What kind of a culture do you want to create? Many organizations talk about workplace culture but I wonder how many really know what kind of a culture they truly have.

Unfortunately, the leaders of an organization are often out of touch with what happens on the ‘shop floor’ as it were and I’ll bet they’d be surprised at what they’d learn if they came into the organization as a new worker.

There is a new TV reality show (in all honesty, I have yet to see it) called Undercover Boss (CBS). The premise of the show is this:

High-level executives go anonymously into some of the lowest level jobs within their respective companies. The will work alongside the rank and file, and find out what their employees really think of them and they will also get first-hand knowledge of how their companies really run. In the process, these executives learn a lot about themselves, the perception of their company and the spirit of their workplaces.

The see the way their teams really work together and understand their front line leadership better as well. As I say, I have not seen the show; but I love the premise.

I think that in real life (not reality TV) some executives would be wise to try to learn what really goes on. Many of them are out of touch, from what I have experienced and seen personally.

I had the opportunity to work on a project that was aimed at changing a workplace culture. In the project I was involved in, the culture had to do with workplace attitudes around safety and the misconception that safety was an individual’s business only. It was an eye-opener for many within the organization. The first piece of the project was in helping the organization understand what its culture really was. Helping them to define the existing culture first and foremost, was one of the keys in helping to drive attitudinal changes. I think that this would have been a difficult task if it had not been done by an external party. It took coming from the outside to shed light on the behaviours those on the inside could not see.

Culture is basically a statement of ‘the way we do things around here’ and once you have been ensconced into the culture of a workplace (or even in your own personal lifestyle), you no longer see the forest for the trees, as it were.

I think it would do many organizational leaders some good to learn about what their culture really is. Is it one that encourages teamwork? If so, they should notice these types of behaviours and attitudes:

  • Team members are skilled in all the various roles and functions
  • The teams (departments) have developed well-established, relaxed working relationships
  • There is loyalty among group members
  • Values and goals of the organization or department are in harmony
  • Problem solving and decision-making is done in a supportive, trusting atmosphere
  • There is a sense of ownership amongst the team in that any materials contributed to the team is treated as ‘ours’
  • Constructive criticism does not create disagreements personally or confuse rejection of ideas as rejection of the individual.
  • The team works collectively and supportively helping each member develop to his/her full potential
  • There is strong motivation from each member to communicate fully and frankly to the team all the information which is relevant and of value to the team’s activities.

I challenge those organizations that call themselves “Best in Class” to look at the culture within their own company – is it what you want to see? – are people performing in the way you think they are? – and do you have healthy team-players who encourage one another to be successful and support open communication?