Culture: A Hard or Soft Business Element?

Two Head Dragon WEBOn one hand, culture appears to be too full of fluff for some leaders. Phrases like, “I’m not here to make friends, I have a business to run!” come to mind. On the other hand, phrases like “Our culture drives productivity, great customer service, and that grows profits.” might waft through the corporate rafters. So which is it? Is culture a hard or soft business element? In a word, yes. Culture is a two headed monster that dares you to wrestle with it…and wrestle with it you must.

Neglecting culture is like failing to feed a caged monster. One day, it will break loose and eat you alive and have your business for dessert. Culture has come to be defined as “The way we do things around here.” There is another saying, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got.” However, in the face of necessary business change, not making the changes won’t get you what you’ve always got, business will change, but for the worse. In other words, current operational processes, policies, and principles need to change in order to meet current market needs.

Got Post Change Chaos?

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There have been countless articles written on the importance of preparing for a merger or acquisition. There are models that can be utilized as guidelines for the integration of organizational cultures. How often is the information and even warnings heeded? Unfortunately more not than often. So what can be done after the merger for which there was insufficient or no preparation?

  1. First realize that it will not be easy and it will take time. Most humans do not embrace change. In fact, some behavioral styles will resent it, avoid it and even fight it making the job even more challenging. Having inadequate warning and time to adjust only makes matters worse. So bring your patience. Also, prepare to have your understanding stretched to the max. Think about it…how would you feel or handle it if your spouse said their mother is coming to live at your house next week giving you no time to prepare? I dare say, there would be some ensuing chaos.
  2. Help your managers handle employee bickering. Managers must avoid “getting hooked” into employee frays. Make sure that every leader conveys the proper chain-of-command for complaints. This is especially important for smaller organizations where employees have typically “gone to the top” person to vent. Now that the organization is larger, this is no longer feasible or practical with more people to manage.
  3. Offer training programs on respect, professional decorum, communication, and leadership. A merger requires both soft and technical skills for success.
  4. Provide managers with coaching tools. Understanding the right questions to ask an upset employee helps the employee to take ownership of his or her complaint. More often than not, the employee just wants someone to know he or she is upset. Helping employees to be more empowered in handling their own grievances saves time, reduces stress, and helps the employee develop both personally and professionally. Some workers carry their feelings on their sleeves or they may carry a chip on their shoulder. Providing training and coaching around this element of self-management can go a long way in reducing tension, disagreements, and stress.
  5. Personal Accountability. This self-management technique fits into the information above, but takes the idea to some specific actions. Several years ago, John Miller developed a program entitled “Personal Accountability and the QBQ.” The acronym “QBQ” stands for the Question Behind the Question. In other words, the idea is to help employees stop asking self-defeating or victim type questions and ask more powerful questions. Here are a few examples from John’s program:

Looking Through HR’s Crystal Ball…Prediction One of Nine

FortuneTeller WEBIn the January/February issue of HR Magazine, Josh Bersin with Deloitte, makes nine predictions of “what’s in store for HR in 2015.” Many of the nine predictions are ongoing hang-overs (pun intended) andDiverse Engaged Team WEB others do have some interesting twists and are the result of a world that continues to spin ever forward on the back of technology, data, and diversity. This will be the first in a series of articles looking at each of these predictions.

Prediction One: Culture, Diversity, Engagement, and Retention

Where have we heard these issues before? Let’s begin with culture. The interesting thing about this prediction is that now culture has become the cousin of your brand. Here’s what happens…people are unhappy in your organization, they leave, driving up turnover costs. Not only that, they tell others why they were unhappy, and all of this gossip, no doubt spread by social media, says your brand is no fun to work for, and you find it difficult to lure people to sign on at your company. Current employees become overwhelmed (another later prediction) from the extra work, they become disgruntled, under produce, give poor customer service, etc., etc., etc.

When Executives Behave Badly

Woman at Computer 2 WEBWe’ve all seen children and how they can get hurt feelings over the most minor infractions, become territorial to the point of landing blows, and just being plain nasty. Of course, people who have attained high educational levels, worked their way through the ranks, and now manage executive positons would never behave in such a manner. At least, one would think.

Recently, I had a conversation with a Vice President. This individual not only is a VP but has a string of letters behind their name that represent both professional level achievements as well as certifications. It seems Pat, (not the VP’s real name), has serious issues with another individual, (Madison, again not a real name), who happens to be in a higher position in the organization. Pat has complained many times about being overwhelmed with work so much so that the organization is going to hire an assistant for Pat.