How to define an aspirational culture

How to define your aspirational culture

In today’s video, I’m talking about how to define an aspirational culture for your small or medium sized business. This video is for CEOs and business owners, but if you’re in HR, you’ll find it useful.

There’s a misconception that culture is something that just happens in your company.

Culture isn’t something that just HAPPENS. You, as the leader of your organization, create the culture in your company.

It’s easy to get complacent about culture. 

At times like these, you’re forced to take a long hard look at the culture you’ve created.

  • Covid-19 and remote work
  • Racism and race discrimination
  • Gender discrimination – #metoo movement

So, the question then begs, is HOW do you create the culture you want. 

What is your aspirational culture for your company? What do you want to see in your organization?

The first step is defining your aspirational culture and that’s what today’s session is all about. 

You need to know what YOU want to see in your company over the next 5 years, 10 years, 20 years. 

  1. What is your current culture

    • How do people work
    • How do they interact with each other
    • How to things get done
    • What kind of approvals are there
    • How do people make decision
    • How do they react when something goes wrong
    • How do the leaders behave in the company
    • Do they promote risk taking and making mistakes or do they 
  2. Personal values 

    • There’s a misconception that the only way to get success is to be cut-throat and drive and ambitious. The whole notion of nice guys finish last. The image that we have of high-powered, crisp-suited men and women who have a singular focus on the prize. You know the kind.
    • Ultimately of course all leaders want results in their business. But there’s more than one way to get results. 
    • Your company’s culture starts with YOU. What do you believe in? What are your values? What do you need to see in order to know that you’ve “arrived” at the culture you decided to create.
    • This is a crucial step and I’ll tell you why. 
    • Your personal values will act as your north star as you start building your team’s culture. When you’re wondering what to do with a situation involving your employees, you only have to look at your personal values to know what to do.
    • Now, I don’t want you to spend hours defining your personal values. If the words don’t come to you, then describe scenarios. 
    • For example, I don’t have a list of words describing my personal values, but here is what I believe in:
      • Always doing the fair thing
      • Continuous improvement – I don’t have all the answers today; I’m always looking to improve every aspect of the business and myself
      • It’s ok to break the rules
    • So, you see, it’s not a list of words like integrity, trust, teamwork, etc. that we see so often on company websites. No, your personal values are a list of guiding principles that support everything that happens in your company and what you expect of yourself and others around you.
    • And when you know what your values are, it’s easier to build a team of people who have those same values. 
    • One question I get often is whether this would create a team of similar people and no diversity of thought. This is why I talk about values as opposed to personality traits. Because you could be an introvert or an extrovert and want to do the fair thing. You could be a fast learner or a slow learner and still want to continuously improve. You could love or hate change and still be ok with breaking rules.
    • Values that match mine are important. I wouldn’t be able to work with someone who didn’t do the fair thing every time. I wouldn’t be able to work with someone who rested on her laurels and didn’t constantly look to improve things around her. I wouldn’t be able to work with someone who would judge me for veering off the proven path or breaking the rules.
    • So take some time and write down the 3-4 things that you stand for. Your north star
  3. Your vision for the company

    • Your vision is where you see the company once it arrives
    • Your vision is critical to define your culture because if your values help you navigate business life, then your vision is the final destination.
    • When you have a vision in place, you know how to talk about your company in a way that makes it relatable to others like your employees, partner and vendors.
    • Your vision doesn’t have to be this earth-shattering, deep vision statement. It simply needs to be what you want in the world. 
    • For example, my vision statement or mission statement is “Creating Awesome Workplaces”. Because I believe that all workers should love what they do and when leaders create and identify their workplace culture, the people they hire fit naturally and excel.
    • So, after you’ve described your personal values, it’s time to write out what your vision for your business is. 

By now, you should be getting an idea of what your aspirational culture is going to be. Next it’s time to describe a set of behaviours that you’d like to see. Once again, I would suggest you start with your own behaviour.

  1. Your own behaviour
    • When you’re the leader of a company, it’s not about what you say, but about what you do. People will be looking at:
      • your treatment of others, 
      • at your characteristics, 
      • at how you respond to situations and 
      • how you react to setbacks. 
      • How you celebrate successes
    • I had a client once who was a really good guy. He had the right ideas about what he wanted to see in his business, the type of success he wanted to see, and the type of culture he wanted to have. He knew exactly how he wanted people to behave and work. The only problem was that HE didn’t embody those characteristics. He said he wanted people to take risks, but when people made mistakes, he would ream them out. He said he wanted people to take initiative but he wanted to approve everything and if something didn’t meet the mark, he would… you guessed it, ream them out. 
    • So, when I tell you to examine your own behaviours, you have to totally 100% honest with yourself and look within. 
    • For my company, the behaviours I expect to see follow from my personal values. 
      • Take action – mistakes are rarely irrevocable; experiment
      • Everyone’s opinion is considered – my 15 year old inten gave me a suggestion on how to do something better on google drive
      • Invest in personal development
      • Share ideas
      • The team always comes first

Now it’s your turn. Those are the 4 steps to creating an aspirational culture. Once you have your desired culture defined and you know where you’re going, you can put a plan in place for how to get there.

The road to culture change is long and hard. It’s not something that happens overnight or immediately. 

Most new leaders come into companies and immediately start by putting a new strategy in place. Maybe they’ll understand the importance of culture and decide things need to change. Then 2 years later when things haven’t changed, they give up.

That’s why it’s important to start your journey in a thoughtful way.

If you found this helpful, please share with your peers and come back next week for another discussion on culture, strategy and leadership. In the meantime if you’re ready to embark on this journey, contact us for a free strategy call so we can get you started on the right path.

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