Companies are Like People, Our Culture Defines the Relationship – Tips for doing it well

Companies are like people.  There is actually a study of how organizations act and change, which is where the terms organizational development and industrial/organizational psychology come from.

As individuals we build relationships/trust by working/living along side people and showing them consistent behavior so they know what to expect – what we value.  So how does that apply to organizations?

Culture is built through a relentless demonstration of what organizations value. While perfection is the goal, it is not realistic.  At some point we will have to say we are sorry.  This lens can be used to examine when organizations first meet new people – during onboarding.

Here is a miss / don’t miss list based on years of experiencing it and building it as a leader:

Don’t Miss

  • Clean desk / supplies
  • Someone to greet you and say “we were expecting you”
  • Frequent communication with your leader for 3 months
  • Teammates taking you to lunch or inviting you into the circle/social events
  • Paycheck / benefits
  • All the tools that connect us to others – email, phone, computer, mailbox, list of who to call
  • Plan to direct learning for first three months

Miss Sometimes

  • Nameplate on desk
  • Meeting boss’ boss (because of business) day 1 or week 1
  • Formal orientation in week one (not enough people)
  • 100% achievement of everything on the onboarding plan
  • Email Day 1 welcoming new teammate
  • Quick check-in at the end of every day to see how things are going

I am not a hypocracy chaser, and it is important that a line be drawn in the sand saying that “If we do not do these things how can we expect anyone to buy into our values as an organization?”  As Collins said in Good To Great:

The point is not what core values you have, but that you have core values at all, that you know what they are, that you build them explicitly into the organization, and that you preserve them over time. (p. 195)

Living it is more powerful than speaking it, and speaking it is the first step in living it.  It why I put Build Trust at the base of the trUPerformance model.  Working relentlessly at living what we say makes it easier for people to forgive us when we (as organizations) slip up.

After all, organizations are like people.

What is on your Don’t Miss list?