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Blog Post

Exploring Good Culture

2 minutes

In the last blog post, I explained “why” culture is important to your company. (If you haven’t read it yet, make sure you catch up!)

To summarize, I would like to challenge you to think about culture as something other than the physical output you see (such as a fancy, cool office or an hip group of people). Rather, I want you to consider that “culture” is actually the expression of the conscious and sometimes unconscious values that a company stakes themselves on.

Think of a company that you would say has a very “defined” culture. Regardless if you think the culture is good or bad, chances are you have an idea of what that company’s culture is because you can see it in the people who work there, the clients they work with, and the work they output. If you really take a closer look, however, you will find that it’s much more than that; these companies hire people who implicitly believe and abide by values that the company holds, work with clients who believe in those values, and put out work that is an expression of those values.

So, with culture defined as the collective expression of values, now I would like to examine a potentially more complicated question: what makes a “good” culture.

What Makes “Good” Culture

Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones, authors of Why Should Anyone Be Led by You?, spent three years asking executives to describe their ideal organization. They then distilled their research into six common desirable traits for a work environment:

1. Authenticity—Individual differences are nurtured.

2. Transparency—Information is not suppressed or spun.

3. Encourages Growth—The company adds value to its employees rather than merely extracting it from them.

4. Belief in More Than the Bottom Line—The organization stands for something meaningful.

5. Feeling Like a Part of Something—The work itself is intrinsically rewarding.

6. No Room for Stupid Rules—If the above exists, stupid become evident.

The operative word across the board on this list? Trust. When employees feel that they are trusted and can trust, it seems to foster “good” culture across the board. People simply want to belong, to be valued, and to share/grow together. However, distrust squelches this opportunity; as soon as someone senses that they are hearing a half-truth, or theories and practice do not align, the opportunity for trust and growth wanes. In an environment that celebrates and upholds trust as a common value, good culture is born.

But how do you nurture a sense of trust in a company while also defining and abiding by the values that you hold true? How do you foster authenticity, transparency, growth, belief in something bigger, a sense of belonging, and eliminate frivolous rules? Where do you start and how do you redirect if you’re headed in the wrong direction?