company culture

Cultivating Harmony: Growing vs. Building Company Culture

Company culture. It’s a buzzword thrown around in boardrooms and plastered across job postings. But what exactly is it, and how do you achieve it? There seems to be a common misconception: culture is something you build, a foundation laid from scratch. But a thriving company culture is more akin to a garden – something nurtured and encouraged to grow organically.

This post dives into the difference between building and growing a company culture, exploring the benefits of the latter and offering tips for cultivating a positive and thriving work environment.

Building vs. Growing: A Tale of Two Cultures

Imagine a company with a sleek mission statement and a list of core values displayed prominently on the lobby wall. They offer ping pong tables and free lunches, perks meant to foster a fun and collaborative atmosphere. This is an example of a “built” culture. It’s designed from the top down, with leaders dictating the desired behaviors and interactions.

While these elements can be a good starting point, a built culture often feels inauthentic. Perks become gimmicks, and core values remain unlived principles. Employees may go through the motions, but a genuine sense of belonging and purpose is missing.

Growing a company culture, on the other hand, is a collaborative effort. It’s about creating an environment where the seeds of shared values, open communication, and trust can take root and flourish. Here, leadership plays a crucial role in providing the right conditions for growth, not dictating the outcome.

The Advantages of Growing a Culture

So why choose to grow a culture over building one? Here are some compelling reasons:

  • Sustainability: A built culture can feel forced and fragile. When the focus is on maintaining a facade, cracks can easily appear as situations change. A grown culture, however, is deeply ingrained in the DNA of the company, making it more resilient and adaptable.
  • Authenticity: When employees are empowered to contribute to the culture, it reflects their genuine values and preferences. This authenticity leads to a higher level of engagement and overall satisfaction.
  • Innovation: A thriving culture fosters open communication and collaboration. This environment encourages employees to share ideas and experiment, leading to a culture of innovation and continuous improvement.
  • Employee Ownership: When employees feel a sense of ownership over the culture, they become invested in its success. This translates into higher levels of accountability, productivity, and talent retention.

Growing Your Garden: Practical Tips for Cultivating Culture

Now that we understand the benefits of a grown culture, how do we actually cultivate it? Here are some practical tips:

  • Define Your Core Values – Together: Core values are the guiding principles that shape employee behavior and decision-making. Involve your team in defining these values through workshops, surveys, or open discussions.
  • Lead by Example: Leaders set the tone for the culture. Live and breathe the company values in your daily interactions and decision-making.
  • Empower Your People: Give your employees a voice. Encourage open communication, feedback, and participation in shaping the work environment.
  • Celebrate Successes: Recognize and reward employees who exemplify your core values. This reinforces positive behaviors and motivates others to follow suit.
  • Transparency is Key: Keep your team informed about company decisions, goals, and challenges. Transparency fosters trust and a sense of shared purpose.
  • Focus on Learning and Growth: Invest in your employees’ personal and professional development. When people feel valued and have opportunities to learn, they’re more engaged and contribute more to the overall culture.
  • Recognize and Address Issues Quickly: A positive culture doesn’t shy away from difficult conversations. When problems arise, address them openly and honestly to prevent them from festering and undermining trust.

Conclusion: A Continuous Journey

Growing a company culture is an ongoing process. It requires continuous nurturing, adaptation, and celebration. There will be setbacks and challenges, but by fostering an environment of trust, transparency, and shared values, you can cultivate a thriving work environment that attracts top talent, drives innovation, and fuels success.

Remember, your company culture is not a destination, but a journey. Embrace the growth mindset, empower your people, and watch your garden bloom.

doug thorpe coaching

Introducing the WHY.os. Learn YOUR why, how, and what that drives your passion and motivation.


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