Creating an Ideal Culture - Part 4

As we conclude this exploration of organizational cultures, we go to the deepest part. Values, like beliefs, are elements extremely important to us, but we are not aware of them until we face a situation that forces them into our consciousness. Integrity, honesty, and ethical beliefs are a few values that often drive organizational and ethical behaviors.As a coach, I usually begin a coaching relationship with a values clarification exercise. Values are foundational elements to the ways we think, act, and behave. Organizations are coming into awareness about the importance of value identification and are creating value statements to guide the organization. These value statements are as important as the mission and vision statements.The deepest elements we find below the surface of the tree are the assumptions that feed the entire person and organization, passing through each element all the way through the roots, trunk, and branches to the tips of the leaves. Our assumptions are the most deeply ingrained of all the elements, created by our mental models.Mental models are the lenses or filters by which we view the world, and no two are alike. Comprised of our familial, educational, community, religious, personal, and professional experiences, our mental models help us make sense, assumptions, and judgments about our life experiences. For example if I said, “pop” what would you think? Some may think of their father, a loud noise, a gun, gum, or soda. Whatever you thought of is reflective of your mental model.So how do we create a culture based on love and love-based leadership? We start with the roots and work our way up. We begin with awareness and make conscious, strategic choices to create an environment based on love and not on fear. We recognize our own mental models and broaden our beliefs.We wrap awareness around our values and deepen our understanding of how they affect our beliefs and behaviors. We strategically infuse our organizational culture with continued learning and development. We intentionally instill a sense of shared ownership and power in the work we do, providing channels for meaningful work experiences, and we wrap all of these strategies in love.As always, I love it when you share your insights.With love,Maria

Creating an Ideal Culture - Part 3

Last week, we looked at the elements of the culture above the surface, behavior. The trunk, bridging the branches and leaves above the ground to the roots below, are the beliefs we have individually and the beliefs we share collectively.Beliefs are the support to the behaviors demonstrated on the surface through the physical, language, ceremony, and story elements. The organizational beliefs are sometimes spelled out through the mission and vision statements, as well as policies and procedures. Many times, the beliefs are not in our consciousness until we are faced with a situation where we must examine them.Because beliefs are the trunk or the stabilizing factor that directly fuels behavior, it is important for us to recognize the power beliefs have over our behavior. For instance, the Pygmalion effect is a phenomenon whereby you believe your team will fail, and in the end, they subsume that negative energy are not successful. Conversely, if you believe the person you just promoted into that position will succeed, the odds are that they will be successful.Our underlying beliefs affect our behavior. In the first example, you may not be available to the team for support, direction, and/or guidance. In the second scenario, you may be fully present to help that person succeed, providing mentorship and encouragement. Just as Henry Ford stated, “If you believe you can or believe you cannot, you are correct.”Below the surface, beneath the leaves, branches, and trunk, we understand how the tree is nourished. The root structure is more elaborate and complex than the tree itself. This is true in our organizational cultures. The deeper we go below the surface, the deeper ingrained are the elements that feed into beliefs and behaviors. In those depths, lie the values, mental models, and perceptions that are so deeply ingrained that we are not even aware of them.Next week, we will go to the deepest recesses of our cultures. Let me know your thoughts, comments, and questions. I love hearing from you!With love,Maria

Creating an Ideal Culture - Part 2

Last week we talked about how the image of a tree can be applied to this love-based leadership concept. We began with the leaves and the physical aspects of an organization. I also approached the next layer of culture as the smaller stems and branches of the rituals and routines of a business. Today we pick up with part two of this series to explore how corporate culture can be achieved.As the branches thicken, closer to the trunk, we think of the strength that stories carry within organizations. These stories can be stories of love, care, and pride in the organization’s accomplishments or they can be stories steeped in fear and told in ways that leverage fear and manipulation.Stories told in organizations often become organizational legends. I remember working for a land developer when the CEO was flying in to visit us on his private jet with entourage in tow. A story that circulated among the staff was that he hated blue. Needless to say, none of us wore blue that day. I must admit that I found it odd that he “hated blue” since the company logo was a deep blue appearing on all of our signage, stationary, collateral material, and business cards. The legend was so strong and fear-based that not one of us tested the validity of the story.Positive stories often depict the humble beginnings and dedicated work of early employees, shared year after year with the newer employees. To our prospective buyers, I would offer the story of how our company grew and showed them our wall of photos of communities that we had developed to “tell the story” of our company’s history. This form of storytelling instilled confidence in buyers that we had experience, integrity, and credibility. In fact, we called this space our credibility wall.We also shared funny stories each year at the holiday party about humorous experiences we had with customers and with each other. Stories bond people together, connecting one another through shared experiences while meeting needs for belongingness and esteem.Next week, we will look at the bridge in our culture of the behaviors to our most deeply rooted values mental models and perceptions, the bridge of our beliefs. Don’t be shy, let me know your thoughts or questions!With love,Maria

Creating an Ideal Culture

One of the most popular questions I am asked is, “How do we create an organization like love-based leadership?” That is a big question! Love-based leadership begins with self-discovery, self-awareness, and self-growth; however, the organizational culture is a big part of this dynamic.Because the organizational culture is so important, I am devoting the next four blog posts to taking a deep dive in understanding culture. Let’s get right to it.Like a tree, the culture of an organization has many interconnected components—each one linked to and vital to the growth of another. Three primary parts comprise the culture including behavior, beliefs, and values/assumptions/mental models which equate to the tree’s leaves/branches, trunk, and roots respectively.When we look at the most visible feature of the tree, the leaves, we see the physical elements. These physical elements are the most superficial part of a culture. In organizations, the physical elements represent the actual physical spaces within the organizations. What do we see as we approach the outward vestiges of the organization? Is signage prominently and attractively displayed? Do you receive a warm greeting by the receptionist when you walk in? Is the building well-kept or is it in disrepair? Other physical elements we notice are photos and signs on the walls, mission or vision statements proudly displayed, employee of the month plaques, the walls, windows, cubicles, volunteer thank-you plaques and trophies, gathering spaces and other physical clues.The next element we notice is the language spoken. In any culture, a shared language brings people together and allows for efficient, quick communication. Often we notice a unique slang, acronyms, and industry-specific terms in organizations. I remember when I first entered the sales field and the staff referred to the next lead (person) who came in the door as an “up” which meant to get your butt up out of the chair and go sell to them!Ceremonies, rituals, and routines are the next layer of culture. These elements are more substantive than the leaves as they are thicker and closer to the trunk. Organizations sometimes strategically plan ceremonies and rituals such as annual award dinners and employee or customer appreciation luncheons. However, routines and rituals of a less formal nature are just as solid and telling of a culture. In one organization where I worked, we always celebrated an employee birthday with a song and a cake. It was our tradition (ritual) that the guest of honor cut and serve the cake to all in attendance.Next week, we will explore the power of stories in our organizations. Let me know your thoughts, comments, or questions.With love,Maria