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Cultural Identity

You can normally tell within a few minutes what you have stepped into. How does the receptionist greet you? How does the boss interact with the cleaner? What is being talked about in the corridors? All of these little things can add up to paint the picture of the cultural identity of the organisation. However snazzy your logo or crest is, it is the culture that you become known by.

Last week, in the blog on individual identity, I explained how Trevor Waldock in his book, ‘Becoming Mandela’ asks the simple question, ‘who are we becoming’? Our identity as an individual is dynamic as we can shape what we become known for. It is the same with the cultural identity of our organisations.

What culture do you want to be known for?

Who are we becoming in our cultural identity?

We can be purposeful with this, shaping our cultural identity with some simple and clear steps, rather than let it evolve into something we are not proud to be known by. So, what are the components of the best cultures? How do you go about creating the culture?

The Culture Code

Daniel Coyle, in his brilliant book, ‘The Culture Code’ outlines the key components of the best cultures in organisations. He explains that

  • Leaders have ‘muscular humility’ and want to ‘fill the cup’ of those they lead. They are not afraid to call issues and do it in a caring way to help people improve.

  • Leaders create a place of safety where it feels like a family.

  • Communication is in equal measure with people sharing short bursts of talking rather than one person monopolising and lots of listening to understand one another not just to have a conversation.

  • Vulnerability is embraced with regular ‘After Action Reviews’ to look for ways to improve. The leader models vulnerability and creates ‘vulnerability loops’ where people feel ok to be vulnerable and review things because the leader has modelled it.

Imagine working in a place like that! This culture is one of self-improvement and growth. So how do we create and maintain that?

Creating the culture

Culture starts from having a really clear purpose and values to support it. Organisations often know what they do, eg we run training. But key to the culture is the reason ‘why’ we do it and ‘how’ we do it. Get clear on the purpose of your organisation. Drill down until you get it down to a few words. Everyday Leader’s purpose is to empower people. So, this drives how we work with people but also how we work with one another. Conversations in the team are driven by how we empower one another. What can we do to empower this idea?

Our values are the ‘how’ we do things. Everyday Leader’s core values are ‘authenticity’ and ‘integrity’. These drive how we work with people and the behaviours. Being authentic means being honest if mistakes happen and reflecting on what to take responsibility for. Use the same exercise in last week’s blog. Get a list of values. Tick off those that you relate to. Then go through the ticked list and narrow them down to your top ten. Then narrow down to your top 3. Now you know the values, you can cultivate the culture you want by highlighting these values and explaining how they manifest in behaviours.

Configuring the culture

Culture is created by the people. It starts with you as a leader and succeeds or fails by the people you have on your team. It’s therefore crucial that you look for people to bring on the team that have alignment with the purpose and values of the organisation.

Purpose + Alignment = Growth

There are two important staffing issues that support this.

· Firstly, your recruitment needs to be driven by your purpose & values.

· Secondly, culture is supported by the staff development.

Be rigorous in the standards you look for in employment. Look for people who are humble (put others first), hungry (for success for those you serve) and emotionally intelligent (know themselves, their strengths and weaknesses and seek to work with people in a way that brings the best from them). Look for people who align with the purpose and values of the organisation. If they don’t then don’t employ them. They will create a culture of their own that will conflict with yours. Like any aspect of our culture. The lowest we accept is the culture that we gain.

Cultivating the culture

Being purposeful in your cultural development of people is how you will cultivate the culture that you want. It starts by identifying those who can be influencers of the culture. Invest your time in them.

  • Model to them what you want.

  • Miranda moment it to them. In other words, like on the TV programme Miranda, turn to them and explain why you do what you do and the impact it has.

  • Meerkat moment things. Praise what you want to see and then like meerkats, people will turn to where the noise/attention is.

Those influencers will then do this with others and you increase the radius of the cultural influence. One person, generally can influence up to 5 people effectively. The more people doing that the more the culture can be replicated.

Shape your culture

Do you want the good news or the bad news first?

  • The bad news – your culture is dynamic – it can change.

  • The good news – your culture is dynamic – it can change.

There you have it. If you are not purposeful and invest in your culture, it can change and diminish and give off a bad reflection. However, the good news is, that if you invest purposefully, you can grow a culture that gives a great reflection. The choice of cultural identity is yours.

Can we help you?

How is your culture? Would you like help to help shape the culture of your organisation? We can help you analyse the culture that you have, design the culture you want it to be and help with coaching and training to achieve it.

Give us a call at 07905 361694 or send us an email at if you would like us to help you explore this and empower yourself.

Everyday Leader is here to empower, inspire and equip you to do that. If we can help you find a way forward, through coaching, training or consultancy, do let us know if we can be of help to you.


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