What do they all have in common? Yes, they are all contagious. They catch on. They go viral. When we reveal one of them to others and share their components, they have immense power to get deep into the fabric of the system. They spread with speed. They are not fussy as to who gets them. They just go on, weaving in amongst us as we happily go about our business.
The UK Government tells us that from July 24th, we must wear a mask in shops and supermarkets or we will face a fine. They want to stop the spread. Let’s not even go there with how bonkers this is: the timeline, pace of response, the lack of requirement to wear a mask in pubs and offices….Anyway, I don’t want this article to be about that. Wearing a mask may well reduce the spread. If you have a cough, it’s best to cough into your elbow or at least your hand or a tissue. We all know this. It’s not rocket science. Somewhere though, deep in the heart of many (most!) organisations, people are also going to serious lengths to stop the spread of their culture. This ranges from locking culture away in HR’s filing cabinet, burying it the basement with the other dead bodies, masking those who dare to even mention it, relegating it to the realms of magical Unicorns and UFO’s or simply refusing to honour its existence and importance. Why so?!
I’ve always been curious about this attitude. It was Management Guru Peter Drucker who once coined the idea that ‘Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast!’ This isn’t in any way implying that strategy is less important. No, it merely suggests that organisations hold equal importance with their culture and their strategic plan. This truth exists wherever you look, in any team, business, community group, family system – if you do not have a culture to support people fully showing up and doing the necessary work, you will forever be in battle with yourselves. Fact. Vast amounts of energy, time, resource, love, commitment, trust, respect, wellbeing will be wasted. Wasted. Lost. Ploughed into dysfunctional behaviours and attitudes that rely on people needing to hustle more and ‘gut it out’ in order that they stand any chance of delivering on the strategy. It’s insane. But hey, I guess that super important executives who run super important organisations that pay them super big bonuses are just way to busy on their super fast-moving hamster wheel to care! They don’t dare to step off and pause for a moment. They would rather choose hustle over courage. Exhaustion over effortlessness. Power over listening. Bullying over collaboration.
I’d like to say I’m being harsh. I’m not. I see it too often. I see the cost of this mindset and the behaviours that follow close behind. I see people in their tribe who are beaten and overwhelmed but, live as though this is normal. I witness those who break down because they just can’t cope anymore. But that’s ok, the organisation can easily replace them, right? I observe the explosion of both physical and mental health conditions in the workplace that are not easy to merely ‘shake off’ with 2 weeks off work.
Culture. Goes. Viral. It catches on. If you are not being the author of your own culture, it doesn’t mean you don’t have a culture. It just means you have a shitty one. But unlike Coronavirus and Coughs, where a mask can help, putting a mask on your culture does not work.
I’ve had a few exploratory new client calls in the last month or so. I’m not sure if my jaw did really hit the floor when a couple of very senior executives from one global corporation told me that ‘Culture is a Soft Skill and we are not investing in soft skills’. Pardon?? Did I hear you correctly? A soft skill? I mean, what the hell is a soft skill anyway? Knitting? Making bobble hats for Christmas? Baking? ‘So, you think that how you do business here, how you engage your tribe, how you build momentum that can deliver any strategy you set out, how you remain adaptable to a fast-changing world is the stuff of Unicorns and pink balloons?’ ….Silence….mumbling….searching for a suitable response that was not fuck you (although I am sure they thought it)
I had already talked with them about the Barrett Cultural Assessment tool and how it is the only diagnostic that measures your culture. There is no other. As they listened to me share insights about it, I guess they were thinking, ‘Hmmmmm, a Unicorn and pink balloons soft skills trainer’
Until I showed them this…
The Cultural Entropy score reveals the degree of dysfunction (friction and frustration) in an organisation that is generated by the self-serving, fear-based actions of the leaders. As the Cultural Entropy score increases, the level of trust and internal cohesion decreases. The Entropy score in an organisation is influenced by the fear-based actions and behaviours of the leaders, managers, and supervisors. Whilst the Barrett assessment will give you an Entropy score, my guess with this organisation was that it sat somewhere around 30-35% – this is based on what I had experienced, seen and heard. It might have been a bit more, or a bit less. Either way, it’s pretty substantial and is an indicator that their leadership and culture is in desperate need of some attention.
As the diagram above shows, when that Entropy score is reduced, the impact on the bottom line is significant. In fact, it’s pretty almighty. Who wouldn’t want that level of growth?! Or perhaps a better question is, how MUCH do you want that level of growth?! Whilst at the same time, building a sustainable culture that has good health.
It’s time to remove the masks from your culture and face the truth that giving energy to your organisational culture has a direct impact on the bottom line. And not a soft skill in sight.
If you are curious to know more about how Barrett can help you to nurture, nourish and grow your organisation, I’m happy to chat. I will just need somewhere to park my Unicorn when I arrive.