How to Make Culture Stick A Happiologist’s Perspective

How would you describe your organization’s culture? What words would you use? Which ones are most important? Regardless of your answers to these questions, your culture can make or break your business. So many times, leaders don’t take the foundational elements of their organization’s culture seriously. Instead, they treat the development of their mission and vision statements and their values and guiding principles as a quick initial development effort to be published and checked off as complete. Perhaps they’re framed and hung in the conference room or cafeteria for all to see, but that’s about it. Sound familiar? If so, consider a fresh perspective on these foundational elements to your culture that can (and will) lead your organization to a “happier place” where creative culture thrives!

Consider each foundational element as building blocks you should use to lay the foundation, so to speak, for the corporate culture you want to build. Let’s review each of these elements and discuss how they can be used to develop your company’s culture.

Mission statement: According to the Webster’s Dictionary, a mission statement is “an official statement of the aims and objectives of a business or other organization.” Mission statements are key tools that capture the essence of your business’ goals and mission. They should be the internal anchor for everything that you do in your business.

I find the most successful mission statements to be very brief in length, which allows them to be memorable, enabling the employee to quickly connect and engage. Another way to think about it is that your mission statement, at its complete best, should be able to double as your slogan.

Organizational leaders must be fully committed to living the mission as role models for everyone else and they should reference it frequently in team meetings, presentations, webinars, etc. as a constant reinforcement of this critical element of culture.

Vision statement: Vision statements are integral statements that draw the perfect picture of your company in the future. The vision statement is your company’s inspiration and the framework for all strategic planning. Whatever your organization’s dream is, articulate that in your vision statement.

Vision statements should be short phrases or sentences that convey your company’s hopes for the future. They should be easy to understand, achievable and reflect the expectations your company and your people are working toward. Vision statements show progress and engage everyone with the opportunity to help achieve yet another great vision.

Values: Values are another very critical component of the culture puzzle. Values are the foundation of your company, and everyone at the company should know what your values are. To quote Brad Hamilton from the movie “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” -¦ “Learn It. Know It. Live It.”

While this is good advice, just make sure that your values are values that you believe in and can hold team members accountable to. Values must be clearly articulated and should be introduced from the organization’s recruiting process forward, all the way through to the annual review process. Each value should be evaluated separately on the annual review, allowing for examples of how every single one was demonstrated by the employee throughout the previous year.

Guiding Principles: Guiding Principles are the final component to this mix of foundational cultural elements. They are a broad philosophy that encompasses your company’s beliefs and values. They are the driving force to creating a company culture where everyone understands what’s important.

And make sure that “having fun” is one of them. Regardless of the type of business or the many other more serious principles included, “having fun” is something everybody wants to do and can provide a “light at the end of the tunnel” from an engagement perspective. Use it!

It’s never too late to re-establish some positive energy around your organization’s culture. Whether you have your Mission/Vision/Values and Guiding Principles published but could use some “new energy” around them or you want to scrap the old and start from scratch, an investment in some quality time focusing on and clarifying these significant elements of your organization’s culture are always well worth the investment in leadership time. Go to it!

Michael Nutter is the director of Firm Culture & Associate Satisfaction (AKA Happiologist) with Impact Advisors. Impact Advisors is a health care information technology consulting firm headquartered in Naperville, Ill. Michael can be reached at [email protected].

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Richard Blanchard
Rick is the Managing Editor of Corp! magazine. He has worked in reporting and editing roles at the Port Huron Times Herald, Lansing State Journal and The Detroit News, where he was most recently assistant business editor. A native of Michigan, Richard also worked in Washington state as a reporter, photographer and editor at the Anacortes American. He received a bachelor of arts from the University of Michigan and a master’s in accountancy from the University of Phoenix.