Why Some Workplace Culture Efforts Fall Short And How To Rock Yours

Culture is in the way we live as a result of who we are, every day, every action, every habit. Changing our workplace culture is a journey based on changing how we feel, believe and behave. That journey is closely tied to the promises we make, and the promises we keep.

We can also draw on lessons from one of the masters of culture change: Mohandas Gandhi. Gandhi’s focus on day to day habits, and the habits of his society, gave him a lever to create deep and lasting cultural change. When people in India wanted independence, Gandhi looked deeper and saw India’s relationship with Great Britain as a system of everyday habits. One of these systems took Indian cotton, shipped it to England for processing, and then shipped back to India to be sold as clothing.

Gandhi realized that he couldn’t just break the habit of buying British cloth, he had to give people a new habit to replace it. His replacement habit was to spread an entirely new kind of spinning wheel – one that everyone could use. And by embedding independence into this replacement habit – spinning your own cotton into your own clothes – he created a created a dramatic cultural shift. Instead of talking about independence, people in India were making it with their hands and wearing it on their backs. Gandhi drew on the power of replacing a single daily habit to create a large cultural shift.

The reason why most cultural change efforts fail to see maximum success is that they are focused on creating massive shifts rather than committing to incremental, small moves toward greater ideals. In building a Culture of Good, these greater ideals are reflected and carried out through five promises that are first made by the organization to the employees, then employees can make them to the customer and ultimately toward a cause all are passionate about.

Think about the promises you make at work every day. To your employees, your colleagues, and your customers. The bigger the promise, the greater the pride you feel when you follow through. A growing organization can take on bigger challenges and make bigger promises when everyone works together. So, a Culture of Good is based on Five Promises; promises to yourself and others as follows: Care, Drive the Business, Connect, Inspire, and Be Authentic.

  1. We will Care about the people and the world around us.

In order to live up to our Promise to Care in meaningful ways we must:

  • Spot the opportunity to care for employees, collogues, and customers whether in small or big ways.
  • Choose to Care by contributing in a limited way or one time effort, or commit to being fully invested when able to do so.
  • 2.     We will Drive the Business to greater success, so it can do more good.

We can’t focus solely on the promise to Care. We need to keep the company healthy and growing. Some companies scale back their commitment to care when they have a tough financial quarter or year. Other companies are wildly successful and profitable, but they choose to “opt out” of doing good for any cause.

If we want to be proud of our work, we (individually and alongside our teammates) must pursue success for the right reasons. Therefore, our second promise has two parts: We will Drive the Business to success, so that it can do more good. In order to live up to the promise to Drive the Business toward greater success in meaningful ways we must:

  • Actively pursue our targets and goals
  • Seek ways to increase our knowledge and skills to strive to excel at our current jobs
  • Make smart business decisions—ones that will help us grow professionally and at the same time will fuel the company’s growth.
  • 3.     We will Connect with the people around us.

It’s easy to become so busy with what we do — Driving the Business, Caring — that we can’t focus on our third promise: that we will Connect with the people around us. In order to live up to the promise to Connect in meaningful ways we must:

  • Learn how to ask meaningful questions
  • Truly listen to the answers.

Connecting isn’t a one-time activity. If you interact with someone repeatedly, you have more opportunities to learn about them. When we learn their needs and their “whys,” we can identify more and better opportunities to Care, and we can work with others to Drive the Business to success (in the same direction).

  • 4.     We will Inspire others to join us in doing good.

There’s only so much that we can do alone. Whether we want to live up to our Promise to Care or our Promise to Drive the Business, we need help from other people. But how do we get someone’s attention? To inspire others to join us in doing good, we need to talk about the good we’re doing. The difference though between bragging and inspiring is that we never do good to be seen, but we should always be seen doing good! In order to Inspire others to join us in doing good in meaningful ways we must:

  • We share what we’re doing
  • We explain why we’re excited about the project
  • We invite others to join in

5. We will Be Authentic in our words and actions.

Our actions should align with our words and tell the same story. We will walk the talk. Every day. Ultimately, in our fifth promise, we aspire for consistency.  When we are inauthentic, the good we are wanting to do will be met with skepticism and distrust. We must bring a deliberate Authenticity to our actions in order to build a Culture of Good. Every day, across every department, employees from all layers of leadership need to keep the culture a priority.

Examples of the authentic ways your culture is led by the five promises:

  • A marketing team discusses how a new campaign will help the company keep its promise to Care.
  • Out in the field, a sales manager teaches her team how to explain our Culture of Good to new customers.
  • A newly-hired employee inspires three customers to contribute to one of the company’s causes.
  • The CEO asks employees, “How well are we keeping our Five Promises? Are you proud? What can we do better?”

When done right, the Culture of Good isn’t another buzzword or business fad. It’s woven into every decision and every interaction. It’s lived every day by people across the organization—people who choose to commit to the Five Promises.

For information on hosting a Culture of Good Workshop in your organization visit our Services page.

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