What you do is who you are
It has been said that culture is most important because it determines how your company makes decisions when you are not there.
This led Ben Horowitz to wonder how you can create and maintain the culture you want. He turned to three historical figures and one contemporary who “were extremely effective in getting the culture they wanted”. He wasn’t so interested in the culture they were producing as he was in what they had to do to change themselves and their culture.
In What You Do Is Who You Are, Horowitz looks at the lives of four cultures created by their leaders:
Toussaint Louverture, the Haitian slave who led the only slave revolt in human history.
The samurai who ruled Japan for seven hundred years and shaped modern Japanese culture.
Genghis Khan who built the largest empire in the world.
Shaka Senghor and the American ex-con man who created the most formidable prison gang in the yard and ultimately changed prison culture.
Corporations – just like gangs, armies, and nations – are large organizations that rise and fall due to the daily micro-behavior of the people who make them up.
After examining these four cultures and how they were, or should have been, applied in our modern environment, Horowitz takes away nine lessons that we should consider when designing our culture: 1. Make sure that your culture is compatible with both yours Personality as well as your strategy.
2. Don’t let the first impression be wrong or random. On the first day, employees learn more about what it takes to be successful in your company than on any other day.
3. Have shocking rules. Any rule that is so surprising that people ask, “Why do we have this rule?” will strengthen important cultural elements.
4. Integrate outside leadership. Bring an old pro from the culture you want to have.
5. If you really want to cement a lesson, use an object lesson. What you say means far less than what you do.
6. Make ethical principles clear. One of the most common and devastating mistakes leaders make is assuming that people are “doing the right thing,” even when it conflicts with other goals. “Specifying exactly what your organization must never do is the best way to vaccinate yourself against mistakes that lead to ethical violations.”
7. Give cultural principles a deep meaning. Turn them off the norm, the expected. “The reason so many efforts to establish ‘corporate values’ are inherently worthless is because they emphasize beliefs rather than actions.”
8. Leave the conversation.
9. Make decisions that identify priorities.
How do you know if something is wrong with your culture? Horowitz points out three indicators: the wrong people quit too often, you fail your top priorities, and an employee is doing something that really shocks you.
Some final thoughts:
The best way to understand your culture is not what managers tell you, but how new employees behave. What behaviors they experience will help them adapt, survive, and be successful?
Think carefully about what your mistakes are because you don’t want to code them into your culture.
You need to pay close attention to your people’s behavior, but even more closely to your own. How does it affect your culture? Are you who you want to be
A culture is not the sum of its indignation; It’s a series of actions.
It is important that leaders emphasize the “why” behind their values at every opportunity, because the “why” is what is remembered. The “what” is just another item in a huge pile of things for you to do.
Incidentally, Peter Drucker’s statement that “culture eats strategy for breakfast” addresses exactly the point Horowitz makes: “What you do is who you are.” If your culture does not align with your strategy, culture rules the day . In the long run, a strategy that is not supported by culture will stall. The execution works in harmony with the culture.
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Posted by Michael McKinney at 8:44 am
Permalink | Comments (0) | This post is about personnel, management