing it is your culture. In fact, every team of any sort exists to accomplish a goal (or score goals), but most things are accomplished in spite of their culture rather than because of it.
Have you ever asked yourself why you exist? Why your company exists? Why your family exists?
Culture stars with Why.
Yes, yes, you’re obviously doing a lot of things, but why? Why do you do things like that? Why do you think like that? Why do you feel like that? What are the intangibles and the way things are done?
We were at the Airdrie library the other day and the computer system wouldn’t recognize something about one of the books my daughter had ordered in from another town. Why? Because computers are idiots. Anything that can randomly do one thing one moment and change their minds and deny you access the next because it’s being electronically fussy is stupid.
I obviously do better with mechanical things that actually make sense…
The check out screen informed us there was an issue and we’d need to see it’s human employee in order to check out the book, so we went to the counter and encountered a lovely young lady who asked “What did the screen say?”
My response was a typical one because of an intangible thing called family culture. I said something along the lines of what I would always say in a situation like this:
“It said there’s a thousand dollar giveaway to the next person who checks this book out!” (Big smile)
The girl narrowed her eyes and started to grin as she scanned the book.
“Actually it says the system still thinks it’s in transit, let me change that for you. Here’s your book.”
I stood there awkwardly and said “…And my thousand dollars…?” while my oldest two were openly laughing. The librarian was enjoying life more when we left than when we came. We added value to the exchange.
You see, the product was checking out a book, but you can check out a book in a bunch of different ways, most of which are boring. We’d rather have fun and be a little unusual because that’s the culture of our family, and usual is boring.
Do we do it like this every time? No, that would make it usual and be boring. Fun is shifting things and loving life on the fly.
Venue Church culture is fun. If you think church shouldn’t be fun you won’t like it, and we’re ok with that. We think you can accomplish more if you smile more, even in the middle of hard times. Some people deal with negative things negatively, we deal with them positively.
If you think it’s holy to be the prophet of doom some work cultures will help you find another gear, or prune the tree (so to speak). Some cultures say things like “You can complain OR make a difference, but you can’t do both”.
Your culture is more what allows you to say NO to things and sometimes people, before you even have to.
Now, you’ll freak out because you’re Canadian and not allowed to say no to people, but please realize that sooner or later you’ll say no. Your culture tells you who you’ll say it to and when you’re allowed to say it.
If your work/ family/ friend/ church culture is typical, it’s unclear and deciding itself from day to day. The normal result is that you say yes to all the people in front of you because that’s easy today, but the result is always saying NO to a lot more people tomorrow.
This results in a dangerous thing I think of as the Lowest Common Denominator.
City employees (and anyone working in a bureaucracy) need to be especially careful of its pitfalls when dealing with people issues. The tendency is to say “Yes” to whoever has a loud voice in front of you in the moment, but many people who voice complaints loudly (and often) have simply worked themselves up about a small issue and need help processing it.
But because we’re afraid of losing our jobs or dealing with conflict, our Canadian Moment tells us to create more policy so we don’t have to deal with loud people anymore. The trouble is that more policy can kill progress.
Our family has policy of course, but we’d rather have a conversation. Conversations are harder now, but easier in the long run than creating policy for everyone because we don’t want to have a conversation with one person about a tricky subject. Having a tricky conversation before you have to teaches our kids how to solve problems before they have to.
Luckily our culture informs us HOW to deal with things like this:
A. We do hard things.
B. We take risks.
C. We’re not trying to be fair, we’re trying to be effective.
D. We have fun with all of the above.
We have the exact results of the culture we’ve created in every arena of our lives. When you create a good culture you’ll be able to tell the story of your life the way it should have been.
Example: Arwen woke up this morning and said “Dad, you should write about the thousand dollar giveaway. That was funny”.
Yes it was:)