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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

How do you define company culture when it is such a broad concept and can include so many facets?

Cultures are formed around philosophy, agreed upon practices and behaviors, as well as common goals and shared ideas. The definition I use in the manual is: A culture is the collective beliefs, values, behaviors, and practices of a particular group of people. In short, a culture is agreed upon principles which bond people together.

How do we ensure our company culture is not misinterpreted?

A culture is built upon, around, and under values. If you are clear about your values, what they mean to you, how they influence the decisions you make, and have honest conversations about the difficulties you face with them, it should help you keep from misinterpreting.

How do we influence behavior when they are driven by deeply-rooted personal morals and values?

If a person’s values and behaviors are polarizing to your culture and they are not willing to open their minds to change, you should consider helping them find a better fit elsewhere. Everyone should have ample opportunity to be a part of the culture and if they refuse, it’s better for all involved to part ways.

How do we influence management behavior to be consistent with company culture when each has their own individual, unique style which drives the culture in their area?

Individual creativity, personalities, and ideas should be celebrated and openly shared with the rest of the culture. What you all must agree upon are the absolutes of your culture, which are the vision (where you want to go and the direction on how to get there), the mission (your purpose for existence and activity), and your values (the trusted principles which drives your decision-making processes).

Can personality/behavioral assessments really help identify culture fit?  Can they help identify those who would NOT fit?

Absolutely on both accounts! I highly recommend using personality, behavioral, KPI’s, strength, and leadership assessments as often as you can. However, those assessments should be used as a 25% of your final decision. The other 75% should be based upon the person’s character, you and your team’s intuition, and meeting your organization’s need.

When interviewing candidates for positions, what is the best way to assess whether they would be a good cultural fit for our company?

55% of communication is body language, so start there. Assess their body language with these questions (and try not to use bias if you like the person): Do they communicate our values with how they carry themselves? Does this person carry themselves with our values?  Do I trust this person?

38% of communication is tonality. Assess their tonality. Listen for passion when you ask them questions about their values. Ask them to share stories about times they’ve had to make difficult value decisions. Ask them to tell about a time where they compromised their values and what they did to amend their errors in judgement. Really listen to their tone and assess if how they speak is consistent with other members of your organization.

When considering joining another company in a joint venture relationship, how do we determine if the company is a good cultural fit for us?

Not many think through this when going into joint venture relationships. Some of this will depend on who the suzerain is in the relationship. If there is no suzerain and you are truly equal in the venture, then it starts with the executive staffs coming together and having open dialog about values, mission, vision, expectations, and strategic, operational, and administrative plans. Too often companies do not cover this when launching a joint venture partnership and it causes serious tension as they move forward as both sides vie for power. There must be open dialog with brutal honesty and a set of clearly defined “no compromise” values, behaviors, and customs. Never forget, “high walls make for better partners.”

How do you hire to the culture or values of the organization?

The biggest hiring practice I like to encourage is to take the person out somewhere, mini-golfing, golfing, bowling, playing cards, or another environment to see how they act and react to challenges. Also, you want to determine if you enjoy being with the person or not.

What are key things to do or focus on when trying to create a dynamic culture?

The greatest focus should be on your values. Values are more important to us than our lives. However, values shouldn’t be pontificated or force fed from leaders. The values and how they are lived out or not lived out should be an open dialog with your team.

How do you bring a “culture” to life in the workplace ensuring consistent alignment?

People learn in two ways. 1. Through repetitive visual and auditory stimulations. 2. Intense emotional experiences. People learn and retain information 5 times greater with intense emotional experiences. You will want to share values over and over, but you want people to share stories and experiences with your values. Once you do that, you create organizational folklore (cultural stories) which can be passed on to create more values experiences.

What tools are successful in driving organizational culture?

I highly recommend anonymous surveys to be given at least once per month. Anonymity allow people to feel safe, and you will get honest answers.

What are the best strategies for incorporating cooperation/teamwork among different generations within organizations, both interdepartmental and intra-departmental?

Inclusion. The number 1 desire of a human is to feel important. When you include people in the conversations about your culture, your strategy, your operational procedures, and more they feel a part of the culture. However, it can’t stop there. You must implement a few of the suggestions your team makes. When you implement suggestions, people gain confidence in the value they have in the organization.

Is the use of KPI’s beneficial to shaping your culture? (Bill Pratt)

Absolutely. I recommend as many KPI’s as you can afford to give. The more data on your people, the better you will know them and the better they’ll know themselves, which is vital to success.

What is the single best technique you have witnessed for creating cohesiveness? 

Two things unite people faster than anything else. 1. A common vision. 2. A common enemy. If you are clear about where you want to go and you include your team to help with the direction, you will see cohesiveness. You, as the leader, are still responsible for final decisions, but including them will incite buy-in.

