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Blog Post

When You Work with “Family”

4 minutes

There are 7.4 billion people in the world, and we all have one thing in common: we all belong in families.

Every family is unique. We’re influenced by cultures that are formed by the values, attitudes, and ideas inherited from the generations before us. Some of our families focus on personal development and value education, accomplishment, or financial success. Other families may enjoy communal activities and thrive on spontaneity, quality time, or once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Either way, there are common essentials to cultivating a culture of care and trust within our families.

Families with an established mission, vision, and set of values are able to communicate clearly and set healthy boundaries. Those that see the family as a learning system often value giving back and have a long-term view of the family. At its best, family is the greenhouse for cultivating purpose and passion.

Similar to family life, we all desire to experience an extraordinary workplace culture. We want to be challenged to be our best selves and generate exceptional results. Sadly, some of us have experienced cultures that feel siloed, ineffective, apathetic, or downright hostile. Environments like this curb creativity and stunt growth.

If this is the world you’re living in, how can you make a shift from creating abstract objectives and interpersonal conflicts to pursuing clearly defined goals and healthy conversations? As you may have guessed, it’s similar to how you would make a change in your own family. Here are a few keys to creating a family-like culture at work.

Clearly Illustrate Your Values
The first step to creating a family-like company culture is to figure out what your organization stands for and making decisions based on those values. Does your team have a shared understanding of culture?

Similar to family life, many of our expectations are implicit and only realized when challenged. We’ve all experienced the fallout that comes from not clearly defining our goals.

Justin Ahrens, Founder and Principal of Rule29, puts it this way: “I would argue that a company’s culture is actually simply that: the result of the conversation that is constantly occurring among our employees, our clients, and our creatives, based on a set of values that underlie it all. These three groups inform and influence each other every day and take place within a structure and leadership that allows them to function out of abundance, not deficit.”

Consider how you might measure the impact of your values and chart them over time. What is your mission statement? Are your business standards clear? Is your long-term vision setting the course for success? The answers to these questions will greatly influence the direction of your company.

Trust like a Brother, Empathize like a Sister
In an article on Organizational Culture, Michael D. Watkins writes, “Culture is a process of “sense-making” in organizations.” Sense-making is the collaborative process of creating shared awareness of others’ perspectives and varied interests.

In other words, sense-making starts with trust. Teams that believe in one another problem solve collectively and support one another as they iterate creative ideas. Colleagues productively make decisions and reach agreements without fear of rejection. Leading with honesty and challenging yourself to grow will encourage your teammates to do the same, no matter your position. Trusting that your colleagues have your best interests in mind will free you to perform at your best.

Empathy also goes a long way in developing relationships. Seeking to understand the worldviews of others opens doors to communicate with transparency and build lasting connections. Together, trust and empathy enable teams to adapt to change and respond to company goals with a spirit of support and innovation.

Look in the 360º Mirror
Lastly, self-awareness is essential to creating a family-like environment at work. This is easier said than done, but it’s key for cultivating a team that is willing to share and seek advice from colleagues. Create space for reflection and ask clarifying questions to truly develop an ear for creative critique. Before you share with a colleague, ask yourself, “Will this help me or help the team become better?” If you feel it will, don’t hold back! Teams that make time for learning, teaching, and sharing are able to push each other to do their best work.

Richard Perrin, Professor at the University of Nebraska, comments, “Organizational culture is the sum of values and rituals which serve as ‘glue’ to integrate the members of the organization.” What type of glue is holding your team together? Will it stand the test of time?

Culture is a carrier of meaning. Create a culture of excellence based on shared values. Create a culture where people feel safe to be themselves. Create a culture where self-awareness and honest critique is celebrated. Just wait and see. You’ll feel like family in no time.

We all desire to experience an extraordinary workplace culture. We want to be challenged to be our best selves and generate exceptional results.

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