How Media Companies Can Define & Build Great Culture
Culture. This one simple word can elicit an array of reactions, emotions, and responses from leaders.
Some leaders feel a tremendous sense of pride that their organization DOES have a culture, it’s described using the latest buzzwords, and it’s beautifully displayed in the office reception area. Other leaders become gripped with fear that their organization SHOULD have a culture, but they haven’t yet “created” one. And some leaders might feel that culture is completely unnecessary, a waste of time and, subsequently, DON’T have one. Ironically, ALL of these leaders DO have a culture in their organizations. It just might not be the desired or intended culture, but it IS culture, nonetheless.
Going from a print-centric model to a digital-first model might cause you to think you need to “change your culture,” but the product or service you provide isn’t necessarily the catalyst to change culture. There are other drivers that are more effective to not only create culture, but to ensure culture becomes positively systemic throughout your entire organization.
How do you want your organization to be known? I am not talking about your product. I am talking about the environment you create and the emotion employees feel when they describe that environment. What response do you want to hear when your employees describe WHY they show up to work every day, WHAT excites them about their job, and HOW this affects their actions, behaviors, and attitude?
Culture evolves. It is a dynamic element that requires intention, care, and nurturing. I see it as an “organizational personality” that ebbs and flows over time so it stays relevant and fresh to support the brand and the values of an organization.
How do you create and OWN culture?
Start with Values
Whether you have an official Mission/Vision/Values that are clear, concise, and most importantly, REAL, or just have a solid set of Rules of Engagement, starting with what is valued in the organization will lead to how you would like your culture to respond to it in actions, behaviors, and attitude. Make this set of values clear, succinct, easy for everyone to understand, and make the list short. Representing the most impactful values will help your team remain clear on how they can execute. Culture should support what you value. This helps connect what we feel and think to what we see and do.
Leader Led, Team Grown
First and foremost, culture has to be led by the leader of your organization. The person at the top has to create the expectation that the organization will be led by its culture that guides how people show up to work every day; how the team views itself, what they value, and how customers and stakeholders perceive the company. If the leader doesn’t demonstrate the actions, behaviors, and attitude that support the organizational values, it will just be an empty conversation that will leave your team disengaged and disappointed. The end result will be an organization that will create its own culture… and that might not be the culture you would choose to represent the organization.
The leader must have an unwavering expectation of the behaviors he/she wants to see as part of the organizational culture. That initial spark has to be started by the leader, and must be the constant power source for culture; however, allow the team to help shape and mold how this looks within the organization. Empower them to lead their teams accordingly to give them a sense of ownership of how their behaviors and actions support and continuously solidify the culture.
Set Culture Starters
Culture has to happen organically. The creation of culture can’t be “forced” – that would be like telling two random people they must become best friends. It simply doesn’t work. However, there are things that can help ignite the spark. For example, if the company values family, then a family picnic might be a great way to reinforce “family” as an important cultural component for your company. That said, promoting family values as part of your culture doesn’t work if the rest of the year, you consistently work your team on the weekends, evenings, or during holidays. The value must continuously be reinforced through actions, behaviors, even communication, or you risk making the family picnic a “party trick” that quickly erodes credibility and sends the message that family time isn’t something you truly value as an organization.
Recognize the Good, Correct the Bad
I am a big believer in making a big deal about the right behaviors and attitude. Good creates more good. When you see something in your organization that supports what your organization values, stop and recognize it. Give recognition to the person or people who are modeling the behavior that supports the culture. Make them your unofficial “culture ambassadors.” You’ll be surprised how much positive momentum it creates, and how it might encourage others to also contribute to the trajectory.
The opposite is true as well. Coach and give feedback to stop any behaviors that don’t support the culture and values of your organization. The most effective way to do this is for the TEAM to call this out -- for them to be the culture moderators and expect more from others. But as the leader, you are always in the front seat to set expectations and lead by example.
Culture is the behavioral and attitudinal evidence demonstrated by every team member in the organization. Culture represents what your organization truly believes in and values. The audio matches the video, or the picture matches the copy.
Regardless of the products and services you offer, we are all in the “people business.” When you can set your company around how you, as the leader, can create the best place for them to come to work, be authentically themselves, and find ways to put their talent to use every day, then you have found the special sauce called culture.
As CEO/President of Accendo International, Kimberly is a seasoned strategist who provides expert guidance to C-Suite executives, senior-level management, corporate and nonprofit boards, and managers identified as high-potential performers. Her deep experience across numerous industries enables her to help clients around the globe identify and execute human capital strategies that elevate ROI through greater organizational capabilities and performance.