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Culture Matters More Than You Think
Culture Matters More Than You Think
Daniel Forrester, Founder
By Daniel Forrester, Founder
February 26, 2014
Question for you: What is it like to work for your company?

Question for you: What is it like to work for your company?

Think about it for a moment. Do you feel you can trust your colleagues? Are you supported by your boss? What about cohesion – would you say you’re “all in it together”, and do you collaborate with other employees on projects? Do you speak up when you see something you think is wrong? Who can you go to to ask for help? Are you excited by your work?

And supervisors – do you trust your employees to make the right decisions? Do you have a strong (spoken or unspoken) code of ethics? Is your team performing to their fullest? How often do you give employees honest and open feedback about their work? Would you say everyone is allowed to speak their mind? Are you often playing the role of micro-manager? Do you have “problem employees” who need extra attention?

These questions start to get at the unspoken norms and feelings make up your corporate culture. Most people take the answers for granted and don’t think too much about how it actually effects team dynamics and ultimately, performance.

Take McKinsey, for example. Recently the consulting firm was tested when it went through a series of scandals involving insider trading; McKinsey executives were ultimately convicted of criminal charges. The publicity shook investor confidence and put a significant dent in an otherwise sterling reputation. In response, their new Managing Director has made it his mission to restore trust in the firm by concentrating on culture as a way to guard against poor decision-making. McKinsey's leadership is seeking to instill an "obligation to dissent" in employees, that empowers them to speak up and against such dubious behavior. As one McKinsey employee has said, "sometimes logic fails and values help guide your decision."

Mercy General in Oklahoma City has enjoyed a culture that empowers employees at all levels since it was founded by the Sisters of Mercy.  Regional President Di Smalley relayed a time when employee Lois Faye May, someone who bravely broke color barriers in 1958 by enrolling in the first integrated Mercy Nursing School class, was rejected by a patient who didn’t want to receive care from a black nurse. Instead of avoiding the situation by assigning a different nurse, the supervisor on duty spoke with the patient and convinced her acquiesce to what was surely excellent care.

Having a great corporate culture isn’t the end of the equation; in order to be successful, companies must also have great strategy. Yet time and again, I’ve heard people lament what it’s like to work for their company without realizing and embracing that it’s a reality they can influence. Don’t make the mistake of forgetting to strengthen your own corporate culture and ensure you’re doing everything you can to cultivate a successful business.