In Business, Teamwork
C

ompany culture ain’t a list on the wall. It ain’t platitudes spoken at team meetings. Company culture ain’t even a prevailing attitude that everyone on payroll adopts after they’ve drunk the company Kool-Aid.

Want to create a productive, lucrative, and personally rewarding culture in your company? You can. Create the contagion.

Gotta Understand What It Is

So what is company culture? It’s a system of beliefs and behaviors instilled into the zeitgeist of your company. Everybody’s doing it and steeped in it. The indoctrination began during recruiting. Culture is shaped by the stories we tell within a community. It’s the behaviors that have become habitual and automatic. Culture’s details are selected by reinforcement and by disincentives and by benign neglect. Company culture is the behaviors that people exhibit even when the heat is on, they’re under stress, and people are getting under their skin. And company culture can be shaped. It can be changed. It can be trained.

But it can’t be memo-ed. And it can’t be policied. And it can’t be employee handbooked. It is profoundly influenced by behaviors in the C-Suite. But, Company culture is not simply a top-down thing. It’s an all around thing. Think the C-Suite can’t have it’s culture slowly changed from the bottom? Think again. Culture, by its very nature, is definitively contagious. Think of a Grateful Dead show. Think of Burning Man. Think of a Donald Trump Rally. The people in those environments don’t behave that way — for better or for worse — at home. They get swept up in a powerfully contagious culture wave. That wave is influenced by the behaviors and the stories that surround them.

Want to create a productive, lucrative, and personally rewarding culture in your company? You can. Create the contagion. Behavior is contagious. Belief is contagious. Any person at any level can introduce a new contagion. Don’t believe me? What phrase or figure of speech do you use now, but that you didn’t before a co-worker started saying it in your presence. What stories are told in the break room that have you and your colleagues nodding or cheering? That’s an illustration of the contagion of culture.

Gotta Know What to Do

What are the behaviors that lead to a productive, lucrative and personally rewarding culture? Here are some:

  • Give feedback to your direct reports and peers that is:
    • Frequent
    • Specific.
    • Timely
    • Organic
    • Compassionate
    • Heavily congratulatory
    • Corrective when needed
    • Focused on the future
  • Contribute thoughts and ideas freely.
  • Respond to others thoughts and ideas by furthering the discussion (never shooting down).
  • Focus on purpose and on actions that need taking.
  • Observe and inquire about the non-verbal cues of others for greater clarity and communication success.
  • Observe and choose your own non-verbal communication for greater clarity and communication success.
  • Offer solutions, not complaints.
  • Welcome change while respecting tradition.
  • Speak about clients and coworkers with compassion and appreciation.
  • Replace time wasting conflict between people over who is right with effective conflict between ideas so the best ideas are found and forged.
  • Tell stories that cast others in a good light, and in which you are not a victim of circumstance.

These are the behaviors that awaken the elusive SYNERGY we hear so much about. Synergy is not a mythical unicorn or a woo-woo concept from beyond the pale. Synergy is real. We’ve all experienced it.   And, it’s attainable. One way to get it… the skills and techniques of theater improv dynamically correlated to the work you do.

Aaron Schmookler
Aaron Schmookler is Co-Founder and Trainer at The Yes Works, dedicated to helping companies create and maintain a culture of communication, collaboration, and innovation through improv training dynamically correlated to the real work of real teams. Improv: The competitive advantage you’ve been looking for.
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