Why I Stopped Calling Myself A Culture Guru

Full disclosure: I used to describe myself on LinkedIn as a culture guru.

Reason one I stopped calling myself a culture guru: I’m not one.
Reason two I stopped calling myself a culture guru: No one is.

The truth about culture is that it is ever changing, extremely dynamic, and hardly predictable. It can however be measured based on observable behaviors and managed accordingly. No one person or organization has the patent on culture and no one can claim to be the all-knowing when it comes to how culture works. At best, we can be intentional and at worst we can throw in the towel and admit, “Since culture is illusive and unpredictable I guess I have to give up on building one through my leadership that I can be proud of.”

Here’s the raw truth: Although culture is at times organically cultivated and out of our immediate control, there are things we can know about it and act on based on that knowledge. Here are a few I’ve discovered…

  • Culture is how most people believe and behave most of the time.

Knowing this, it’s imperative that we create systems that honor how people feel about our company or organization. Feelings generate beliefs and beliefs are what motivate behaviors. Keep asking your employees and customers, “How do you FEEL about our business and its mission.”

  • Culture impacts everything and everything impacts culture.

How would we approach major decisions in our business if we knew the profound impact those moves would make on our culture…potentially in negative ways? Our daily choices as leaders provide the scaffolding for culture to be built throughout our organization. Keep asking your employees and customers, “Evaluate our decision making in the last quarter. How have those decisions impacted your experience with our business and its mission?”

  • Culture doesn’t eat strategy for breakfast.

If anything, we need to figure out how to invite culture and strategy to eat breakfast together. When we’re intentional with our culture strategy we will lead our business three dimensionally: through the filter of our values, our mission, and our overall strategic intent. Considering we have a strategy for most everything in our business it makes a ton of sense to have a strategy around the things that are our single most differentiator in business and our greatest potential risk. Keep asking your employees and customers, “How have our company values made you feel that we are in line with your own personal passions? How genuine do you feel we are in living those values and not just listing them on our website?”

Culture is fascinating in its nature and has the potential to drive the results of your business while connecting the souls of your employees and customers. For that reason, we should all remain students of what culture was, is, and will be in each of our organizations. At most, we all remain students of culture, not gurus. Welcome to class.

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