We are in the midst of a cultural shift – moving to a culture of quality.  How do we assess for “fit” when we’re still trying to define what our culture should look and feel like?

Quality has to do with the character of a person and the product they deliver is an extension of their character. I would look scrupulously into the character of a person to determine a fit.

What are some effective ways to nudge people towards a new cultural paradigm?

Be very clear about the vision of the company. Ask them questions about their level of excitement. Ask for ideas on how they think you can reach your vision and goals. Get them involved. Listen intently and write down their feedback.

What are the best ways to give a wake-up call to someone on the team that has clearly fallen in love with the acquisition target and can’t see the warts?

I would ask what the evaluation process is. Did this person gather ample data and feedback from their team before going after the acquisition target? If the answer is no, then I’m a big fan of taking the leader to lunch and having a brutally honest conversation that is covered with care and love. There’s a proverb that says, “Wounds from friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” It’s not easy to confront in this situation, but you could save the leader from regret.

What are some ideas to take the personalities out of the decision-making progress and focus on the results and facts?  We’ve had issues with some very engaging CEO/Owner personalities clouding judgment on a business as well.

Charismatic CEO’s/Entrepreneurs are often D and I personality types, which means they do not pay attention to detail. They love the vision, the excitement and the flare that comes with a new venture. They are also fast-paced and want to get things done “NOW” and anything later than that isn’t good enough. These personality types must become disciplined and admit their weakness in the detail area and delegate that to the S and C personality types that will save them days, weeks, and years of headaches from bad decisions. Discipline weighs ounces, but regret weighs a ton.

What process works best to change a culture?

Everything begins with philosophy then is filtered through leaders. Look to your organization’s philosophies, then evaluate your leadership.

What are some examples of short and long-term measurements of cultural change?

You can’t manage what you can’t measure. Retention, Employee and Customer Satisfaction, Overall Production, Bottom-Line Increases and Communication Efficiency are a few measurements you should be evaluating regularly.

What type of employee engagement programs have shown the most success?

If you take 6 minutes per day to engage just one individual in your organization and you do that every work day for a month, you would only spend a total of 2 hours and you would engage 20+ people. That is a discipline leaders must practice. Remember, business is people and people are business. Leaders are in the people business.

How does organizational structure affect agility to get things efficiently and effectively?  Is there any data to validate that flat organizations are more efficient or what an ideal flat organization looks like for an organization?      

There is a lot of research on organizational structure affecting agility, especially in communication. I recommend the book, “Leadership Communication” by Deborah Barrett. I also recommend the “Strategy-Focused Organization” by Kaplan and Norton as well. I don’t personally believe in flat organizations. I believe in some of the principles, but there must be visionary-leadership in a company who has the influence and power to create change. How that leader handles the influence and power is very important, but there does need to be hierarchy.

How do we honor the past but help transition to the future expectations of a changing workforce?

A lot of this depends on the environment of your organization. If it is a learning organization where people are open-minded, freely share information, and keenly listen to the ideas of others you could create mentor-protégé relationships between the baby-boomers and the millennials. You would want the baby-boomers to mentor the millennials in some of their values and vice-versa. If people are open-minded, you could really bridge this gap through relationships facilitated in mentorship.

How do we build/maintain our organization’s culture when the workforce is in multiple locations?

The key is to be repetitive and adamant about the core values and mission of the company. However, expect that each location will have certain elements of a sub-culture and this is a good thing provided the core values and mission are maintained.

How do we build consensus for change when the common response to any query or suggestion is “we’ve always done it this way”?

Change, especially major cultural overhauls are a challenge. With change, you have a ratio like this – 10% gung ho for the change, 15% positive about the change, 50% neutral, 15% negative about the change, and 10% adamantly against the change. What you want to focus on is getting the 50% neutrals to become positive about the change and the 15% to become gung ho. When you do this, it will create critical mass in your organization to where those to adamantly oppose it will either conform or they will move on, either by choice or by your invitation.

How should we assess a cultural fit for potential acquisitions?

      With acquisitions, it is important not to jump in too quickly. It is important to plan, plan and plan some more. Preparation is the key to success. When acquiring a new company, you will want to proceed cautiously. Alexander the Great did a phenomenal job of this when he conquered much of the world. He welcomed people to keep many of their customs while asking them to learn Greek language, values, customs, and norms. It’s important to celebrate a company’s previous cultural practices while implementing your own unless those practices are contrary to your values. Over time, assimilation will take full effect, especially if you have assimilated with respect and honor.

What are some tips on shifting or making culture changes in an old business with very long tenured employees?

Begin by honoring long-tenured employees. Thank them for their hard work in building the culture to the level it currently is. Then, share your vision for wanting to create a new culture and ask them for their help. Be very clear about where you want the organization to be in 5, 10, and 20 years and then open a discussion to incite their feedback and ideas.