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“If you want to provoke a vigorous debate, start a conversation on organizational culture.”

~ Michale Watkins – Harvard Business Review, May 2013

skip_pep_talk_blogMaybe it’s like pornography.  We know it when we see it.  Or, when it comes to organizational culture, feel it.

Perhaps culture is to an organization what attitude is to an individual.

Attitude:  a manner, disposition, mental position or feeling with regard to a fact, state, a person or thing.  

Certainly we want employees with good attitudes.  Their energy contributes to a rockin’ company culture.  But when it comes to pro-actively developing a positive, powerful company culture, or improving our employees’ attitudes, we have it backwards.

We hope that if we pump people up with inspiring posters, back pats and lots of “Go get ‘em’s,” then team members will become happy, problem-solving producers.   In fact, the opposite is true.  Once they start to produce, their attitudes will improve.  As a sum of the parts, your company culture improves.  A great culture is the result of individuals’ attitudes.  However, you have no access to anyone’s attitude but your own.

So.  What to do?  

Stop talking about attitude…or culture.  Certainly, the right attitude makes a huge difference in life.  Work on your own attitude, and quit talking to your employees about their attitudes.  Instead, help people improve.  Help people reach their goals and dreams.  Help them win.  Because when they produce, when they reach their goals and make dreams come true, then their attitudes will be just fine.

You can’t affect culture directly.  Help your team members become individually successful and contribute to the collective win.  And your culture will be just fine.  You help them win by creating a sound, reasonable and compelling game.  A great game consists of…

  • Rules.  What are the boundaries?
  • Goals and Rewards.  What is considered a ‘Win?’  What happens when I win, or we win?
  • Freedoms.  The joy of the game.

Establish and enforce the Rules.  

You notice Billy, one of your long time employees, shuffling into work…late.  He sits down at his desk and starts making sales calls.  He doesn’t smile as he talks to customers.  He grunts his responses into the phone.

You might be tempted to talk to Billy about his attitude.  Right?  Wrong.  His attitude is out of your control.  Instead, address behaviors and performance.

  1. Are his behaviors in violation of company policy?  Do you have a policy about what time Billy needs to arrive for work?  Do