Defining culture is perhaps not something we can cover extensively in this short blog — it seems there are countless definitions associated with this broad theme. Some examples however include: a way of life, ideas, customs, and social behavior — of a particular group, people or society, at a particular time. In an attempt to put it succinctly, I like to think of culture as simply the thing that holds us together.
If we acknowledge that (organisational) culture provides us with values, symbols, or cues to help us realise the accepted behavioural ‘norms’, then I wonder what happens when culture is lost? What signs might allow us to recognise this? And how can we cope?
Authors of the inspirational and practical guide ‘Unstuck’, Keith Yamashita and Sandra Spataro, provide invaluable advice should you find yourself and your team in this situation.
Referring to a team losing its ‘religion’, they liken this to a close-knit unit losing its sense of belonging and instead encountering an identity crisis. “When a team doesn’t have it’s own religion to unify everyone, often the result is a lack of a cohesive culture and the feeling of being alone”. In such scenarios, you may notice that lots of new leaders appear on the scene (but don’t hang around too long), individuals seem to adhere to their own rules; nothing gets done, new team members struggle to cope and chaos is prevalent.
In order to become ‘unstuck’ from this state, it’s vital for the team to become familiar with their culture or ‘soul’; to know how to fit in, how to contribute and how to succeed. Yamashita and Spataro provide several tips on how to get there, including:
- Return to your roots — rekindle a sense of identity and pride; focus on what you do best
- Build team unity, not conformity — team cohesion is good, but if a thought leader dominates a team, it will perform no better than the leader working alone
- Find the best way for your team to share ideas — a style which suits the personalities of the individuals
- Make sure dissenting opinions get heard
- Challenge people to poke holes in ideas that gain momentum — appoint an official devil’s advocate
- Control the language, control the debate — have your team concentrate on using the right words to tell the world your story and own the vocabulary
- Everyone must be a keeper of the vision — create stories within company culture that remind people of what you’re doing.
How would you describe the culture in your organisation? Do you have ‘unwritten’ rules that influence the behaviour on your team?
Tania Watson is the founder of Creative Coaching and an executive coach, organisational consultant and leadership specialist. Creative Coaching is a successful company dedicated to the development of senior leaders in organisations through one to one coaching, intact team development and group facilitation. If you or someone from your organisation would like to have a no obligation conversation about how Creative Coaching may be able to help, please email Tania directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.